More than 2,000 years ago, he told his audience exactly who Jesus was and then explained how his hearers had missed every single sign written by the prophets - signs that clearly pointed to Jesus. He didn't mince words when he told them that they had participated in the killing of the Son of God. Basically he presented the claims of Christ in such a way that his listeners could not refute his arguments.
So they killed him.
But God honored him. The Bible normally speaks of Jesus as being seated at the right hand of God the Father. In the narrative about Stephen's stoning, however, it says that Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. I think Jesus stood in order to honor Stephen, the first martyr of the early church.
How much is Jesus worth?
Stephen apparently thought Jesus was worth everything.
Over the centuries, countless others have thought the same thing.
One of them today is in Evin prison, very ill and in solitary confinement. His name is Saeed and he's not the only Christian being tortured for his faith. However, today we know for sure that Saeed's need is great. He's bleeding internally and will be in solitary for 20 days. He's been in solitary confinement before and has said that this was the darkest time for him, that each hour seemed like an entire day.
What do you do 24/7 in a bleak, stagnant cell with maybe just a blanket to sleep on? How do you pass the time away until your next "interrogation" session? How do you cope with rampant worries about your family on the outside, with threats from brutal guards who let you know that they will get your children next if you don't cooperate?
What would you give just to be able to hear your wife's voice or feel the grass on your feet and the sunshine on your face? What would it be like to have a normal day without terror sometimes dogging your steps, to have something to do in order to take your mind off of the hell that you are in?
Maybe if he just renounces Christianity.. or words things in such a convoluted way that it seems as if he is not a Jesus follower - maybe if he just bends a little here or gives a little there... What if he says that he believes in Jesus in the way that all religions believe in Jesus? What if that one sentence could bring him freedom and all he had to do was just say it...?
But it's not possible.
For Saeed and others like him, following Jesus is non-negotiable; he simply can't say what isn't true.
And this is the point of my blog: for those of us who have the awesome privilege of following Jesus in freedom, praying for men like Saeed and Farshid should also be... non-negotiable.
If you don't know how to pray for Saeed, an invitation from his wife, Naghmeh is included below.