When a Witness Becomes a Martyr


Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.

Jesus, we belong to you. 

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. 

Acts 7:54–60 (NIV)

When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.


We come to the end of Stephen’s address to the Sanhedrin. While he began with the gentle greeting, “Brothers and Fathers,” he ends John-the-Baptist style, “You stiff-necked murderers!” He began with the great and powerful acts of God. He ends with the activity of the religious leaders in their response to Jesus.

Stephen signed his own death warrant. Something bigger happened here though. Take another look.

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

The Spirit of God gifted Stephen with eyes to see past the veil of the temporal and into the realm of the eternal. The Bible clearly tells us that Jesus “sat down” at the right hand of God. Not here. Jesus stands in tribute to Stephen. Wow!

In Stephen’s death, we witness our first “sowing” ceremony of the young church. As Jesus said, “Unless a single seed of wheat goes into the ground and dies, it will never produce a harvest,” and then became that seed, so did Stephen. As Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing,” and “Into your hands I commend my spirit,” so did Stephen.

One of the early Fathers of the church, Tertullian, wrote in the second century, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

The Greek word behind our English word “witness” is marturo. You recognize the derivative English term, “martyr.” Yes, martyr means “witness.” The Sanhedrin sought to be God’s lawyers. Stephen was God’s witness. Correction: Stephen is God’s witness.

A martyr in death serves as powerful encouragement to the living to be a martyr in life.

And what is a martyr in life? That’s our question, isn’t it? And that is the point, right? A true witness of Jesus is one who cannot be killed because they have already died the only death that matters and from that death, they have risen. This is what baptism really means: buried with Christ in his death and risen with Christ into his life.  


Lord Jesus, I am your witness. 

I receive your righteousness and release my sinfulness.
I receive your wholeness and release my brokenness.
I receive your fullness and release my emptiness.
I receive your peace and release my anxiety.
I receive your joy and release my despair.
I receive your healing and release my sickness. 
I receive your love and release my selfishness. 

Come Holy Spirit transform my heart, mind, soul, and strength so that my consecration becomes your demonstration; that our lives become your sanctuary. For the glory of God our Father, amen.


Do you tend to be more of a lawyer for God, arguing his case with others, or are you more of a witness, demonstrating and testifying to his goodness and grace? See the difference?


I will call the hymn number from our  Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise on the spot in today’s audio podcast. Tune in to hear. 

For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

6 Responses

  1. I am convinced that our ultimate goal in this life is to grow into the mature image of Christ. This process requires us to be “sifted “. Stephen’s last words reveal that he had run his race with perseverance and would now receive his crown of eternal life. Could it be possible that the reason Jesus was standing rather than seated was because He was about to welcome His first martyr into Heaven with a warm embrace?

  2. We lost another brother who “graduated” from the rehab facility I minister at after six months of enrollment. I don’t like saying they graduated. I call it being deployed. The diploma he received didn’t say him. He died from fentanyl the other day. Breaks my heart. I teach about the spiritual warfare we are all in and that learning who they are in Christ, their identity in Christ, and living in that identity is the only chance they have against the evil one and his ploys.
    He had the knowledge of Jesus but missed Jesus Himself.
    The world boils down to two truths. First, evil is real. Satan and the demons aggressively organized against all Christians, all the children of God, all who were formed in God’s image. That is everyone! Some know, others don’t, most don’t care.
    Second, the only way to defeat all the forms of darkness in our lives is through living in the light of Jesus Christ. He who has already defeated him.

    Staying 💪’n Christ
    Ephesians 6:10
    Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

  3. A lawyer argues his case by trying to persuade people with logic, reason, and sometimes emotion. A witness testifies and by telling what he or she has personally seen and heard. Anyone can argue the case for Christ, but someone has to have personal experience with the risen Jesus in order to testify about Him.

    Jesus isn’t searching for expert witnesses. He’s calling ordinary people to take His witness stand to everyday life so that they can show and tell what Christ has done in and through their lives. Every Sunday millions of formal presentations about Jesus are given around the world, but very few heart-felt testimonies about how He has saved, healed, and delivered ordinary people are heard. It’s time to: “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,” by training them to share “the word of their testimony.”

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