By Sara Foss.
Patrick Henry College
Dr. Graham Walker, President of Patrick Henry College, speaking to students in Friday's chapel message
“Modern usage has shifted its connotation from the Biblical sense, from telling the truth to the consequences for telling the truth,” Walker said. We now understand the word martyr to mean one who has died for his faith. Stephen was a martyr under either definition.
In verse 31, Jesus notes that His own testimony of His identity is not valid by Jewish law. Yet He had four pieces of martyrion, in this context meaning evidence, which the Jews chose to ignore: God the Father, John the Baptist, Jesus’ own miraculous works, and the Scriptures.
“Just as with John the Baptist, so with Stephen, so with all of us that are called to give witness. There is an external dimension to testimony,” Walker said, meaning that we must in fact open our mouths.
He compared this to the oft-quoted aphorism of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.
“Yeah, Exactly!” Walker exclaimed on behalf of many who misuse St. Francis’s words. “See, I can just do nice things, random acts of kindness, and never have to do anything.”
St. Francis and his followers devoted their lives to ministry, living among the poor and suffering for their faith. His good deeds were by no means random acts of kindness.
“Francis could afford the luxury of that appealing little phrase,” said Walker, “whereas we cannot.”
Returning to Jesus’ time, the Jews had no lack of testimony, they simply would not accept what was being spoken to them.
The “things of this world” that the Pharisees loved were not the physical things, Walker clarified, but the human order which they could impose upon their world, the social consensus and the praise they received for following it.
Those who did believe in Jesus “feared, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” Perhaps it was only a mental assent rather than true faith, but, Walker said, “They didn’t want to make that choice. They wanted to focus on praise from men.
“I urge you to think about Jesus, to keep your focus on Him,” Walker exhorted the students. “One way to do that is to keep this part of His commission—to be His witnesses.”