If the whole dirty rags part of Acts 19 wasn't really your thing, then get ready, because Acts 19 is about to get weird--well, weirder.
I've never been beaten up.
The closest I have ever come was when two guys in college chased me around campus* then tackled me and began giving me the tickling of a life time, which, for some reason, including patting my belly.
This happened repeatedly.
I'm still recovering.
Like many things, my expertise in the realm of beat downs is limited to what I've learned from watching television.
So naturally, I like to think that I know the ins and outs of getting smacked around.
This is because I like to think that watching something on TV makes me an expert at it. That's why I attempt golf, try to solve complex physics problems on white boards, tell the quarterback who's open down field, think I'm the funniest man alive, and am considering trying to catch bullets with my teeth.
Now, on TV, when guys get smacked around it either ends very horribly for them, or very comically. We're about to read about one that ends rather comically.
Acts 19 says this:
Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out." Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day, the evil spirit answered, them, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and over powered them all. He gave them such a beating that hey ran out of the house naked and bleeding. (Acts 19:13-16 NIV)
Let's break this down a bit and help you get the picture that's in my head.
Let's start with the seven. These were sons of a chief priest. We might call them Pastor's Kids. So here we go again with another story about pastor's kids gone wild. What are they up to now?
But I think these guys are actually trying to do some good. Okay, so maybe their motives weren't the most pure, we can't say for certain but it is possible they were trying to heal people in order to become famous. However, they were trying to do good. They were trying to drive out spirits. That is commendable.
Let's move on.
They just went about it wrong. They traded knowing God, for knowing God's name.
I can't help but think that their attempt at casting out a demons was something like trying to diffuse a bomb because you saw a guy do it once on TV.
And sure enough, this one guy, like a bomb when the wrong wire is cut, goes off on them.
I'd love to see a picture of what this one guy looked like. Was he a tiny guy, unintimidating, but with a whole lot of fury pent up inside of him? Or should they have known better because when Goliath says "I have no idea who you are" you better start running?
I hope he was a little pip squeak.
I hope they never saw the beating coming.
But then again, I love to root for the underdog. And in this case part of me is glad that the underdog won, even if he was demon-possessed.
Because what happens next seems really funny to me.
Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. (Acts 19:16 NIV)
One would think that the seven guys could handle the one.
How humiliating must that have been.
I bet when they told their buddies the story the guy had 13 demons.
And 33 inch biceps.
And absolutely repulsive b.o.
And horses instead of legs.
All so that he could balance on one of the horses legs while simultaneously kicking all seven brothers.
It would make sense for seven guys to be running through the street, bloody and naked, when a mob is after them. But there's just one guy. One guy severely annihilated the seven.
And that's kinda weird.
But what gets even more weird, and by that I mean abnormal, is that a demon speaks rather truthfully.
We're often told that Satan is a liar, which is true at times, so we would think that every word from one of his henchmen would also be a lie. But we have here a demon making plain an obvious truth. He's calling them out--calling out their hypocrisy.
And then teaches them a lesson.
But let up enough for them to get away.
And yes the guy had an evil spirit help him out.
But I think God was in the middle of it all.
He was, at the very least, aware of it.
I think it might be easy to pick on these brothers because they tried the run around on God. But God used the situation to build his church. Consider the results in verse 17 & 18:
When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds.
Here's how I see this:
We've got an opponent of God's work calling out some fakers, then a whole lot of truth breaks out.
The community stopped faking it.
Somehow the demon made sense of the situation before the chief priest's boys did. And once the truth is made known a whole lot of people begin fessing up.
The community stopped faking it.
Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds.
Maybe this was purely motivated by a desire to avoid future humiliation at the hands of evil spirits. But before the honesty there was a newfound reverence for the name of the Lord. And that makes me think that when their honesty was well intentioned.
They didn't want to fake it anymore.
They didn't want to fake a perfect life when in reality their lives were filled with evil deeds.
They didn't want to fake knowing God.
They didn't want to act like they knew God when really they only knew his name.
I wonder how often we go around faking knowing God.
To be honest it seems rather unspritual to have to admit that there is a whole lot about God I don't know--especially as a pastor. It would be easy to pretend to have God all figured out. And I wonder if that's why there is so much religious turmoil. Becuase we, as Christians, pretend to be experts in something we aren't. We pretend to think that God has a certain view or opinion on a matter when we can't say for certain: even though we speak very certainly about it.
Don't get me wrong, there is much we do know. I'm merely saying that maybe we don't know as much as we like to think.
I think there is so much of God that we don't know.
I need to admit that I'm not a God expert. I'm a God pursuer. My life is about getting to know God more and more each day. And that pursuit will take all of eternity.
I think we need to be more open about our lack of knowledge. More willing to say: "I have no idea what I'm doing even though I've seen it done on TV."
We need to stop faking it.
We need to pursue knowing God instead of only knowing his name. I know lots of names. That doesn't mean I know lots of people. There is a difference there that our society struggles with today.
It's bad enough to act like I know Paul when I don't. I don't want to make it worse by acting like I know Jesus when there is so much more to learn.
*it should probably be said that due to the small size of our college campus, I didn't have far to run. It was one building. I just wanted to say something more grand than, "chased me around the room."