The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon.Cyril of Jerusalem
In the movie Bridge of Spies, there is a prison scene in which a defense attorney confers with a Russian spy who says, “You remind me of someone who used to come to our house when I was a boy. My father would say to me, ‘watch this man!’ This man did nothing remarkable, but one day some partisan border guards came to our home and beat my father, mother and this man unmercifully, but each time they beat him he stood up. So, they hit him harder, and he rose to his feet again and again. But I think because of this, they stopped and let him live. They grew tired of beating him and walked away muttering to themselves, ‘the standing man, the standing man!’”
I was reminded of that movie scene when I read of the stoning of Stephen in Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 7. In Luke’s account Stephen says,
“Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”Acts 7:56
I thought it odd that Jesus was not sitting, but standing.
In the Christian creeds Jesus is always sitting, never standing at the right hand of the Father. Why here, is Jesus standing? I think it’s to honor Stephen’s defense of him as the Messiah and for his martyrdom. He rises to welcome Stephen to his side. I think Stephen has garnered a “well done, good and faithful servant!” from Jesus who sits in exaltation, but stands in acclamation.
Then I thought of other times when Jesus stands for his friends. In Luke 22:31, for example, he says, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,” but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” The significance of his support of Peter in the face of Lucifer’s menacing demand cannot be overlooked. He stands up for Peter!
When the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11) is brought by the scribes and Pharisees to Jesus to be stoned, he says to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus not only stands up to them, but also stands up for her by saying, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
And then, there is the anointing by a woman at Bethany (Matthew 26: 6-12) with the alabaster flask of very expensive ointment who pours it all out on Jesus’ head, to the indignation of those present. “Why this waste!” they say. But Jesus rises to her defense by saying, “Why do you trouble this woman, for she has done a beautiful thing to me?” Because of this anointing, she is remembered for her great sacrifice! Once again, Jesus stands for one of his own
Standing firm for the Lord
I don’t think it’s enough to draw a lesson from Holy Scripture without applying it in some way to our own experience. To this end, I’m thinking of some Old Testament stories that will provide wisdom that may be helpful for us.
Jeremiah buys a field while the city of Jerusalem is under siege by the Babylonian army. The Lord of hosts was saying in effect, “houses, fields and vineyards shall again be bought in the land.” (Jeremiah 32:1-15) What seemed like lunacy to his neighbors was the will of God to Jeremiah. I draw courage from his example and have come to believe that our fields, our homes, and our spheres of influence are actually holy ground where the Lord dwells. Therefore, we should not concede them to anyone. We need to take a stand.
Also, I was impressed that David’s mighty men weren’t afraid to stand for him. Their exploits were outrageously courageous. They risked life and limb to hold the king’s territory at all costs. One of them, Shammah, took his stand on a plot of ground full of lentils – believe it or not – and defended it against the Philistines. (2 Samuel 23:11-12) He stood there fighting as if saying, “It may not be much, but this is my land, and you can’t have my field!”
I’m reminded there are times in life when we must rise and protect our “fields.” In the power of the Holy Spirit, we must be ready always to say to any intruders, “You can’t have my family! I have authority here and you can’t have them!” If we don’t protect that which is ours, then who will?
Satan underestimates us. He seems to be unaware that God has visited his people by putting his Spirit within us. We have authority that he doesn’t understand. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul passionately exhorts us to be strong “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Simply put, we will not be moved!
As his disciples, we are to stand for him, his people, and his Kingdom. The place we occupy is holy ground. As a result, we stand firm and unyielding.
Top image of standing man facing a mountain summit, from Bigstock.com, © Andrushko Galyna, stock photo ID: 13811567. Used with permission.