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Jul 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 24, 2016 – Acts 19:21-41

An Out-of-Control Mob

About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way. Acts 19:23

Intro: Barb and I were once treated to a cruise — “In the Footsteps of Paul”

One of the sites on the itinerary was the ruins of ancient Ephesus
– what remains of Ephesus is still impressive today
• we walked wide marble streets lined with public buildings and businesses
• we sat in an outdoor theater, originally built for plays
◦ later it became an arena for gladitorial combat
• though the library was built after the time of Paul,
◦ it represented the city’s prestige, being the third largest in the Roman Empire
• we did not get to see the temple of Artemis — the draw back of sea cruises
◦ but in its day it was the largest building made of solid marble
◦ 127 marble pillars, 60′ tall held up a tile roof
◦ 36 pillars were sculpted and overlaid with gold (ancient coins depict its architectural details)
– archaeological excavations have unearthed:
• inscriptions on coins and the base of statue, delcaring Ephesus role as a neokoros
◦ that is, a guardian city of the goddess Artemis and her image
◦ cities would fight for the privilege of neokoros (important cities were denied)
• small terra cotta replicas of the temple and image have also been found

Ephesus had an ancient and colorful history

There were two different goddesses associated with Artemis

  1. The most ancient was Artemis Ephesia
    – she was the “mother of all living things”
    – according to legend, her idol in the temple had fallen from the sky
    • a grotesque caricature of mother hood
    • sculpted not with two breasts, but several rows of breasts
    ◦ as Bruce Larson observed, “She is too ridiculous to be obscene”
  2. The Artemis of Greek mythology
    – a hunter, usually depicted with a bow and arrow, dogs and two white stags
    • according to Greek legend, Ephesus was founded by the Amazons–warrior women
    • the Greek Artemis stood for chastity
    ◦ married women were not allowed to enter her temple
    ◦ she protected virgins and watched over mothers during childbirth
    – eventually the two Artemis traditions were fused
    • these myths shaped the daily lives of Ephesians in ways Christians could not avoid
    ◦ in an annual (or seasonal) procession, Artimis’ image was carried around the city
    ◦ the route they took was the via sacra and included several stops to offer oblations
    ◦ women who clothed the idol for the parade won the title “adorners of the goddess”
    • when Paul brought the word of the Lord to Ephesus, he awakened a sleeping monster

Now to the story: Paul was preparing to move on

He was determined to go to Jerursalem and compelled to reach Rome
– but something made him linger in Ephesus — he explains to the Corinthians:

But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. (1 Cor. 16:8-9)

• last week we saw the open door and this week we’ll see his adversaries

There was an artisan in Ephesus named Demetrius – a silversmith
– he made replicas of Artemis’ temple and image
• these souvenirs brought him and other union members a healthy income
• when we hear what happened next, we want to remember,
◦ this came hard on heels of the previous scene (Acts 19:18-19)
◦ Ephesian believers had turned from their cults and destroyed their magic parchments
◦ is it possible that they also got rid of the little shrines that these artisans had made?
– Demetrius began pulling people together
• he reminded them, “Our prosperity is from this trade”
◦ then he struck a note of fear:

You’ve seen for yourselves and heard that not only here in Ephesus, but all over Asia, this Paul has convinced and turned away a considerable number of people, claiming that man-made gods are not gods at all.

• he pointed out what this meant:
◦ their trade was placed in jeopardy
◦ in time, people would lose respect for the temple of Artemis
◦ Artemis herself would become nothing
– “great goddess” was a commonly used title for Artemis
– she who was worshiped the world over, would be dethroned

Here is yet another instance where the motive to act against Paul
– was the perceived threat to income of certain individuals (cf. Acts 16:16, 19-21)
• but they exaggerated their private interest into a much larger issue

Demetrius’ speech had its desired effect

The crowd he gathered began to chant: Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!
– think of people fired up at sporting events shouting, “USA! USA! USA!”
• filled with rage, they soon filled the city with confusion
• they pourted into the streets like a flood
◦ picking up bystanders and sweeping them into mass hysteria
– they rushed into the theater, where, as Edwin Yamauchi says,

“… twenty-four thousand screaming Ephesians gathered to protest Paul’s ministry.”

• unable to find Paul, they collared two of his traveling companions
• Paul intended to enter theater, in his own defense
◦ but disciples in Ephesus and friends in high places did not allow him to go
◦ the more Paul insisted, the more they resisted

The scene at the theater was chaos & mass confusion

. . . some were shouting one thing and some another . . . and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together.

– the Jewish population in Ephesus was anxious to dissociate from Christians
• so they appointed a spokesperson, who they put forward
• but their attempt backfired, and for two hours the crowd shouted its chant
– the frenzy of the crowd is not unlike the emotional brain when unstrung
• under normal conditions, human behavior is restrained by law, fear and reason
◦ typical restraints: concern for consequences, safety, and decency
◦ but crowd psychology (mob mentality) interferes with normal rational functions
• children learn resilience, self-control, and self-calming from their parents
◦ typical reasons why some children do not learn these things:
◦ abuse, neglect, or the parent’s (guardians) ignorance and poor example
(parents who have never learned to control their temper, drives, etc. lack the education, skill and experience to teach their children)

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. 
(Pr. 16:32)

Finally, the town clerk took control

He reminded the crowd that it was common knowledge, Ephesus was the neokorus of Artemis and her temple
– to the Ephesians, these were undeniable facts
• they should calm down and not rush to judgment
• the men they wanted to lynch were innocent of looting temples or blasphemy
– if Demetrius and his crew had a legitimate allegation,
• it would be handled by the courts and done lawfully and orderly
• otherwise, in Rome’s eyes, they would be found guilty of rioting
◦ and they had no grounds for a defense
– with that, he dismissed them

If the crazed crowd was the city’s emotional mind out of control,
– the town clerk was the city’s rational mind

“Limbic system” refers to various structures in the inner brain, above the brain stem. It interprets and responds to incoming information delivered to it from the body’s entire nervous system. Internal feelings and sense perception of the outside world can trigger our minds greatest fears, deepest sorrows, intense despair, and all of our other most primitive and raw emotions. The limbic system receives this information before our rational mind receives it and in times of crisis, it may not only respond before our rational mind has opportunity to consider the facts, but it can diminish and even shut off relevant neural activity in structures (e.g., neocortex and prefrontal cortex) responsible for reason, self-control, sound judgment and so on.

– one of the goals of Christian maturity:
• to hold the limbic system in check while our rational mind considers the situation
• to do this, we must learn how to quickly calm ourselves in crises or disturbances
◦ how do we self-soothe so as to keep our rational mind online?

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD
From this time forth and forever. (
Ps 131:2-3)

Conc: What does this riot in Ephesus have to do with us?

First, it can improve our understanding of the New Testament
– and especially Paul’s letters

Second, it reminds us that the Christian life has never been easy
– it was no easier for Ephesian believers than for us
• our specific challenges are different, but the basic issues are the same
– and what did Paul want for the Ephesians?
• summarizing Ephesians 3:16-19, his prayer for them was that:

Their inner self would be strengthened by the power of God’s Spirit
This strength would enable a faith so that Jesus could live in their hearts
They would then sink roots in love and have a foundation of love
They could fathom the dimensions of God’s infinite love
They would know (by experience) Christ’s love that transcends knowledge
They would continue to develop in these ways until filled to all the fullness of God
(what an impossible idea! If Paul had not said it, would we have thought it possible?)

Does Paul’s prayer sound like the mission statements of most churches?
Pastors typically devote themselves to saving marriages,
to helping people do better in life, cope with grief and so on

Paul was not praying that these people would be able to cope or survive
Living with all the challenges of Ephesus,
he wanted them to rise above all of its hardships and temptations
To do this, to be filled with all the fullness of God,
They would have to learn to calm the riot within

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