By David Baumann
A Reading from Acts 19:11-20
11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that when the handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, their diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them. 13 Then some itinerant Jewish exorcists tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit said to them in reply, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” 16 Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered them all, and so overpowered them that they fled out of the house naked and wounded. 17 When this became known to all residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks, everyone was awestruck, and the name of the Lord Jesus was praised. 18 Also many of those who became believers confessed and disclosed their practices. 19 A number of those who practiced magic collected their books and burned them publicly; when the value of these books was calculated, it was found to come to fifty thousand silver coins. 20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.
There was a Facebook post a while back that asked readers to name the most famous person they’d ever met. Without a doubt, there is a thrill that comes from meeting someone who’s famous, and there is pleasure in telling others about the experience. But of course meeting someone once is not the same thing as being intimate with that person.
In today’s lesson from Acts, it is clear that the names “Jesus” and “Paul” have become popularly known; they have become “famous.” “Extraordinary miracles” are being done by Paul “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” But for the sons of Sceva, it goes no farther than that. For them, “Jesus” is a word of recognized power; it is a brand name; this is not intimate knowledge of the Son of God and the savior who “makes all things new” through repentance and conversion. It is not “leaving everything and following him.”
Yet even the dramatic failure of the sons of Sceva leads to extolling the name of Jesus, and deeper conversion for some who, though they claimed belief in Jesus, had held onto their books of magical arts. Their greater and truer conversion leads to the final destruction of what they’d tried to hold onto.
There are always those things that grip us, aren’t there? A besetting sin, a habitual hanging back, a dark place that we don’t want to acknowledge even to ourselves. Let us pray the Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter:
Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life. Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life.
David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Anglican Church of Tanzania
St. Joseph of Arimathea, Hendersonville, Tenn.