Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone (Stephen); and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.
And Saul approved of their killing him. ~ 7:58-8:1a
Backtracking a little bit to mention what could be missed in a cursory reading of this passage - at least until you get to verse one of chapter 8.
Saul is there when Stephen was killed.
Saul holds the garments for the "witnesses" (and irony here: The Book of Acts is about very different kinds of witnesses!)
Saul approves of Stephen's death.
And, oh yeah: Saul becomes Paul.
As Acts continues, it will be impossible not to see the enormous - the invaluable - impact Paul has on the Christian church and the Christian faith. Paul is perhaps the architect of that faith: giving structure to the foundation of Jesus' life and ministry, and giving substance to followers about the reality of the Cosmic Christ.
Paul is perhaps the greatest witness of Acts.
And this is how he begins.
It is a beginning Paul himself will not forget.
It is a beginning, also, that is forgiven by the Stephen himself.
Forgiven, Saul is set free.
You. Me...also set free.
So, as my Lutheran Confessions professor, Timothy Wengert, used to say (quoting his own professor): "What are you doing to do now that you don't have to do anything?"
What are you going to do with this freedom that comes from forgiveness?
In Acts, we'll see just what Paul will do after a very auspiciously dark beginning.
Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty I am free at last! Now...help me to see what comes next! Amen.