Although I have tons of papers to write, and reading to do I haven’t been able to do them because my mind is fixated on the memories of Malatya martyrs and the tiny Turkish church which is hated by all who surround them. I spent the day in tears and prayers and I am dead sure that my God heard all of our prayers
Another thing I did was to look at persecution accounts in the New Testament. I read the story of Stephen over and over again and thought what it would be like to be there as he was being stoned… to see his angelic face, to hear his cry : Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!
However, as I was reading this particular story, something particular caught my eye and I have been contemplating on this all day.
The verse 55 and 56 reads: But he [Stephen], full of the Holy Spirit, gazing into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
Now you may ask, what’s so special about these verses? I admit that I may be reading into the text and make too much out of it but as far as I know, this is the only instance where Jesus is depicted, not as sitting at the right hand of the Father but as “standing”. I think this is an amazing detail that Luke would not want us to miss. In his own Gospel, he never used that same Greek word for the Son of Man discourses. Other New Testament authors linked Jesus’ coronation with Psalms 110 and this Messiah was always perceived as sitting on a throne as a King. But here, Luke uses the same word twice and portrays Stephen’s vision from that lens.
If my interpretation or observation is correct, then this verse gives us a great picture of Jesus’ relationship with Christian’s suffering. I once had a friend who asked me this question: If God truly loves you, then why does he allow you to suffer as though he is displeased with you? This tells me that he does not really exist”. At the time I was a new believer and I was contemplating the same question myself, only without denying God’s existence or his love. But the answer is right here: Jesus does care! This glorious King, who could simply watch the entire thing from his throne decides to get up and be seen by Stephen as standing at the right hand of the Father. This may have different meanings; Jesus was getting up from this throne to receive Stephen or he was standing as an advocate of Stephen.
Imagine a courtroom where the judge sits in judgment and to vindicate and justify the person who is wrongly accused, he not only speaks for him but gets up from his seat to shut the mouths of those who revile him. I believe that when a Christian is persecuted, Jesus feels their pain intimately. When someone wants to destroy a church building or believers, Jesus sees it as an attack to his own body. And he rises up in glory.
Fast forward to April 18th, 2007. These 5 young Muslim men entered my friends’ office and then tied them to their chairs and asked them to recant and say an Islamic prayer. But they refused and said: Jesus is Lord and I will not deny him.
Now look up above, Jesus is ready to get up from his throne as their murderers pulled their knives out and began stabbing them. I do not know what they felt and what their exact experience was but I’d like to think that before Christian martyrs die, they see their Lord standing, not sitting as they learned from the New Testament, at the right hand of the Father. Jesus is their advocate, their precious love, their ultimate judge and Savior. Jesus stands up for his saints and pays attention to their sufferings.
You know what happens when the King stands up: everyone stands up and bows. When my friends Necati, Ugur and Tilmann were being tortured, angels and archangels and the entire host of heaven with all its saints watched what happened as Jesus stood up.
Thank you St. Luke! Thank you my Lord Jesus for caring for my friends and brothers and be known in heaven as JESUS THE ADVOCATE.