Today’s New Testament reading from the Book of Acts tells a story that’s probably not as well known as others from the early church, but which is still deserving of our attention. The Apostle Paul is traveling around the ancient Mediterranean, working signs and wonders in the name of Jesus; and apparently, there are others who want to get in on the action. According to Acts 19:
Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
Now on the one hand, it’s almost comical to picture these “Sons of Sceva” being put in their place by an evil spirit who knows all about Jesus but who doesn’t have much respect for them. But on the other hand, could it be that we ourselves are too often guilty of the same error that Sceva’s sons were? Do we try to claim the promises of Jesus or to act in the power of Jesus without taking the time to cultivate the relationship with Jesus from which those promises and power flow?
In a book about emotionally-healthy spirituality, one pastor comments:
Whenever we find ourselves wanting the ministry impact of Jesus while simultaneously resisting spending time with Jesus, we are positioning ourselves for a beating and some variation on being run “out of the house naked and bleeding.” The seven sons of Sceva tried to speak and act on truths that were not rooted in their lives. They did not have sufficient strength in their life with God to support the level of spiritual warfare in which they were engaged. The integrity gaps in their walk with God exposed them to danger and harm.
Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Leader
Hopefully, we won’t find ourselves needing to cast out demons today. But almost undoubtedly, we will find ourselves confronting pressures and problems for which we need the presence and the power of Jesus. And when we do, will we call upon a power that has been genuinely rooted in our lives? Or will we “claim the name of Jesus,” only to hear our pressures and problems say, “Jesus I know…but who are you?”
May Christ be truly rooted in your heart today…and don’t be a son of Sceva.