The Waiter Who left His Station to Preach a Powerful Sermon

Stephen was a man in the early church who was selected to wait on tables in Acts 6. I’m sure he must have been a pretty good waiter, the kind of server who made sure the food was evenly distributed and all; but apparently he was a pretty good preacher, too…

In an earlier post I mentioned that Stephen used the phrase “the Son of Man” in his sermon in Acts 7:56: “Look”, he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Stephen, one of seven men with Greek names chosen to be a waiter at meals for the early church, was not an Apostle (one who saw Jesus in the flesh), although he did miraculous things (Acts 6:8) and contended with the wisdom of the Spirit (6:10).

With all of those gifts and attributes, I imagine Stephen might have been expected to rise to prominence in the early church, perhaps as a leader or preacher. He had good character and was obviously prepared to lead. Instead, Luke tells us that when an argument broke out about portions being given to the Greek widows at the covered dish supper, the church chose seven men “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3) to wait on tables and hand out the food.

For a guy chosen to be a mere waiter, Stephen had a fairly comprehensive knowledge of both Jewish history and the Scriptures, and preached a pretty effective sermon before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7. He had to know that his preaching would stir up a hornet’s nest, but he was bold and fearless.

waiter

(His actions remind me of Jim Elliot, a missionary who was killed in 1956 while reaching out to the Auca Indians… Jim said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Like Stephen, Jim was a bold preacher whose faith put him in harm’s way.) Stephen, who just moments before was a waiter, preached such a powerful sermon that the authorities decided to shut him down. The Sanhedrin condemned him and dragged him out to be stoned, and he became the first martyr in Jerusalem. (And oh yeah, his stoning was approved by a guy named Saul, who probably stood by and heard that sermon, and maybe even had it bear unexpected fruit in his life just a little ways down the road…)

Here are a couple of important things about Stephen: he was prepared for this moment long before this moment happened. He was well-versed in God’s word and gave a ready answer to those who opposed him. He preached a powerful sermon, giving comprehensive context about who Jesus was and how he fit into Hebrew history. In the face of death he continued to proclaim his beliefs; he even died while forgiving those who were casting stones to kill him.

So how do we normal folks apply Stephen’s experience in our lives? I think he makes a pretty strong argument that seeing Jesus “in the flesh” is not necessary to have faith or to experience life-changing belief in Jesus. We can do that too. Also, we should realize that it’s not what we DO or how we serve that gives us value. You can be a waitress or a salesman or a sanitary engineer, but if you know Jesus and God’s word, you can contend with wisdom, and you can live a changed life. It may be a truism, but someone whose Bible is falling apart usually has a life that isn’t… A daily walk with God is the best preparation for the big moments in life—so when your moment comes, be ready!

The Powerful Waiter

Stephen was a man who seemed a lot like me and you;
He served, and waited tables, and he probably bused them, too!
He did his job, just serving bread, or bringing food to eat–
And Stephen probably thought his life was pretty much complete;!
He must have studied Scriptures when he wasn’t waiting tables,
Since when he started preaching, it is clear that he was able!
He must have had a walk with God that happened every day,
Since when his moment came he knew exactly what to say!
So even if you’re doing hair, or slinging some spaghetti,
Just have a daily walk with God that’s regular and steady,
And when your moment comes to serve –like Stephen– you’ll be ready!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Son of Man: Who Is He? And who do You say that He Is?

Jesus often referred to himself as the “Son of Man”. Why?
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16, NIV)

This passage is perhaps better known for Jesus’ answer to Peter’s declaration, in which he told Peter he would receive the “keys to the kingdom” because of his testimony. That statement has been celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church as being their charter and establishing Peter as the original leader for the church in Rome. You could therefore make the case that Peter’s simple declaration changed all of history.

son

But to me, the substance of Peter’s confession is even more intriguing than the result. The title “Son of Man” was a phrase that had profound prophetic implications in the Hebrew Scriptures, and it was well-known to any Jewish person looking for the Messiah.

“Son of Man” is used by the prophet Ezekiel 93 times, emphasizing his humanity in the presence of God’s revelation. It is probably best known from its use as a Messianic reference in Daniel 7:13-14: “I looked, and there was before me one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

The teachers in Jesus’ day had varying opinions about who this prophetic figure represented. Some thought he was one of the prophets; some thought maybe it was John the Baptist. Jesus often used this title to refer to himself (it appears 81 times in the gospels), and it was never attributed to anyone but him in the gospels. Stephen used it while he was being stoned to death to describe who he saw in heaven in Acts 7:56.

Almost every Hebrew churchgoer had some knowledge of the phrase, and the disciples’ mixed response about it in verse 13 is probably typical of the different opinions people had about who the Son of Man might be. Peter’s bold declaration was a leap of faith, and connected the dots between Daniel’s prophetic vision and the possibility that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

It’s also interesting that it is Jesus’ most common way of referring to himself: it encompasses his humanity as a son of Adam (which was proclaimed in Luke’s genealogy), but it also refers to his divinity as the Son of God. It is a title expressing humility because he is fully human, but at the same time it refers to one whose Kingdom will never be destroyed. It is an explicit reference that springs from Old Testament prophecy about Israel, eschatology (the last days), and the Messiah. Peter’s brazen testimony shows that he connected the dots, and that he suddenly gets it.

The only other question is, Have YOU? Do YOU?

That Prophet

Of all the titles, “Son of Man” is one connected to God’s plan,
In ancient prophecies foretold in Scriptures from the days of old…
It speaks of Jesus eloquently, divinity and humanity combined in personality
Expressing his authority for all of human history extending through eternity!
The complex span of God’s redemptive plan, the title of the only one who can
Be fully God–and somehow fully man–the only Son of God, the Son of Man!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread