Great Is Diana of the Ephesians
“Lord, I am Your humble servant, and I will follow You even unto death. I do not understand why Your Holy Spirit has forbidden me to go into Asia. I believe You would have the Gospel to be spread throughout the world, but I trust Your wisdom and plan. I know that You want me to go to Ephesus – to give them the message of Jesus Christ. I know it will not be easy, but I also know that You will be with me wherever I go.” Paul lifted up his face towards heaven and knew he'd been heard, and he purposed to follow the direction he'd been given.
Priscilla opened her tent flap and looked up at the sky. The air was cool tonight and the stars shone brightly above her. Her husband Aquila had gone for a walk about an hour ago, and she was starting to wonder where he had gone. She walked past their traveling companions’ tents. A few minutes later she stopped beneath a sycamore tree – much like the one Zacchaeus had climbed some years ago so that he could see Jesus above the crowd that had gathered around Him.
Not an eighth of a mile away from where she was stood Aquila looking up at the sky with a thoughtful look on his face, his arms folded across his chest. Almost as if he sensed his wife’s gaze he looked at her and waved, a smile spreading over his face as he turned from his meditation and came to her.
“Husband, it is late.” Priscilla rested a loving hand on Aquila’s shoulder. He took her hand and laid a tender kiss on it.
“I know, my dear. I was coming back when I began to think about how God has blessed us. After we were forced from Rome, God led us to Corinth where we met Timothy and Paul and were able to be with them through everything they endured there. Now we are on this journey with them to Ephesus…” he looked back up at the stars and both of them were silent for a moment.
“Aquila, we should get back to the tent. I’d rather not have any wild goats eating our inventory.” Priscilla took her husband’s hand and began walking back to the tent. Aquila chuckled as he followed her.
A few days later, the four traveling companions entered the city of Ephesus. Paul preached in the local synagogue, and some believed the message he brought. The new Christians begged Paul to stay and teach them more about Jesus. He stayed as long as he could, but soon he had to leave the Ephesian believers and journey back to Jerusalem for the Passover.
Aquila and Priscilla stayed in Ephesus with the new believers and Paul set off for Jerusalem with Timothy and a new traveling companion, Silas. Paul promised that he would return to Ephesus.
A few years later, Paul set out from Antioch of Syria and traveled back to Ephesus to fulfill his promise. In the interim, Aquila and Priscilla were able to disciple many believers in Ephesus, including one young man named Apollos.
Once Paul arrived in Ephesus with Luke, Silas, and Timothy, he spent three months in the Jewish synagogue preaching Jesus Christ until the Jews would not tolerate his preaching. When the Jews would not allow him to use the synagogue any longer, Paul arranged with a man named Tyranus to use his lecture hall to preach to the Ephesian believers and anyone else who would come to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Two years passed this way and Christians from Ephesus scattered themselves throughout Asia, spreading the news of Jesus as they went. In the city of Ephesus, great things were beginning to happen.
In an average Ephesian Jew’s household, several men gathered together to talk.
“My brothers, the teacher Paul must have some magic to be able to cast out these evil spirits.” The eldest son of the chief priest Sceva said to his six brothers. “If he can do this thing, what is stopping us from doing it? We have some experience with magic. Let us try it.”
The six younger brothers looked at each other, nodding. “Alright brother,” the second eldest brother said, “we will go with you.”
The seven brothers set out to find someone possessed by an evil spirit. The brothers searched the city and came to a house where they found a candidate – a man tormented for years by the evil spirit within him. The man’s family welcomed the Sceva brothers into their home when they told them the purpose for their search. The family watched and hoped.
The eldest Sceva evaluated the condition of the man standing before him.
“We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches!” The son addressed the devil.
The possessed man looked at the brothers, his eyes crazed and rolling. To his family’s horror he snarled, “Jesus, I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?!”
The eldest Sceva’s eyes widened in surprise. This was not how it was supposed to happen. The magic was supposed to make the evil spirit leave.
Without warning the possessed man jumped on the eldest brother ripping at him with insane speed and ferocity. The other six sons leapt into the fight while the family ran and hid within the house. The crazed man fought all seven brothers easily, the devil igniting superhuman strength within him. The man overpowered the seven and the brothers fled.
News of the brothers’ encounter spread throughout the city. Paul was not using magic; he had something far more powerful than the dark arts – he had Jesus Christ.
Soon after the Sceva brothers’ misadventure, many Ephesian believers came forward and revealed that they had been involved in magical and occultic practices. A great bonfire was built; the believers gathered their spell books, talismans, and other tools of magic and threw them into the flames, watching their former lives melt away and realizing the freedom they had in God.
As a result of their new beliefs, the Ephesian Christians stopped buying the silversmiths’ finely crafted images of Diana, the local goddess. With each new convert to Christianity, the smiths lost more customers – and more importantly, more money. The artisans’ greed prodded them to stir up the people who still believed in Artemis Diana – who still spent their money at the silversmiths’ market stalls. The crafters devised a plan to gather everyone into the city’s amphitheater. The meeting would surely draw Paul in – he never missed an opportunity to speak about his Jesus.
On the day of the “impromptu” meeting, the amphitheater was packed. Paul, as the crafters thought, came to see if he could seize the opportunity to speak to the people, but his fellow believers stopped him. The silversmiths and their sympathizers would surely kill Paul if they knew he was there.
The whole scene was chaos. One silversmith got up in front of the crowd and began chanting, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” over and over. The crowd unified around his chant.
Outside the amphitheater, one priestess named Nuray listened to the cacophony. These Christians were becoming a real threat to the worship of her deity Artemis Diana.
“No one will take my goddess from me!” Nuray thought to herself.
She looked down at her six year old daughter Simay and an idea began to fester in her heart.