15. Total surrender makes a total impact on others

     I speculated in the last couple of articles that Peter influenced Stephen in his sermons. However, it is without a doubt that Stephen in his final and fatal sermon to the Sanhedrin as recorded in Acts 7 influenced a Pharisee named Saul who later became Paul.

     Compare Stephen’s sermon to one of Paul’s first recorded sermons found in Acts 13:10 and following, and you will find numerous similarities. Even though the young Saul was heartily in agreement with the stoning (“Here, let me watch your coat to help you hurl stones at this blasphemer”), Stephen’s sermon, his countenance and his vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God surely haunted the converted Paul.

     Tertullian said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, meaning that the killing of Christians in an attempt to stamp them out actually emboldens the church to grow stronger. But it you and I do not have to die for our faith in order to embolden its growth (at least I sure hope not!). A sacrificial life is just as influential as a sacrificial death.

     That is what our memory verse of Romans 12:1 is all about. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” I believe we can see both living sacrifices in the Communion. The cup represents the death of self in the shed blood of Christ. The bread represents the sacrificial Bread of Life.

     Another example of total surrender can be seen in James and John, the sons of thunder and sons of Zebedee, who are two types of sacrificial life and death we see in Scripture.
     
     If you remember the story, Mrs. Zebedee came and spoke about her boys being on either side of Jesus in His Kingdom, no small request for sure. But even James and John and certainly not their mother had any idea of what that would mean. In some aspect, the two people who were on Jesus either side when He left this earth were on the crosses to His left and right.

     But Jesus asked the boys, “are you willing to be baptized in the baptism I am going to be baptized in and are you willing to drink of the cup I am going to drink.” Unwittingly, I’m sure, they both said yes, but it is unclear if they really understood what Jesus was meaning. The disciples frequently were confused when Jesus spoke pretty plainly so it is likely they didn’t understand that Jesus was foretelling that one of the brothers, James, would be the first apostle to die, not long after Stephen’s death. The other, John, was the last disciple to die, but lived a martyr’s life.

     How about you? Are you willing to drink the cup of Jesus? Are you willing to be baptized in His baptism? 

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