In Jerusalem in A.D. 34 or 35, Stephen became the first Christian martyr. Acts 6-7 tells how Stephen, "a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit" was one of seven men selected by the twelve apostles to help spread the word of God. "Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people" (Acts 6:8).
Stephen, who was a Greek-speaking Jew, was unafraid to voice his opinions. He was brought to the Sanhedrin (Jewish council) on trumped-up charges of blasphemy and spoke eloquently in his defense. His long and impassioned chronicle of God's history with humans only inflamed his accusers, who decided to stone him to death. He experienced a vision where he saw himself at God's right hand, which only made the Sanhedrin angrier.
Stephen was drug outside the city to die. As angry Jews stoned him, he prayed, "Lord, receive my spirit" and forgave his murderers before he died. Stephen became a well-loved martyr. A church was built outside Jerusalem's Damascus Wall in 439 A.D. Stephen has been a popular saint ever since.
Image is from the St. Stephen window in St. Mary's Cathedral, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.