The First Reading for this fifth Sunday of Easter is written in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. The text is Acts 6:1-9; 7:2a, 51-60 and is the familiar account of the Stoning of Stephen. However, there is a great deal that takes place in the text before the actual stoning. Unfortunately, we often become caught up with the dramatic and read over the mundane, and yet very important words that begin this reading.
The new church in Jerusalem is criticized by the Greek speaking Jews for neglecting the widows in the daily distribution. The Greek speaking Jews are most likely many who were converted at Pentecost, so are Jews by nationality and Christians by belief. Also, important to remember, the neglect of the widows is not intentional. Whether because of language or a faulty system they were being neglected—accidentally. This is big problem for many reasons, not the least because the Church is called to be Christ-like and that means reaching out in mercy to the widows, orphans and outcasts-the disenfranchised and helpless-like Christ Jesus gave example.
This was such a big deal/problem that the Twelve Apostles themselves called together the full number of disciples—meaning the members of the church in that place. Seven were chosen, hands were laid on them and they began to carry out these acts of mercy. The overall ministry was still the responsibility and under the oversight of the Apostles. They had to make sure all things were being done and all needs met, BUT they did not have to do all the work themselves. In a way, the work of the Seven (including Stephen) was an extension of the Office of Apostle. Note also that, “A great many priests became obedient to the faith.”
The stoning of Stephen is the last portion of this text. It takes place after his lengthy speech which ends with him telling the assembled Jewish leaders that they who killed the prophets who announced the coming of the Righteous One, also killed the Righteous One—Jesus Christ. The same message was given by Jesus via a parable. The messengers of the owner of the vineyard were killed, so He sent His Son and they killed Him as well. Note how the stoning takes place outside the city just as the crucifixion. You cannot carry out capital punishment in the city because it makes the city unclean. Also, we are first introduced to Saul—later to become Paul.
6:1 πληθυνόντων from: πληθύνω Present, participle: “to fill; to increase”
παρεθεωροῦντο from: παραθεωρέω Imperfect, passive: “to look beyond; to neglect; to overlook”
διακονίᾳ “ministry; a distribution of alms”
6:2 προσκαλεσάμενοι from: προσκαλέομαι Aorist, middle, participle: “to summons”
ἀρεστόν “right; pleasing; fit”
καταλείψαντας from: καταλείπω Aorist, participle: “to leave behind; to give up; to abandon.”
6:3 ἐπισκέψασθε from: ἐπισκέπτομαι Aorist, middle, imperative: “to oversee; to supervise; to pick out”
μαρτυρουμένους from: μαρτυρέω Present, passive participle: “to bear witness; to give testimony; to be of good character”
καταστήσομεν from: καθίστημι Future: “to appoint” The idea is the seven will be presented by the congregation to the Apostles for approval.
6:4 προσκαρτερήσομεν from: προσκαρτερέω Future: “to hold fast to; to continue in; to
devote oneself to”
6:5 ἤρεσεν from: ἀρέσκω Aorist: “to please”
ἐξελέξαντο from: ἐκλέγομαι Aorist, middle: “to elect; to choose; to select”
6:6 ἔστησαν from: ἵστημι Aorist: “to place; to stand”
προσευξάμενοι from: προσεύχομαι Aorist, middle participle: “to pray”
ἐπέθηκαν from: ἐπιτίθημι Aorist: “to place upon; to lay upon”
6:7 ηὔξανεν from: αὐξάνω Imperfect: “to grow” Continual growth.
ἐπληθύνετο from: πληθύνω Imperfect, passive: “to increase; to multiply”
ὑπήκουον from: ὑπακούω Imperfect: “to listen to; to obey”
6:9 ἀνέστησαν from: ἀνίστημι Aorist: “to arise; to rise up”
συζητοῦντες from: συζητέω Present, participle: “to dispute; to question together”
7:51 Σκληροτράχηλοι “stiff-necked”
7:52 ἐδίωξαν from: διώκω Aorist: “to pursue; to persecute”
ἀπέκτειναν from: ἀποκτείνω Aorist: “to kill”
προκαταγγείλαντας from: προκαταγγέλλω Aorist, participle: “to announce beforehand”
ἐλεύσεως from: ἔλευσις “coming” A messianic, advent term.
7:53 ἐλάβετε from: λαμβάνω Aorist: “to receive”
ἐφυλάξατε from: φυλάσσω Aorist: “to keep; to observe”
7:54 διεπρίοντο from: διαπρίομαι Imperfect, middle: “to cut; to cut to the quick; to be enraged”
ἔβρυχον from: βρύχω Imperfect: “to gnash; to grind (as in teeth); to bite with a loud noise”
7:55 ἀτενίσας from: ἀτενίζω Aorist, participle: “to gaze”
ἑστῶτα from: ἵστημι Perfect, participle: “to stand”
7:56 διηνοιγμένους from: διανοίγω Perfect, passive participle: “to open”
7:57 κράξαντες from: κράζω Aorist, participle: “to scream; to cry out”
συνέσχον from: συνέχω Aorist: “to hold; to hold together; to stop ears”
ὥρμησαν from: ὁρμάω Aorist: “to rush”
7:58 ἐκβαλόντες from: ἐκβάλλω Aorist, participle: “to throw out; to cast out”
ἐλιθοβόλουν from: λιθοβολέω Imperfect: “to stone”
ἀπέθεντο from: ἀποτίθημι Aorist, middle: “to put away; to put down; to lay down”
7:59 ἐπικαλούμενον from: ἐπικαλεομαι Present, middle participle: “to call upon; to call
out; to call to”
δέξαι from: δέχομαι Aorist, imperative: “to receive; to welcome”
7:60 θεὶς from: τίθημι Aorist, participle: “to place; to kneel down”
στήσῃς from: ἵστημι Aorist, subjunctive: “to establish; to lay”
ἐκοιμήθη from: κοιμαομαι Aorist, passive: “to go to sleep; to fall asleep”
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Acts 6:1-9; 7:2a, 51-60.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Acts 7:1-60.