Stephen’s Last Words … and Jesus’

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”   Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:59-60

Stephen’s last words in Acts 7:59-60 deliberately echo Jesus’ last words as recorded in the Gospel according to Luke.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23:46

Luke and Acts, of course, are two volumes by the same author, and the “forgive them” and “commit my spirit” logia are uniquely Lukan among the gospels. None of the other gospels record these crucifixion sayings.

Luke, then, portrays Stephen as following Jesus’ example in death. Stephen demonstrates the attitude Christians should have when they are persecuted for Christ’s sake.

Significantly, where Jesus addresses his dying petition to the “Father,” Stephen addresses his to the Lord Jesus. This reflects the exalted status of Jesus which Stephen just proclaimed.

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 and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55-56

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