Acts 19:21-41 NOT Quiet on the Eastern Front
Since the seven sons of Sceva incident things have been going well in Ephesus. That changes in our story today. One of the craftsmen in town is going to really stir the pot.
Paul was preparing to leave Ephesus at the beginning of our reading. He has made up his mind that he wants to make a trip to Jerusalem and then to Rome. Luke tells us that “Paul resolved in the Spirit” (verse 21) to make this journey. I wonder if that means that the Holy Spirit was telling him that he would wind up there eventually or that he was supposed to go there on his own. We know he goes but how he gets there is a bit different than what he had planned out.
Our main instigator of the trouble in Ephesus was a silversmith named Demetrius. He was a man in high demand before Paul came to town. He was well connected and apparently carried a lot of weight with the other craftsmen. We see right away what motivates him.
If Demetrius were really concerned about the gods of the Ephesians he would have started his speech to his fellow craftsmen from that angle. But Demetrius starts off speaking about what is even dearer to his heart; his wealth. As a great craftsman he had MANY customers. His specialty was shrines made to their goddess Artemis. Because of Paul’s teaching, fewer people were worshiping Artemis and that was impacting his business.
Paul’s teaching wasn’t confined to Ephesus. The Way was spreading all across Asia. More and more people were turning to Jesus every day. Consequently more and more people were refusing to purchase “gods made with hands.” Business was faltering.
Demetrius’ fellow craftsmen didn’t chime in to his complaint until he voiced the second part of it: “And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship” (verse 27).
Can we say ‘overselling it’ a bit? I agree that Paul’s teaching was impacting their business but “all Asia and the world” didn’t worship Artemis. If Artemis was any kind of god she should have been able to stand up to this diversion of people. But we know how false gods fall on their faces in the presence of the One true God. If in doubt go read 1 Samuel 5. See how a true God fares against the competition.
Demetrius got the craftsmen going and they got the rest of the town going. Most of the people in the crowd didn’t even know why they were rioting. They were simply caught up in the mob mentality. There was no unity of cause or spirit. It was utter chaos!
Two of Paul’s cohorts were snatched up and dragged into the theatre by this angry mob. Paul would have joined them if not for some of the other disciples and some of Paul’s friends. Paul saw his friends in trouble and wanted to direct it away from them with sound reasoning. He wanted to argue their case. Paul’s friends saw an angry mob who would not listen to reason no matter what Paul said. They knew he was the prime target for those opposing the new teachings.
It took quite a bit to get this mob back under control. At the first sign of anyone espousing any doctrine but their own, the crowd unified in their attack. It took more than two hours of shouting before their own town clerk was able to quiet them. I wonder how he got their attention. Did they respond to him immediately or did he have to work at getting them to quiet down before he spoke?
He chose his words wisely. He stuck with the facts they had established in their own history. He didn’t debate the god question or even address the loss of business. He also states how dangerous their actions are. These people were under Roman rule and as such, riots like this could have dire consequences. He redirected the instigators of all this to the proper channels.
I wonder how the town clerk knew who was at the heart of all the chaos. Did he investigate during the hours of chanting? Did someone come to him with all the particulars before he tried to quiet the crowd? Was it obvious to anyone watching? Or did God have a hand in his knowledge? He must have had considerable sway in the town to be able to quiet the crowd enough to actually disburse it.
I’m curious as to what happened to Paul’s companions that were seized by the mob. Were they injured during all the commotion? I have a feeling Paul would have been if he had gone in when he wanted to.
Father God You protected Paul through his friends. I’m certain You could have kept him safe in the midst of this crowd too but that was not how You had it planned out. We see that this event got Paul moving on. Was that one of the reasons You allowed this eruption of the Ephesians? Trouble seems to unstick Paul’s feet. Not that he is running away but that he had done all he could where he was and any more would have been counterproductive.
Thank You for telling me when it is time to be quiet and let You work too. Thank You for sending others who can speak more eloquently than I do. Thank You for bringing other who are better known and know the audience in ways I don’t. Help my input complement theirs instead of detract. Help me know when to shut up and sit down. And help my “pride/ego” handle doing so.