Stephen, the First Martyr! – Seventh Sunday of Easter
What is a martyr? The Ancient Greek word means witness. A martyr is someone who bears witness, maybe in court, maybe for his religion. Today there is death associated with being a martyr. Muslims picked up the word and they call their fallen warriors martyrs, just as they also call suicide bombers martyrs. The word martyr does not occur in the Qur’an!
The Christian concept of a martyr, however, is completely different.. A Christian martyr, first of all, is unarmed and he gives his life in the face of adversity, proclaiming the Word of God, being a witness, that’s what the word martyr means, instead of yielding to pressure to deny the Word of God..
 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,  And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.  Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,  And cast him out of the city, and stoned [him]: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.  And they stoned Stephen, calling upon [God], and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.  And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
What had he done wrong? Seeing a vision?
Jesus even prayed this:
 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;  That they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:  I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.  Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.  O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.  And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.
Just a final thought. A man who gives his life as a martyr must be sure that someone will take care of his children. It is explained in Greetings from Paradise that the early Christian Society, as all lower class societies at the time, took care of their children in common, so if a man die, being a martyr or for whatever other reason, there was no disadvantage to the children.
The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.