Stephen was a significant figure in the early Church. This chapter records his speech to the Sanhedrin (Jewish religious leaders), and his subsequent execution. It is also the first time we meet Saul (later renamed Paul), who may well be the source of the account.
Although Stephen was facing false accusations, he did not defend himself, but chose to challenge the authorities, and to show the people that sending Jesus as Saviour had been God's plan all along. He summarised the story of the Jewish people, emphasising their stubbornness and God's constancy. Each time the people went into rebellion, God waited until they were ready to cooperate. Like us, the Israelites were on a journey of faith and obedience. God was patient, but was not diverted from His purpose.
There are types (prophetic forerunners) of Jesus throughout the journey, for example:
Joseph was rejected by his brothers, but ultimately became their saviour.
Moses, like Jesus, was a compelling preacher and miracle worker. Even so, like Jesus, he was rejected by his nation when he offered them deliverance.
Stephen was saying that the religious leaders had concentrated on form over substance, and had rejected all God's messengers. When Stephen told them he could see Jesus standing at the right hand of God, their anger boiled over.
At the end, Stephen maintained complete trust in God; he died as he had lived, filled with the Holy Spirit. After his martyrdom, the church suffered intense persecution, and was dispersed around the wider world.