“But he (Stephen), being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’” — Acts 7:55-56 NKJV
It’s happened to me a handful of times in my life. Some instances were when I was younger and in the band for a very talented group of Christian singers.
We all shared it, but I think it was mostly intended for the vocalists. I just got to tag along, really.
As a pastor/teacher I’m aware of a few times over the decades that it happened to me. However, as I look back over my lifetime, there is one time that it happened that supersedes all the other times combined.
I’m talking about a standing ovation.
If you play well, sing well, or if you really ring the bell with your preaching, you sometimes get one. It usually leaves me wondering if everybody really felt an ovation was warranted or if one or two thought so and others followed suit just to be polite.
I did receive one ovation in my life that I’ve never second guessed. I was returning from Brazil on my first international missions project. I had never been away from my young family before.
After being gone for what must have seemed like a long time to my family at home, and in my early-mid 20s, with one child 22 months old who had obviously missed her daddy, I stepped out of the jet-walk into the boarding area of the airport where my only child was waiting with her mother to welcome me back.
When my little one’s eyes found her daddy she leaped to her feet and started applauding. If I live to be 100, that ovation is the one that matters more than any of the others in my memory. What could have been more genuine? More sincere? More spontaneous or meaningful?
In this passage from Acts 7, we see Stephen being stoned to death for his faithfulness to Christ. What he saw carries more meaning than we know unless we consider the Hebrew elements of Jewish orthodoxy.
I’ll keep it simple and brief and if you have passed from death unto life, the Holy Spirit will personalize it for you.
In the Old Testament, if and when a leper received a healing for their terminal disease, before they were allowed to escape the isolation that came as a result of being a leper and be restored to the community, they were to go before a priest and be pronounced clean.
Since lepers were required by law to disassociate themselves from the non-infected citizens (the clean), only the priest could give the restoration desired and it came only after a careful inspection of the once-disease ridden flesh.
If the leper was found to be healed, the high priest would stand and make the declaration, “I find you clean.”
This is the only time a priest would stand to speak in the temple. They sat while reading the scrolls. They sat or knelt during public acts of worship.
A leper who was somehow made clean from a diagnosis that had taken everything from them, now having their life restored ... that my friend got a proclamation from a standing priest who was on his feet.
Stephen, being accused of blasphemy against God, being judged by his religious countrymen, being declared guilty and given a death sentence, looks up into the heavens and sees our High Priest standing in front of His father’s throne, declaring for all of heaven to hear ... “clean,” “innocent,” “you are not condemned,” “You are free,” “I give you life!”
One day soon you and I are going to come into His presence. We’ve all been infected by the disease called sin. We were given a death sentence ... eternal death.
But wait, when we surrendered our life to His Lordship everything changed and glory hallelujah, when it’s our turn to enter His presence, He will stand and announce that our soul has been healed from the curse of sin.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had anyone to stand in ovation to you or not, but I’m hear to tell you that if you are born again through Christ’s atoning work, one day you will!
The absolute truth is this, that’s the only ovation that matters!