One Bible commentary I use calls Stephen’s witness (Acts. 7), and his martyrdom, the “turning point” in the separation of Christianity from Jewish law and practice. The turning away is characterized by the Jewish leaders holding their hands over their ears as Stephen, at first mildly and then more forcefully, advises them not to make the same old mistakes of their forefathers but to be, this time, those who not only listen but actually hear. Stephen is the antithesis of Judas who personified a nation in his turning away. Like the Jewish leaders, Judas went through all the motions, but never really opened his mind and heart to You. Stephen came along at a time when the nerve was most raw - and rubbed salt in it - bravely! If nothing else would work, try a kick in the pants.
It cost him his life. But the point is, he was willing to pay the price. Judas was more interested in getting than giving. His words: “What will you give me if I turn Him over to you?” are, when one really thinks about them, terrifying! Stephen could not have said them. Any of the Jewish leaders could have, and, in one sense or another, did say them. Peter, in another sense, said them. And I greatly fear that I often say them: “What will you give me, world, flesh, devil, if I turn Him over to you?”
The witness of Stephen against all those who would sell You out is not only the precedent for all martyrdom but the witness the world needs to see. If one cannot do it in quite the dramatic manner of Stephen, one, nonetheless, in quiet ways, in a quiet life of loving You, can bear witness to Your truth to a world holding its hands over its ears. We do not choose You. You choose us. We can only choose to reject You. Stephen’s words and courageous actions shouted out that he, for one, would not be a Judas.