27 “And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”
28 When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. 30 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him.
31 And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.
33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
When their jobs and their patriotism were threatened, the mobs in Ephesus went berserk.
Paul has been in Ephesus for years. He’s preached so many messages that “all of Asia” heard the Gospel. Enough people have heard it and then traveled to other places that numerous people have commented on it, whether they are for or against it.
I think it was the Holy Spirit that kept Paul from going into that crowd. It’s obvious from their reaction to Alexander that they aren’t open to listening. They are out of their minds, rejecting openness to reason or the truth, and simply enraged at whatever they can be enraged about. “Most of them did not know why they had come together.”
But just think of how many people Paul could reach if we went and spoke to that crowd! Just think of how many people could hear the Gospel there — and how bad they need it!
But the great work of the church of Ephesus wasn’t in that 20,000 person crowd on an afternoon. It was done little by little, day after day, with discussion, reason, conversation, answering questions, and with patience.
This is as relevant then as it is today. Maybe we would all do better to keep out of the angry mobs jawing on all day about what they don’t even know about. Whether at work, on Facebook, or the nightly news, the deep work of the Gospel moves like yeast in bread. In tiny conversations with our neighbors. In love and in service to our King.
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