The Starting Lineup

March Madness is one of my most favorite times of year. The competition, teams coming together from all over the U.S. to play – teams that may never normally play each other – and knowing any given game can end in a way no one sees coming. There are few games I don’t watch from start to finish. Basketball games all begin with announcing the starting lineup, the first five players on each team who will begin the game, as well as announcing each team’s coach.

The coaches are important figures in sports. Coaches are responsible for teaching relevant skills, tactics and techniques for their players. They keep an eye on each athlete, fully understanding their own players and the opposing players, all the while looking at the big picture of the game. As we tip off our walk through Acts 7 this week, let’s look at the coaches, those heading up each side of the game.

Stephen: a Jesus-following man, filled with the Holy Spirit, called to defend himself. He was seized by the Sanhedrin at the end of Chapter 6 for speaking out against Moses, the temple, and pushing back on ideas the Sanhedrin held dear.

The Sanhedrin: the leaders of the temple. At this stage of the game, the Sanhedrin felt pretty good about themselves and back in charge of the people. After the death of Jesus and the beating of disciples, they had to have believed they had a wonderful game plan. Until… Stephen.

Many coaches of today have hours of game footage to review to analyze how the other team works; and while Stephen and the Sanhedrin had no such resource, they were fully aware of whom they were up against. Both teams were in the spotlight, and the knowledge of their power was on display for all to see. So, this begins the start of quite the battle.

The tipoff, the starting play of the game of basketball, has a referee tossing a ball in the air and seeing which team gets control of the ball and begins on the offense. Acts 7:1 begins with the tip, and the Sanhedrin puts Stephen on the defense by asking:

Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?” (Act s 7:1)

Lord, in a world that touts “win at all costs” for our athletes, we are thankful to know You won by paying the ultimate cost. We couldn’t be more grateful to be coached by the best. As we walk through these verses in Acts this week, open our hearts to Stephen and help us understand better his part of Your story. Amen

By Carrie Peterson

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