Our passage today is Acts 19:23-41.
The video from YouTube shows the former Co CEO of RIM (the firm responsible for the Blackberry smart phone) Jim Balsillie being interviewed in 2008. At the time, the Blackberry was the phone to have and dominated world sales for smart phones. In the video (watch it from about the 2 minute mark) Jim Balsillie seemed very relaxed and talked about ‘just doing what I do’. The interviewer then pressed him on possible competition for the Blackberry, the firm’s only successful product. The interviewer said ‘it’s a matter of time before somebody, the IPhone didn’t really do it, but do you ever look at it and say; what are we going to do if this isn’t our primary business, growing RIM beyond something like a Blackberry?’ He was asking ‘do you have any plans when somebody comes up with a better phone?’ Balsillie thought for a moment, shrugged his shoulders, said no and laughed. He was supremely confident.
Sadly Balsillie’s confidence was misplaced. The early IPhones may not have really done it but the ones that followed certainly did. Google also introduced their Android software and the Blackberry’s market share began to plummet. Balsillie stepped down as Co CEO and later as a director. Blackberry’s market share is a fraction of what it was and business analysts use the interview to demonstrate the danger of complacency. RIM should have seen this coming. The same could be said of the tradesmen in today’s passage. As Paul had said a few years earlier to the people of Athens about their own Idol worship;
“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)
Ephesus had two main sources of income its port and the Temple of Artemis. By Paul’s time the port was becoming increasingly unusable as a result of deforestation causing it to silt up. That left just the Temple of Artemis to power the local economy. The Temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world and there was a whole industry that had built around it.
There are two big questions for us today and the first is; how do I respond to the claims of the Gospel. Paul, as we have seen was very clear in his preaching. It was obvious that the Gospel was having an impact on the Temple worship and we see two responses from the Ephesians and they were both incorrect. The tradesmen had an interest in supporting the Temple worship but in truth they should surely have looked beyond economic concerns. What is the point of making a good living if the result is an eternity of separation from God? The city clerk had an interest in keeping things calm and ticking along. His message to the crowd may have been effective, but it was full of lies; his ‘facts’ were anything but undeniable. Again, what is the point of keeping his job if meant denying the truth and walking away from the message of life? We may live in a very different setting than the people in ancient Ephesus but are we really that different? So many people allow outside factors affect how they respond to the Gospel. What will my friends say? What sort of job will I have? If we are asking these kinds of questions, we are asking the wrong questions. Jesus gave his life that we might live, he has made a way for us and we should follow the example of the Philippian Jailer in asking the right question; “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
The second question is; am I known as a follower of Jesus? As the riot progressed, the mob grabbed Gaius and Aristarchus. As Mark said last week; it was a case of ‘grab the nearest Christian’. Gaius and Aristarchus are mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament in connection with Paul but we know very little about them. What we do know is when the crowd looked for Christians, they grabbed them; they were known as Christians in the community. If there was a mob going through Talbot Green or your school or place of work, looking for a Christian, would they grab you or me? As we say sometimes; ‘if being a Christian was a crime would there be enough evidence to convict you?’ It isn’t easy identifying with Jesus but then it wasn’t easy for him to identify himself with us.
“And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13:12-14)