Scripture

Acts 19:1-22

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.7 There were about twelve men in all.

8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9 But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor.18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.

Reflection

Paul’s name and power had become so widespread in Asia that others were hoping to cash in on the exorcism bandwagon. This was becoming a major problem, as a number of Jews were trying to mimic the demonstrations of God’s power that were being accomplished through Paul.

Luke tells of the seven sons of Sceva, who tried to perform exorcisms. According to Luke, they invoked Jesus’ name along with Paul’s to try to imitate the miracles God did through Paul. We don’t know who Sceva was. Luke called him a “Jewish chief priest,” but his name is not listed in the official records of Jerusalem. Sceva and/or his seven sons could have been renegades or outcasts from a high priestly family. Some commentators speculate that Sceva may have been the chief priest of a pagan cult. Perhaps the title “Jewish chief priest” was Sceva’s self-designation, and Luke simply reported what the man called himself. Regardless of Sceva’s identity, it was his seven sons who tried to use God’s power as a resource without really being connected to God in the first place. In a comical encounter, even the evil spirit called them out!

As these men found out, you can’t fake God’s power. You can’t shortcut a relationship with Christ, and you can’t pretend you are someone you’re not in God’s reality. God freely gives to all those who accept the gift. And at the same time, you can’t snatch it from God. You have to open your hand and accept it. God is the giver - you are the receiver. God is the great initiator. All we have begins with God offering it to us. Our relationship with Christ starts because Christ seeks us first. The sons of Sceva thought they could just use Jesus’ name (and Paul's for added measure) to make miracles occur. Maybe they thought they could fool the people or fool God, but neither happened. What they didn't realize was that God would have freely given them power to do much in His name, had they asked. And just imagine what they could have accomplished then!

Prayer

Dear God, Please give me ears to hear you, eyes to see you, and courage to follow you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.