“Well, they’ll stone you when you’re trying to be so good.
They’ll stone you just like they said they would.
They’ll stone you when you’re trying to go home.
And they’ll stone you when you’re there all alone.
But I would not feel so all alone.
Everybody must get stoned.”
Bob Dylan, 1966
If you dismissed this Dylan song along with the drug-infused 1960s, you missed the point. It isn’t about getting high. A 2012 interview with Rolling Stone had Dylan rebuff this explanation. “Those people aren’t familiar with the book of Acts.”
We have a group in our church well-familiar with the book of Acts, having read it in its entirety on Wednesdays of last spring and summer. If you would like to join them, they’re now into reading Luke on Wednesdays, next session on chapter 4.
I was with them as they read: “While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, don’t hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.” (Acts 7.59-60)
Stephen received death-by-stoning for preaching his truth to the authorities. Then again, they would likely stone a truth-telling like Stephen no matter what he said. Truth-tellers are usually answered with a rock, either a literal or a figurative rock.
Mark Twain said, “History doesn’t repeat itself; but it often rhymes.” Matthew Laney of St. Paul’s UCC in Chicago interprets, “Stephen’s life and death rhymes with Jesus. In both cases, the authorities are bent on destroying someone filled with the Holy Spirit. Both face an angry mob. Both are stripped of their garments and executed while asking God to forgive their killers. Both commend their spirit to God at the moment of death.” Do you hear rhyming like this going on to today?
Mexican-Americans are stoned as rapists, drug dealers and murderers infiltrating our land and endangering our country. Federal agents are stoned as purveyors of conspiracy and subverting the same Constitution they were sworn to uphold.
Recently in Mississippi a woman was stoned with derisive laughter for coming tremulously forward to tell of a humiliating attack that has clearly shaken her life. I don’t know everything about this case and neither do you. But I will speak up as I see the vulnerable stoned by powerful empires that stoned Jesus and Stephen.
Getting stoned isn’t what you signed up for in following Jesus. Maybe you craved the grace or forgiveness features of faith. But if we love the truth, Dylan is right, “Everybody must get stoned.” Or at least duck as we identify with the truth-tellers.