Monday, February 27, 2017

Approving the Crime

They raised their fists in anger, forcing him out into the street.  How dare this one preach about the faith given to them by their forefathers.  How dare this one twist the word spoken by Moses.  How dare he utter the slanderous name of the crucified Nazarene.  They were tired of listening, tired of this man's words, tired of his foolishness.

And still, this man Stephen, did not stop speaking.

"The Most Holy God does not reside in houses built of stone, places constructed by men.  Heaven is His throne... and this soil you walk upon is His footstool."

He called their hearts heathen, men who worshiped in the temple and offered unblemished animals for their sins.  He accused their ancestors of crimes against the prophets.  He referred to them as murderers.

There were stones at their feet, dolomite and limestone, they considered them as they listened.

He smiled like an angel looking up into the heavens, at the sun bathing the clear sky.  Did any clouds pass over that vast sea of purity?  A lunatic, the council members mumbled to themselves.  He sees the unreal and preaches a fable.

And behind the crowd stood the observer, one of their kind  A young man, named Saul, who had taken note of those who spoke of the Nazarene's death and believed in His resurrection.  Many will die or be imprisoned for breathing the name of the imposter.

"Look," Stephen said with his face aglow. "I see the heavens... and I see Jesus standing at the right hand of His Father."

Juan de Juanes - The Stoning of Stephen
They put their hands over their ears to block out his words.  Still they heard.  They screamed with anger.  Some picked up large rocks from the dusty ground, balancing the weight in the palms of their hands.  Some left their cloaks in a pile by the observer.  More joined their ranks as Stephen knelt and continued to utter his blasphemy.

The first chunk of jagged limestone flew through the air.  It struck the target in the torso.  the victim backed up against a wall, unable to flee.  Another stone struck his shoulder, before a third drew blood from the side of his head.  He shielded his eyes from their assault and prayed.

Stephen fell as the mob quickly surrounded him, lifting pieces of heavy stone over their heads with both hands.  Blood flowed onto the street as the rocks crushed the victim's skull.  In their fever the attackers became a single force with a unified mission.

Weakly, in a voice heard by the observer, the martyr offered his spirit.  His plea asked God to forget this sin of a blood thirsty crowd.  His plea asked God to forgive this murder.

The task done.  The anger ebbed.  The pious and righteous men of the council picked up their cloaks where they had been left.  They ignored the blood on their hands.  Saul met their stares.  To a few he nodded and approved of the crime.

copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr

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