Any Last Words?
Any Last Words?
On September 22, 1776, Nathan Hale, an American Patriot, said, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Those were his last words before he was hanged for spying on British troops. His last words have been told in history classes for decades and his words live on to inspire many other Americans to be proud of their patriotism and love for their country. Growing up I always marveled at how people, such as Hale, can come up with such eloquent and meaningful words of wisdom or inspiration right before dying or being put to death. I think we often skip over people’s last words in the Bible when we can learn a lot about someone’s character through their dying words.
In Acts 7, Stephen is giving his defense before the Sanhedrin because, in chapter 6, Stephen was accused of speaking against the temple, Moses, and the Law. After giving his defense, the Jews were enraged, and they dragged him out of the city and stoned him. The stoning of Stephen is important for a couple of reasons. First, it describes what Stephen sees when he looks into heaven and says, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (v.56). What an image that is and will be when we get to see Jesus at the right hand of God! Secondly, Stephen reveals his faith in God even on the brink of death. It says, “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.’ " (v. 59-60). Stephen was quick to forgive those who were killing him just like Jesus when he was on the cross and said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
In just a few short verses, we can see some important qualities about Stephen’s character. First, when he gets to see a glimpse of heaven, I wonder how many times before did Stephen look into heaven to pray and ask to see God in his life? Stephen also demonstrated how to keep the faith while being persecuted. How many times before this, did he pray for those who were persecuting him? I, also, do not think it is a coincidence that his last words were similar to Jesus’s. I wonder how many hours and days he spent studying Jesus’s life and teachings? Stephen was a martyr for God and Christianity, and I believe that in his last moments we got to see the accumulation of his daily walk with God. His life as a faithful servant was reflected through his death.
Just like Stephen, we need to build our character in such a way that when we face suffering and hard times, our actions will still glorify God and we can be that example for others to follow.