According to the Acts of the Apostles
In the early Church there was a problem over the distribution of food to some widows. So the Apostles called a meeting and said that they themselves should stick with the preaching and teaching. They asked the fellowship to choose seven suitable men for the work. The job description was for honest men, full of the Holy Spirit, and good sense. Stephen was one of the seven chosen.
Stephen was full of faith and power, and did signs and miracles among the people. Men of a Greek-speaking Synagogue argued with him, but were no match for his wisdom. So they got false witnesses to say that he had blasphemed against God.
As he spoke to the Council – the High Priest being present – Stephen accused them of killing Jesus. “When they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and gnashed on him with their teeth. Stephen full of the Holy Spirit, looked upwards and said ‘I see Jesus standing on the right hand of God.’ They stopped their ears, ran at him, dragged him out, and stoned him.” Stephen kneeling down cried with a loud voice asking God to forgive them. Then he “fell asleep.” This is the term for death of a believer.
Boss in the Porch
The Boss in the porch closest to the inner door depicts the martyrdom of Stephen. He is kneeling in the middle with two men on either side with hands upraised , as if ready to throw their stones. The Boss is somewhat damaged, maybe through age, as the porch is 14th Century, or from vandalism by Cromwell’s men, who were active in the Norwich area.
As the boss is in relief, the photograph has foreshortened the outside parts. At the bottom on either side there appears to be two men, ready to throw more stones. The whole is encased in leaves signifying the martyr’s death.
In Old Testament times the Jews had no prisons. Those who broke the Law, were taken to the priests and punished as prescribed by the Law of Moses. Death was the punishment for the worst offences. The means of execution was by Stoning until dead.
Stephen was stoned for blasphemy against God. But Stephen was not blaspheming. He was speaking the truth. Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah – God, the Second Person of the Godhead. It was the Jewish rulers who did not believe this, although Jesus fulfilled the prophecies, and confirmed them by his sinless character, and by his words and works.
A mosaic of Stephen’s Martyrdom
Stephen’s spirit is now with Jesus in Heaven. One day, along with all saints, he will be given a resurrection body.
The gate leading from the Churchyard towards the Chapelfield development depicts the stones whirled at Stephen. The swirls symbolise the energy and the hatred of the thrower.
The gate leading to Malthouse Road has bars standing upright. The tops have on steel jewels. These stand for the Crown given to Martyrs.
Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” – John 11:2