Rage In The Theater
My son was doing research in Paris with his family, and it worked out for Mary and me to visit. On one of the afternoons I went for a walk on the Left Bank of the Seine. While working my way toward the Saint-German-Des Pres, a church dating back to the Middle Ages, I heard the rumblings of a large crowd coming down the Boulevard Saint-Germain.
I worked my way toward the noise, and suddenly found myself caught up in the push and pull of a large crowd. I could tell from the placards that it was a demonstration but had no idea about the details. The excitement was captivating so I moved along with the flow talking with the marchers trying to discover what was going on.
Large crowds suddenly erupting in the street--they’re magnetic. This was true for me, and it was true for many of the residents of Ephesus in AD 54/55 when suddenly a large crowd began to congregate and someone started yelling, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.” Their march took them into a stadium, a sports arena that could hold over 25,000.
“Now when they heard what Demetrius, the silversmith, had to say, they became filled with rage and started crying out, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ The entire city became filled with confusion. They seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and then rushed together into the theater. Paul wanted to enter into the assembly, but the disciples would not allow it. Even some of the Asiarchs, Paul’s friends, sent word for him not to enter the theater.
Inside, one group was shouting one thing, and the other, something else; for the assembly was in chaos. Most of the crowd didn’t even know why they had gathered. Then some of the Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander forward. He motioned with his hand indicating that he wanted to make a defense to the people, but when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted with one voice for two hours, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’
Finally, the city secretary quieted the crowd, ‘Men of Ephesus, what man among us doesn’t know that the city of Ephesus is the temple keeper of the great Artemis and of her image that fell from heaven. Therefore, since this is undeniable, restrain yourselves, quiet down, lest we do something rash. For you have seized these men—men who have neither defamed our temple nor blasphemed our god. So if Demetrius and the artisans with him have a case against anyone, there are regular court days and proconsuls; let them bring charges. But if you seek anything further, it will be settled in the regular assembly, for we are risking charges today of rioting with no legitimate reason to justify this chaos.’ And when he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.” Acts 19:28-40
We can learn from our first century brothers and sisters. They lived in cultures dominated by pagans, but they didn’t directly speak against their temples or their gods. Instead, they argued strongly that there was one true God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, and He could never be contained in some man-made building or present in some lifeless statue. They proclaimed the positive message that living human beings were the living image of God on earth, and they didn’t try to use political or religious power to force their message. Instead, they sought to persuade in the power of Jesus’ Spirit.
LORD, thanks that there are political leaders like the major leaders in Ephesus who were Paul’s friends that tried to protect him. Thanks that you also raise up city officials, like the city secretary of Ephesus, who calm mobs before they explode into violence. Help me to try and persuade without using strong-arm political tactics. Only you can make your Kingdom come.
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