This week I read of the one standing ovation Jesus gave that we know of. It was in honor of Stephen, when he lived through—or should I say died through—an event that eerily hearkened back to a certain crucifixion that was in Jerusalem's not so distant past. Perhaps the similarities between the two events were lost on an angry people in the heat of the moment. Nonetheless, there were trumped up charges before the Sanhedrin, a miscarriage of justice just outside the city, and a victim's dying cry for God's mercy toward his perpetrators.
Jesus, now at home in Heaven with newly acquired empathy for Stephen's circumstance, stood at attention and received Stephen's prayer as only the Savior can: with an answer.
Was it at that moment that Jesus penciled in on his daytimer an appointment on a certain road to Damascus and whispered, "Yes," to Stephen's dying plea?
What I've never noticed before about this passage is that Jesus saw Saul as well. Jesus saw Saul's wicked smile of approval spurring on murder. Jesus saw Stephen and Saul and saw the plight of both.
All at once, a glorified Christ, who is above time and space on a fallen Earth, can see Stephen, Saul (as he is), and the Paul that he would soon become. He would receive Stephen and redeem Saul.
The death of the first martyr was the remarkable event that began the turbulent birth of the Church. And that birth was not without the pains of labor and delivery God promised as a consequence of sin back in the Garden. Fledgling Christians must have wondered, even whispered, "Why?" That is, if they were brave enough to own and utter their doubt in that one word.
No one on earth had foreknowledge that Saul would become Paul on his way to more persecution in Damascus when there was a dead Stephen beneath the stones. But Jesus did; He knew.
He is a God who sees. He's a God who stands and pays attention when innocents are slain.
He is listening to his children's prayers, and He has a ready answer to them.
Stephen's answer involved a wayward Pharisee that would become an apostle who transformed the Roman Empire and all of history. His answer and His plan was beyond anyone's wildest imagination on that sad day in Jerusalem.
Only a sovereign God can see the future, make Damascus Road appointments, and has answers for the why-questions that come in our darkest nights and on this sad day in Aurora.
Shall we ask now then, when The Darkest Knight has become a darkest night?
Let us bravely bare our sorrow and doubt to the One who knows and the One who sees. May He answer our prayers in a way that turns evil to good, that will proclaim His name to the ends of the earth in ways that are beyond our wildest imagination.
Let us ask. Jesus just might be standing at attention again with answers, ready to receive and redeem.