There is a big difference between what the world views as “legendary”, and what it means to be “legendary for Christ”. Think about Sylvester Stallone in the Rocky movies. I suppose if you make a movie and a city erects a statue of you after the fact, you have the right to claim “legendary” status. Academy Award winning actors and actresses, sports superstars, political figures, Nobel Prize winners could also be considered legendary in the world’s eyes. We look up to these people, at times we may even idolize some of them. But the question remains: “What does it take to be legendary for Christ?”
Let’s look at Stephen (Acts 7: 1-60) as his example of a person who truly became legendary.
Stephen is described in Acts as “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5) “full of God’s grace and power (and) did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). When he spoke he had “wisdom” given to him by the Spirit (Acts 6:10). The religious leaders (the Sanhedrin) were threatened by Stephen and so had him arrested and false charges were brought against him. While the charges were being read they noticed that Stephen had “the face of an angel”. (Acts 6: 15) Now, it’s interesting to note here that after the charges were read, the Sanhedrin ask this simple question of Stephen: “Are these charges true?”
Now, I don’t think the Sanhedrin had any idea when they asked this of Stephen that he would answer them the way he did. Instead of trying to plead for his life (as was expected), Stephen launches into a sermon. In one online commentary I read, describes the scene as, “One man full of the Holy Spirit faces a gallery of men full of hate.” They had already decided what to do with Stephen. Stephen knew that he was going to face a death sentence but he wasn’t interested in defending himself. He simply wanted to proclaim the truth about Jesus in a way people would understand. He knew this would be his last opportunity to do this. So Stephen gives a panorama of Old Testament history. He certainly did not instruct the Sanhedrin on points of Jewish history they were ignorant of. Instead, Stephen wanted to emphasize some things revealed in Jewish history they may not have considered: that God has never confined Himself to one place (like the temple), and that the Jewish people have a habit of rejecting those whom God sends to them!
The greatness of Stephen’s sermon is not only in its content, but in its courage. “He takes the sharp knife of the Word and rips up the sins of the people, laying open the inward parts of their hearts, and the secrets of their souls . . . He could not have delivered that searching address with greater fearlessness had he been assured that they would thank him for the operation; the fact that his death was certain had no other effect upon him than to make him yet more zealous.” (Spurgeon)
“Like a herd of stampeding animals (compare Lk 8:33), yet intent on one purpose, they rush together against Stephen, drag him out of the city and begin to stone him. Throwing him down from a high place, they gather and heave paving stones on top of him until death comes.” (BibleGateway Commentary) But take note of Stephen’s final words before he “falls asleep”: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts. 7: 60)
It is impossible not to compare Stephen’s dying words with that of Christ’s words from the Cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Stephen wasn’t a superman, but he was a man filled with the Holy Spirit. He became legendary for Christ. He became legendary not in his dying but in his living for Christ. Consider how greatly you too can be used of God as you walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.