Names with Benefits
Do you remember the sons of Sceva? You’ll find them in Acts 19:11ff. Truly they seem like buffoons at best, or profiteers at worst, and sadly they didn’t truly know Jesus. The name of Jesus was used as a tool. Not just any tool, but as an instrument for exorcising demons.
I’m not sure if the exorcism business was good back in those days, but in reading the account it appears as if their motive was more for their personal gain than anything else. During that time period there were extensive ceremonies established and recorded for those who spoke incantations to exercise power over evil spirits. So, the sons of Sceva sought to add Jesus’ name to their list of spells, so that they might be recognized as Jesus was. The wielding of Jesus’ name as though its mere utterance has power is foolish.
Here is the kicker of this whole scene—these men were the sons of a Jewish high priest. Presumptively they should’ve known better. There is an almost humorous outcome which is twofold. First, these seven men received a collective tale whippin’ in what might be called a reverse exorcism, where the demons recognized Jesus and Paul, but not them. They were stripped naked, beaten, and mastered by the demon, effectively demonstrating whose they were—most definitely not Jesus’. Their experience is a good example of what it looks like when people come to Christ for the power they think he will give them over the world both natural and supernatural.
Sadly, this manner of thinking has not escaped those who claim to be God’s people. Anywhere from the ‘name it and claim it’ people, to those come to Christ to be recognized by others, both as those who’ve come to Christ for all the wrong reasons.
The next outcome of this whole fiasco was that people began to recognize the futility of their control of the world. People witnessing the events of Jesus exercising control over the natural and supernatural led to the stark realization—all their magic arts, superstitions, and incantations are nothing compared to Jesus.
People began to repent and believe in the Christ. Most intriguingly the way that Luke records the outcome. “So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” (Acts 29:20) He made the focal point on the fact that the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
May God’s word increase among us to the glory of God and the regeneration of sinners.