7:57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
If they had killed him where he was standing you could perhaps argue it was a crime committed in the heat of the moment. However between blocking their ears and grabbing him it was a significantly long walk to get him outside the city walls. A walk through the streets. A public spectacle. Plenty of time to reconsider their decision. The Bible says the men were of one accord. That's the exact same description of the disciples and group of 120 believers who had gathered to pray and wait for the Promise of the Holy Spirit. There is power in unity. Getting any group all on the same page is a rarity. It requires that they all become focused on something they have in common. Prior to his death, hatred for Jesus brought enemies together. The Pharisees and Sadducees and Herodians couldn't stand each other but in Jesus they had a common enemy. It unified them, at least temporarily.
Now the council is united again. I have to believe Gamaliel was not present. He demonstrated too much common sense to be involved in such an emotion based decision. Perhaps he was intentionally not invited to the meeting. I have seen such strategies before by people with an agenda.
Whatever the circumstances the men who were present are all on the same page. They want Stephen dead and they don't care at what cost or who sees. Through the streets they drag him. Out the city gates they take him. Throwing him down, probably with his feet and hands tied to prevent movement or escape, they remove their outer cloaks and put them at the feet of a young man named Saul. Their eyes are wild as they frantically gather stones and begin the brutal murder.
Saul can't help but see the contrast. Stephen is calm, serene, even angelic. He speaks with a confidence Saul has never seen. It's as if God is standing right beside him. His final words are not a cry for mercy or a plea of innocence. He knows he will die and shows not an ounce of fear. Meanwhile the men of the council are like wild men. All sense of dignity and decorum is gone. They are more like beasts then men. Young Saul has never seen anything like this and the scene is jarring.
Bloodied and dying the last words spoken in a compassionate voice, as if praying for his own children, Stephen asks God not to hold this act of brutality against these men. It is a moment Saul will never forget. It plays in his mind over and over. It makes no sense. What does Stephen know that they don't? What does he have that they lack? Why does it seem like God is on the side of this "enemy of Israel"? Yet if God was on his side why did He just let him die?
So many questions. Questions that would not go away...
If you have questions that won't go away. If your heart and mind are unsettled and dissatisfied with the way you presently see the world or God or both, chances are high that you need to reconsider everything. Truth brings peace. A peace that transcends anything in this world. Stephen had it. We can all have it.