Acts 19: 11 – 13
“God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 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. 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.”
Paul has worked many miracles as he moves through Asia spreading the word of God; even items that have touched his clothing have the power to heal the sick. In these verses, we hear about some itinerant Jewish exorcists who have seen or heard of these miracles and decide to try it on their clients with disastrous results. In the verses that follow 13, we read that the demon replied, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” Then the evil spirit leapt on the exorcists and sent them running from the home naked and wounded!
The itinerant Jewish exorcists were in fact seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva. I assume them to be well enough known to many because verse 17 tells us that word spread through “all residents of Ephesus, Jews and Greeks, and that everyone was awestruck; and the name of the Lord Jesus was praised.” In fact, the people were so moved by this that they gathered their magic books and burned them. (A truly momentous moment when you consider that Ephesus was such a center of magic that magical books were sometimes called Ephesian scripts.) Isn’t it amazing the different ways that God conveys his message to us? In trying to use Paul’s faith and not their own, the experiment backfires and ends up bringing more believers to Jesus. I love how this story combines a rebuke of magicians and charlatans, the deep faith of Paul, and a little humor into a very important message about the power of faith in Jesus. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I have looked up to heaven and said, “Okay God, I get the message!” I’m guessing the seven sons of Sceva did the same that day.
Lois Vanderbok, EfM, Year 1