Why Jesus Stood for Stephen

The most often quoted Psalm in all the NT is Pslam 110. Its quoted directly or alluded to at least 25 times within the pages of the inspired text. Psalm 110:1 says “The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” The fact that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father was extremely important to the apostles. We serve a living God who rules and reigns from above. The apostles were confident that the tomb was empty and the throne was occupied. Christ’s exalted position at the right hand of God is where his providential blessings of grace for holiness can flow to his people. The psalm was precious to Jesus and his followers. Responding to his accusers in Luke 22:69, Jesus says “But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” Preaching to a crowd at Pentecost in Acts 2:33, Peter says [Jesus] after being raised from the dead was ” exalted at the right hand of God.” Paul describes Jesus as He “who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” The writer of the letter of Hebrews in 1:3 writes “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Again the writer says in chapter 8:1-2 that “we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.” And lastly, Stephen cried out as he was being martyred saying “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Did you catch that? Standing…not sitting. Why?

The NET Bible says:

The picture of Jesus standing (rather than seated) probably indicates his rising to receive his child. By announcing his vision, Stephen thoroughly offended his audience, who believed no one could share God’s place in heaven.

Imagine Jesus standing to receive his child with with love-stained tears running down his face. That’s majestically beautiful. James Boice in his An Expositional Commentary on Acts says:

There are two valid options. Jesus stood to receive his martyr Stephen. There are numerous stories of martyrs and believers leaving to be with the Lord and seeing him standing as if ready to receive him. The other option is based upon Matthew 10:32: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.” In view of this verse, it may be that we have a case of Jesus standing to plead Stephen’s cause as his advocate. That is, Jesus takes the position of a defender and witness before the Father’s throne. If this is the case, then what Stephen caught a glimpse of was that second and much greater trial in which he was involved. Up to this moment, he had only been able to see the earthly trial. He was condemned by the earthly court but found himself acquitted by the heavenly court. In this trial the Lord Jesus Christ took his side, pleaded his case, and prevailed.

I really love the second option. He was standing rather than sitting as an advocate to plead Stephen’s case before God and to welcome him into his presence. In the court that mattered, he was found innocent because of the merits of Christ.

Matthew Henry in his Commentary on the Whole Bible weighs in remarking:

He saw Jesus at the right hand of God, denoting both his transcendent dignity and his sovereign dominion, his uncontrollable ability and his universal agency; whatever God’s right hand gives to us, or receives from us, or does concerning us, it is by him; for he is his right hand. [2.] He is usually said to sit there; but Stephen sees him standing there, as one more than ordinarily concerned at present for his suffering servant; he stood up as a judge to plead his cause against his persecutors; he is raised up out of his holy habitation (Zec. 2:13), comes out of his place to punish, Isa. 26:21. He stands ready to receive him and crown him, and in the mean time to give him a prospect of the joy set before him. [3.] This was intended for the encouragement of Stephen. He sees Christ is for him, and then no matter who is against him. When our Lord Jesus was in his agony an angel appeared to him, strengthening him; but Stephen had Christ himself appearing to him. Note, Nothing so comfortable to dying saints, nor so animating to suffering saints, as to see Jesus at the right hand of God; and, blessed be God, by faith we may see him there.

If we are given the gift (Phil. 1:29) to suffer and ultimately lose our lives for the name of Christ, he stands open arms ready to take us into his joyful presence. I’ll suffer tears to be met at the pearly gates by Jesus. Want you?

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