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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, July 31, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Acts 19:11–20

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that when the handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, their diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them.

Then some itinerant Jewish exorcists tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit said to them in reply, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered them all, and so overpowered them that they fled out of the house naked and wounded. When this became known to all residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks, everyone was awestruck; and the name of the Lord Jesus was praised. Also many of those who became believers confessed and disclosed their practices. A number of those who practiced magic collected their books and burned them publicly; when the value of these books was calculated, it was found to come to fifty thousand silver coins. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed. (NRSV)

The passage left me wondering why the evil spirit was able to overtake the sons of Sceva when they were attempting to do good works in the name of Jesus. That didn’t seem quite right to me. But after rereading the passage a couple more times, I found the answer in verse 15. The evil spirit knew Jesus and knew Paul but didn’t know the seven sons. Why? Why would it be a good thing for an evil spirit to know who you are? Why would that be necessary to be able to do good works in Jesus’ name?

The answer, I believe, is rather simple. It’s not possible to be afraid of someone who has no power. The evil spirit knew to be afraid of Jesus and to be afraid of Paul because they had both been baptized by the Holy Spirit and blessed with spiritual gifts. That doesn’t mean everyone baptized by the Holy Spirit has the gift of healing—we know from Corinthians 1:12 that there are a variety of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. But from the passage, it does not seem that the sons of Sceva were able to leverage the spiritual power of Paul’s gift of healing. Fortunately, we’re each blessed with our own spiritual gifts to do good works in Jesus’ name.

Holy Spirit, inspire me, strengthen me, and give me the courage to use my spiritual gifts faithfully. Help me to “be the kind of woman that when my feet hit the floor each morning, the Devil says, ‘Oh no, she’s up!’” Amen.

Written by Nicole Spirgen, Member of Fourth Presbyterian

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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