A Church on a Mission: Why is Jesus Standing?

by | Jan 8, 2023 | Podcast, Sermons

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Preacher: Pastor Chuck Holiday

Scripture: Acts 7

Stephen gets a vision of Jesus standing in heaven to honor and welcome him into his eternal inheritance. Seeing Jesus stand for him empowered Stephen to stand up for Jesus and love his enemies even as they stone him.


Great to see you all impressed with how many of you got up this morning and how many of you watched the game last night all right it was a great game now just feel just pray for my Steelers this afternoon I’d appreciate that I have two teams what would Jesus do I mean your kids or grandkids wear their little what would Jesus do bracelets you know it was more popular maybe a decade ago but a good question uh you know this the remarkable parallel between how Stephen faced his accusers and ended his life on Earth with what Jesus did I mean even some of the exact phraseology uh you know Jesus at the end committing his soul to to his father into your hands I commit my spirit Stephen echoing the same words but but speaking to Jesus himself now the Risen the Risen Savior who’s passed ahead of him into and from through death in the grave and into eternal life and then the the final prayer for father don’t hold this against them and Stephen Jesus don’t hold this against them I mean the parallels are amazing if you just kind of go through the two death scenes trials and and conviction and death of these two um what would Jesus do well Stephen somehow was able to do it the way Jesus did it um but you know my one of my granddaughters gave me a bracelet for Christmas that um uh says he he would love first hwlf he would love first and that is the answer to that question isn’t it what would Jesus do he would love first he would love before he was loved he would initiate he would initiate love with those who hate him um and and but the question I want to ask you today is not what would Jesus do or how would you do what Jesus would do but where did Stephen get the power where did he get the composure where did he get them I mean asking what would Jesus do is a good thing to ask but it’s never particularly helped me be able to do it you know uh just knowing what to do is is not enough where did Stephen get the power to do this so we’re going to get to that in a minute um I want you to see first just focus on Stephen’s response to this unfair unjustified uh it’s spiritual abuse it’s physical abuse it’s abuse on every level he’s being put to death by the by the church by the spiritual leaders and and for no wrong of his own well it’s he’s got a brilliant sermon here he’s got a brilliant defense and maybe you’ll go back later in your in you know when you have more time to just kind of go back and look at it again but he Stephen you know these charges that he doesn’t that he’s careless about God’s law that he doesn’t really hold it in high value well he goes back and rehearses God’s law in great detail from memory often quoting specific verses from obscure passages in the Old Testament uh to prove to them no I’m one of you I I love God’s law I believe every word of God’s law oh we’re we’re in this together Brothers I’m one of you and then he reminds them because remember their specific accusation was he takes lightly the temple worship I mean he talks about us you know destroying the temple or be the temple being destroyed and which is anathema to every Earnest Jew and uh he reminds them that we have always been pilgrims and our place of worship has always been transitory he reminds them that the first thing God told our Father Abraham was to leave his home and then he gave him no permanent place to to live and then his descendants were went to Egypt and then they came back and then they went to Babylon and now we’re in Palestine again he’s reminding them that the story God’s story has always been of God’s people looking for their Eternal home which is not here which is not con constrained to this physical place of worship the temple it’s not saying the temple is not important but he said the temple has always pointed us to an eternal Temple where God really makes his dwelling known with his people he’s he reminds them in his in his sermon that our people have always resisted the prophets we have always been idolaters we have always killed God’s Messengers we have always been disobedient and and while we value the customs and the traditions and we prize this this um uh circumcision this ordinance that God gave us he turns and says but you have uncircumcised ears and hearts you have the physical sign but you’ve missed the spiritual reality of what it all means

I mean he sets them up he draws them in and then he turns on them in kindness but in truth I would say this you could sum up his whole sermon speaking the truth and kindness because he traps them for their sake

wise as a serpent an innocent is a dove he draws him in and then he turns on them using God’s history using the law using the history of their people saying you are just like your fathers who have always rejected the prophets and not only have you rejected the prophets who told us about the coming righteous one you killed the righteous one

you did it he he cornered him he put him in a place where they had to do one or two things they had to repent or they had to kill him and this was an illegal killing by the way they they it with Jesus you know they went through Great Lengths to get permission from the Romans to to execute him here they bypassed that entirely they were so enraged they were so full of indignation and fury there was no let’s go find pilate and get permission and let’s no it’s like they just took him right out and stoned him we’ll fix this later with pilot but this guy has got to go

and he did it in kindness

his final prayer being father please don’t hold this against them his prayer was that they would repent that they would be saved he stands with such ferocious courage against the enemies of God but for their sake

this is not the this is not the the rhetoric we so often see from God’s people on Facebook you know this snarky post against our cultural enemies this is not that at all this is a man who is broken for the Lost Souls of the people who were stoning him he loved first the way Jesus loved first he loved his enemies so here’s here’s you know we’re I mean it’s amazing really if you the more you study this it’s is where did Stephen get his resources to to do this is resources to to maintain such mental Clarity such such Perfect Memory of the law of God is he is he goes through these 60 verses of rehearsing the story of Israel where did he get the courage you know the subtleness the composure and his own soul to stay so present so engaged so kind and so loving and um and I’m gonna I I think I think we have this the an indication here of where he got this the strength and the resource to do this it’s it says if if you look toward the end of this section uh specifically look at verse 54 we’re going to focus now on the rest the rest of this time together when he when they heard this they were Furious and gnashed their teeth at him but Stephen Full of the Holy Spirit looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God look he said I see Heaven open in the son of man standing at the hand of God

nowhere else in Scripture that I can find do we have a picture of Jesus standing

at the right hand of God

the The Gospel reading that that we heard earlier where with the almost identical scenario Jesus standing before this very same group a few years earlier quotes the Old Testament saying you will see the son of man sitting at the right hand of the father Hebrews 1 Psalm 110 starts in Psalm with someone with 10 is the first time in the Bible where we get this picture of David writing says my Lord you know my lord said to Jesus you will sit at my right hand and so my enemies are made of your footstool picked up and many times in the New Testament including like Hebrews chapter 1 13 where the same verses quoted again but it’s always Jesus seated at the right hand of the father having done his work having said it is finished you know at the cross uh now he’s seated in his place of rest but here Stephen gets a vision of Jesus standing so the question you have to ask yourself is why is Jesus standing right and and we don’t I mean the rest of this is a little conjecture I just want to say that there are no there are no verses to prove this but I think it’s probably the truth and it makes sense because you have to ask yourself why is Jesus standing in this vision and not sitting right it’s not it’s not usual why is Jesus standing okay now uh a couple reasons I’d like to suggest to you and see if this makes sense to you I think it’s biblical I’m sure it’s biblical I think it’s why it’s by standing what was the Cry of God’s people throughout the whole Old Testament when it seemed like they were desperate and he was sitting on his hands and wasn’t doing anything to rescue his people what was their cry well you can find it in many of the Psalms arise oh Lord arise O Lord do something I’ll just give you one because we we don’t have to have much time but in Psalm 110 um I’m sorry psalm 10. verse 12. arise O Lord lift up your hand oh God do not forget the helpless uh now haven’t you essentially afraid that prayer a hundred times in your life God do something God do you see what they’re saying do you see what’s going on did you hear what the doctor just said God do something arise I’m glad you’re seated I’m glad you’re you know you’re you’re contented a happy God I’m glad that you’re not worried but God please get up and do something

it’s our it’s our cry for Vindication when we’ve been wrongly accused it’s our it’s our cry for Rescue and we’re desperate and there’s nowhere else to go

Lord arise

and Stephen saw Jesus get up off his throne

I think he was he it was what was it communicating oh don’t worry Stephen I’m gonna do something

I’m gonna do something

and it’s really interesting this little this little footnote Luke slips in there about Saul of Tarsus was there

because we’re getting ready to spend the rest of the book of Acts talking about Saul of Tarsus becoming Paul the Apostle who explodes the gospel throughout the whole region

and this was the beginning now Saul was complicit with them at this point but but Luke slips that little hint in there Jesus is a is a is a risen not just from the grave but he has stepped off his throne he is standing now he is ruling he is reigning oh he’s doing something he’s doing something

you know the only antidote that I know for the shame and the powerlessness we feel when we’re being bullied at school or fired at work or tormented by a terminal illness

is to is to be able to see Jesus standing to do something now may not be now it may not be the way you think he should act but knowing that he’s not indifferent that he’s not asleep that he’s not powerless being able to see what Stephen saw now you may not see it in a vision the way Stephen got to see it but Stephen already knew this you know before God gave him this Vision at the end you know at the beginning of his sermon when he’s faced with these accusations it says they are already at the beginning at the end of chapter six it says they saw his face like the face of an Angel God had already given him a rested composure because he knew that God promised to arise and defend his enemies and at the end in the moment of greatest need that promise becomes so clear because he gets to see it he gets to see right through the Heavens to see Jesus get off his throne

you know um in 1415 a hundred years before Luther nailed his 95 Theses at the door of Wittenberg there was another reformer named John Huss that is not nearly as well known because he was burned at the stake before his ministry got going so far but he basically said the same things Luther said

it was the same rediscovery of the truth of the word of God the the you know the the gospel of grace against all the the abuse of the spiritual abuse of the church at the time and they burned him at the stake but you know God gave him a vision it was so cool he said he actually said this 100 years before Luther when they were burning him taking him to burn him at the stake he said today you will roast a lean goose but 100 years from now you will hear a swan sing whom you will leave unroasted and no trap or net will catch him for you

God gave him a vision he didn’t know who Martin Luther was but he knew that his being burned at the stake was not in vain it was not the end that this was a forerunner of another who would come and would not be burned at a stake but would start a fire that would consume the rebellious church and it would start a whole new thing of which we are the beneficiaries the gospel of grace would be rediscovered that beautiful a hundred years from now he says he says there another will appear a swan will sing I said he said I may be a lean Goose that you’re going to roast but a hundred years from now a swan will sing whom you will leave unroasted and no trap or snare will catch him for you my friends I don’t know what your life is like right now surely sometime in this coming year you’re going to feel desperate we all do it’s going to feel hopeless as you think of your grandchildren their Rebellion their struggle with school they’re being far from the Lord the relational struggles your kids and grandkids go through or that you may yourself be facing struggles at work your own health there’s going to be times where we’re desperate and it’s going to feel like God’s not hearing us and he’s doing nothing my friends Jesus stands to rescue his people and he stands to defend the work of the Gospel no matter how desperate and discouraging sometimes it may feel okay now now the other reason why why else would a King Stand you know I I told you last time I preached I mean I got to go see the Messiah this year first time in you know live you know and it’s so moving right but especially when you get to the Hallelujah Chorus and everybody just stands you know why do we stand well you you probably know the story but when King George II heard the the uh premiere of the of Handel’s Messiah in London when it came to the Hallelujah course he just stood and of course the king stands everybody else stands too you know that’s not customary to stand in the middle of a classical concert so what moved the king to stand

and All His glory as as Messiah is presented and handles wonderful work okay so what does it take for the king to stand he sees the king of kings he sees his King and he wants to give him all honor and Glory now here’s the question what does it take for the King of Kings to stand

for you

I mean isn’t this amazing this is only the gospel friends the King of Kings is standing for Stephen you think that’ll give you a little strength to survive a stoning you’d run through a wall for for Jesus when you could see him standing for you

you know it’s one of the Prophecies of Zephaniah 3 19. I will Jesus this is God and Jesus saying I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame at that time I will gather you at that time I will bring you home I will give you honor and praise

do we deserve it is it because we’ve been such good boys and girls all our lives and no it’s because we’re in Christ our Union with Christ he paid every sin that we deserve to suffer for and he gave to us his righteousness he imputed it to us it’s to our account he views us as holy and righteous because we are righteous in Christ and he gives us praise in America

because we’re his children we did nothing to get there we did nothing to earn it we did nothing to hold on to it

my friends that’s a resource to live the Christian Life when you lack power when you lack strength when you don’t have what it takes to love your enemies or even get through the day

if you can believe that God is not sitting on his hands that the son of man who died for you is getting up off his throne to defend you to rescue who to rescue you to to win the day for the gospel

and he’s standing well what else what do you do when somebody that you that you love and respect walks into a room you stand here’s Jesus the son of man who has died for Stephen’s sins who loves him who’s so proud of his son he’s getting ready to welcome him into his eternal room and he stands

to give him a mug I know I I can’t prove that I told you that but you tell me why did the son of man who was always pictured is seated at the throne why is he standing now

I think he’s saying Stephen don’t worry this is not the end of the Gospel

this is the beginning of a new day and some of these very people are going to be converted because of your testimony today including Saul

and Stephen I am so proud of you so proud of you

come on home let’s be together so my friends you know you know there’s two this is this is a great this is a great thought Steven’s on trial he’s being falsely accused he’s powerless there’s nobody there to defend him in this human Court but God shows him another Court he sees the Heavenly Court this could be another reason why Jesus is standing he’s standing as the defense attorney before the judge offering his own blood and righteousness on behalf of his brother Stephen

this is so biblical right he is in heaven today as our mediator pleading his own blood and righteousness on our behalf that we might be with him forever so my friends if you’re a Christian I hope this encourages you if you’re not a Christian this is why you need to be one because there’s no other way there’s no other way you can’t do it with your own good works you can’t you can’t you’ll never present yourself righteous before the father because there’s too much stuff you can’t fix unless you’re different than me I doubt you are no but we have a savior he died for us he lives for us the question is is not what did Jesus do that’s that’s important but the question that will Empower you now is what is he doing now he’s standing for you so let’s stand for him

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