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The Day Jesus Stood Up

by Dale Jorgenson

The Old Testament verse quoted most often in the New Testament is Psalms 110:1: “The Lord says to my lord: Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool” (RSV). The verse appears in various forms at least eighteen times in the Gospels, the words of Peter and Paul, and in the Book of Hebrews. It shines its light on the completed work of Jesus at the cross when He said (the sixth of the Seven Last Words), “It is finished,” before He “sat down at the right hand of the Father.” The author of the Letter to the Hebrews notes this sequence when he writes, “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet” (Heb. 10:12-13).

The climactic occasion for the verse’s appearance in the New Testament is recorded in Matthew 22:44 as Jesus confronts the Pharisees with the enigma (to them) of the Messiah’s being both the “son of David” and yet addressed by David as Lord, and in Matthew 26:64 in

response to the challenge from Caiaphas, “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus’ answer was a direct reference to the Psalm when He said, “You have said so. But I tell you hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”i

Peter’s ringing description of the position of Christ proclaimed on the Day of Pentecost is typical of New Testament references to the Psalm: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear” (Acts 2:32-33). In his first letter to the Christians of the Dispersion Peter again calls attention to the position of Christ: “……Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him” (I Peter 3:22).

Among the Pauline references to the exalted position of Christ, Colossians 3:1 is one of the most beautiful challenges in the Scripture: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (RSV). Paul not only joins the other witnesses to the location and position of Jesus seated at the Father’s right hand, but enjoins Christians to focus on that center for the establishment of our value system.

But among the copious references to the Christ seated in glory, one dramatic exception appears in the seventh chapter of the Book of Acts detailing the persecution and stoning of Stephen, the evangelist. Stephen, one of the seven men chosen to administer the charity of the Jerusalem church for widows—in an office many today would call the diaconate–wasted no time after his appointment to preach the Word to “the people” with “signs and wonders.

Certain members of the synagogue called “Freedmen” who originated from various parts of Asia Minor, Libya, and Egypt, took violent exception to the proclamation of the Gospel, and attempted to dispute verbally with Stephen. Unable to contend with the truth of his message,

they resorted to accusations of blasphemy against Moses and of God, and brought him to trial before the high priest.

Stephen’s extended defense, a concise history of God’s extended dealings with Israel and ending with a direct accusation of betraying and murdering God’s “Righteous One” at

Golgotha, so enraged the mob spirit that they “cast him out of the city and stoned him.” But in the midst of this attack on the one who was the first recorded Christian martyr, Stephen spoke of a wondrous vision: “But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of

God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55).

The unique picture of Jesus in glory, at God’s right hand but rising to his feet, suggests that the death of a Christian martyr is a heavy burden in the very heart of the Lord Jesus, Who like one of us, could not stay seated in the presence of the persecution and impending death of one of His own. And with the growing persecution of Christians around the world in our own lifetimes, each precious life lost to martyrdom is a matter of loving and heartfelt concern to our Savior.ii

In her book describing the martyrdom of her husband and the other missionaries who died in the January, 1956 attempt to bring the Gospel to the Huaorani (earlier known as Auca) tribe, Elizabeth Elliot describes some interviews she held with some of the tribes people who later did become Christians. From independent conversations with several witnesses to the day of the killing, she heard reports of “church choir music” from the Huaorani people who were present. In addition, some of the native people present maintained that there were lights above the treetops, which the people telling the story later believed were angels receiving the martyrs into Eternity.iii

A powerful eulogy to the Christian martyrs who come out of the Great Tribulation is afforded us in the seventh chapter of Revelation:

These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore

they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night within his temple’ and he who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger

no more, neither thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Seeing Jesus standing and awaiting Stephen’s spirit is robust encouragement for us as we see the pressure for conformity to the world and increasing demands to abandon the Scriptures and the Gospel.  Long before the death of Stephen, the psalmist expressed the love of God for His own in Psalm 116:15 : “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (RSV).

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i See also Luke 20:42-43; 22:69.

ii Numerous agencies have recently reported that the most-persecuted religion in the world at the present time is Christianity. Even Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, has been quoted as agreeing to this assessment.

Noteworthy is the marking of the martyrdom of Bible translator William Tyndale who was burned at the stake, October 6, 1626. by a decision of a court in the United Kingdom that the Bible (notably Genesis 1:27) is demeaning to humanity, and consequently the decision to fire the physician who had dared to quote the Scripture in his defense.

iii Elizabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor (Chicago: Tyndale House Publishers, 1986).

 

                                       Dale Jorgenson is a retired college Bible teacher and Choir Director

 




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John 10:10