“And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.…Lord, do not charge them with this sin’” (Acts 7:59-60).
This statement of grace shown to Stephen’s persecutors may sound similar to what the Lord Jesus said at Calvary: “Father, forgive them…” But there is a clear difference. Christ’s statement meant that their sin was on the record, but He asked His Father to forgive it. Stephen asks, however, that the matter might not be put on the list at all.
It seems Stephen understood that Israel’s time as a nation was running out. The temple, a main topic in his defense because it involved a charge against early Christians (6:13), was soon to be destroyed, ending the whole sacrificial system. But Stephen wanted the Jewish nation to have another chance. And God’s answer was found in the man who watched the coats that day—Saul of Tarsus.
If we pray a prayer of forgiveness today, who knows what far-reaching ripples of grace will result.