Acts 19:23-41: I predict a riot.
“23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.” 28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater. 32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. 34 But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.”NIV UK
We have noted previously that Christians will feel the heat when vested financial interests are hit by the preaching of the gospel (24, 25). Touch drug dealers and sex traders in the pocket and, well, I predict a riot. If they are paying, they’ll want to make you pay. Someone once observed that when you throw a stone at a pack of dogs you can tell which one you’ve hit. It’s the one that yelps. It’s not all that difficult to incite a mob, and in any such crowd there will be people who have no idea why they are there (32). Nevertheless, most will be delighted to be in the thick of the action, and will relish the prospect of aggro.
Demetrius seemed to be totally oblivious regarding the folly of his words: ‘’He says that man-made gods are no gods at all’’ (26b). I mean, is it not laugh out loud funny?! It is ludicrous that the crowd wanted to defend the honour of their ‘man-made’ goddess. However, Demetrius had swayed them: ‘’And there is danger…that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship’’ (27b). I recall vivid Old Testament passages which poke fun at idolatry and idolaters. Demetrius was poking fun at himself – unwittingly of course.
F.B.Meyer makes an important point about Paul’s evident courage (30,31):
‘He probably refers to this incident when he says that he fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, 1 Cor.15:32. But he could have done no good in the face of such a turmoil. Be valorous, Christian soldiers, but be discreet! Do not throw yourself from the mountain brow unless God clearly calls for it. It is well to bear this scene in mind when the apostle tells of a ‘’peace that passeth understanding’’ which stands sentry over heart and mind. His was not the sequestered life of a religious recluse; he was continually battling his way through a stormy sea. But it is in the floods of great waters that we learn what our Lord can be.’ ‘Devotional Commentary’,p.496.
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