Acts of the Apostles: Week #6

3rd-missionary-journeyChapters 19-20 by Sister Mary Core, OSB

Chapter 19 is dedicated to Paul’s time in Ephesus and recounts his success in proclaiming the Good News, working miracles and even converting many of the Jewish exorcists. He makes plans to leave Ephesus revisit Macedonia, Achaia and return to Jerusalem, before carrying the faith to the heart of the Roman Empire at Rome.

Before Paul can leave Ephesus, Demetrius, a silversmith and make of statues of the goddess Artemis, gathers other craftsmen of the area and convinces them that Paul’s work is ruining their livelihood. A riot breaks out and Paul’s companions are dragged off to the theater (an arena).

Paul is kept from going to the aid of his friends and the unruly crowd eventually disperses. Once the uproar has ceased (chapter 20), Paul is able to meet with the disciples who had been dragged away.

After encouraging them, Paul leaves Ephesus headed for Macedonia traveling through many of the towns in which he had established churches on his second journey. Once again in Greece and probably in Corinth, Paul intends to sail back to Syria.

Plans are changed when he discovers that some Jews, most likely going to sail on the same ship as Paul, have plotted to do him harm. Thus Paul, wanting to go to Jerusalem chooses an alternate route and retraces his steps back through Macedonia, accompanied by disciples from several of the various Greek and Asian churches he has established.

Reaching Troas and staying only a week, Paul plans to sail for Jerusalem. It is Sunday and the Christians are gathered for the Eucharist (Breaking of the Bread).

Enthusiasm for the Word seems to overtake common sense and Paul and others talk on for hours until midnight. As Paul talks on, a young boy named Eutychus (in Greek meaning “Lucky) is overcome by sleep and falls from the third floor window in which he had been seated. “Lucky” indeed is the lad, for though dead from the fall, he is restored to life by Paul, who then continues his conversations until morning when he leaves town.

Traveling from Assos, Mitylene, along the sea route between the islands of Chios and Samos, Paul bypasses Ephesus and goes on to Miletus, where he send word to the church leaders at Ephesus asking them to come and meet with him.

Upon their arrival in Miletus, Paul gives a farewell speech to the Ephesus leaders; the only speech in Acts addressed to a Christian audience. It is a speech of encouragement, of warning of future challenges, of commendation and blessing.

At the end of his speech all kneel to pray and embrace one another. Then together, they all bring Paul to the ship and see him off on his journey to Jerusalem.

Upon Reflection …

In chapter 19, the power of Jesus and earthly power meet head to head 2 times. Demons, magic and idolatry have no power over the risen Jesus!

When the seven sons of Sceva attempt to use the name of Jesus in a magical way to exorcise a demon, they are rebuked by the demon, overpowered and left “naked.” Maybe this “nakedness” is more a demonstration of the folly of magical powers than a physical nakedness.

Later, the chaos and lack of understanding of the rioting silversmiths is shown when, in verse 32, we are told most of the people have no idea why they are there!

Do these 2 events give any insights into what happens when we abuse or misuse the gifts of God?

… When we think we have the power to achieve something on our own?

… When we turn to the idols of money, power, fame, etc. for happiness?

A Few More Questions …

  • Are we ever “confused” about why we’re doing something such as hanging with a particular crowd?
  • What do we value as gods? What are the idols we do anything to get?
  • How have we tried to “use” the name of Jesus (or prayer) to get what we want rather than to understand the will of God?

For Closer Study …

1. The goddess Artemis was a very big “tourist attraction” for Ephesus. What can you find out about this Asian goddess?

2. What did the shouting of “Great is Artemis of Ephesians represent? Devotion to Artemis? Fear of lost income? Both? Or something else?

3. Paul’s testament to the leaders of the Ephesus church is one of emotion, challenge and acceptance of what lies ahead. What role have emotions, challenge and acceptance played in events of separation, change, etc in your life?

4. The Sabbath day story of Paul’s lengthy speech literally “boring Eutychus to death” can be paralleled with Peter’s raising of Tabitha (Acts 9:36-43) and the Old Testament resuscitations done by Elijah and Elisha. Do you think there is a connecting reason for including this rather “humorous” story in chapter 20?

Next Week: Chapters 21-23

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