It’s Acts 19:13-22 today.
When my late father was a young man he was conscripted into the army. On one occasion he was traveling home on leave by train and started talking to another young man. The man shared how he was heartbroken as his fiancée had just broken off their engagement and after going through the details of his sad story he produced a ring from his pocket. He explained that it was very expensive but now he couldn’t bring himself to even look at it as it reminded him of the girl he loved. He asked my father if he would buy the ring for a fraction of the price he had paid, just to save him the anguish of going out to sell the ring that had celebrated their love. It looked beautiful but my father, being no expert, said he couldn’t really value the ring. The man knew a way to prove the ring’s worth, he laughed at my father’s inexperience and took the ring to the window of the railway carriage and brought it down producing a large scratch on the window. Only a diamond can cut glass the man explained and the vandalism was enough to convince my father that the ring was the genuine article. He bought the ring. The following morning, my father headed into town to sell the item only to be told of course that it was worthless. It was a fake. ‘But it cut glass’ he said in the hope that there had been some terrible mistake. The jeweller laughed, ‘of course it did, lots of things cut glass’. The realisation finally dawned, he’d been conned. The genuine and the fake may look very similar but they are very different. It’s something that is even more the case when we are dealing with the things of God as we shall see today.
Ephesus seems to have been a centre for the practitioners of magic spells and among them Jewish magicians were highly valued. Some say this was because it was widely known that the Jews did not use the name of God as it was considered too precious and this was seen as some sort of secret magic. The sons of Sceva attempted to use the name of Jesus in order to copy Paul’s technique; their problem was that Paul had a relationship and not a technique. The results were disastrous for Sceva’s sons with the evil spirit beating them up badly. There is an obvious lesson here. We have the privilege of being able to use the name of Jesus when we pray but we use it because we know him, we love him, he is our Saviour and the one we shall one day see face to face. However, if you are praying in the name of ‘Jesus who my parents know’ or ‘Jesus who my friend knows’, we are doing the same thing as the sons of Sceva. The good thing is that Jesus calls us by name to enter in to this relationship; why would we want to have intermediaries?
Fakes can be pretty convincing until they are held up against the real thing. The sons of Sceva probably had an impressive performance but when their performance was compared to the reality of the power of Jesus, it could be seen for what it was – fake. The reality check had a positive effect with the believers in Ephesus and the surrounding area, confessing to holding on to scrolls of secret magic spells. The scrolls were worth a lot of money and prior to becoming Christians; these folk would have revered them. Since they were secret, what was the harm in keeping them? The problem was that with Jesus it is all or nothing. The Ephesian Christians trusted the real Saviour and burnt their rubbish. Perhaps there’s something there for us.
There is power in the name of Jesus
To break every chain
Break every chain
Break every chain (Jesus Culture)