[When the idol makers realized that Paul's message against idolatry was hurting their business,] their anger boiled, and they began shouting, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" Soon the whole city was filled with confusion. Everyone rushed to the amphitheater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, who were Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia. Paul wanted to go in, too, but the believers wouldn't let him. Some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, also sent a message to him, begging him not to risk his life by entering the amphitheater.
Inside, the people were all shouting, some one thing and some another. Everything was in confusion. In fact, most of them didn't even know why they were there. The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander forward and told him to explain the situation. He motioned for silence and tried to speak. But when the crowd realized he was a Jew, they started shouting again and kept it up for about two hours: "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"
At last the mayor was able to quiet them down enough to speak. "Citizens of Ephesus," he said. "Everyone knows that Ephesus is the official guardian of the temple of the great Artemis, whose image fell down to us from heaven. Since this is an undeniable fact, you should stay calm and not do anything rash. You have brought these men here, but they have stolen nothing from the temple and have not spoken against our goddess."
— Acts 19:28-37 NLT
The magnificent temple of Artemis in Ephesus was famous all over the world. People traveled from many places to worship at the beautiful temple and participate in all it had to offer. Anyone who might threaten any of the processes and practices of idol worship had to be stopped. Losing idolatry as the center of life in Ephesus threatened the livelihoods of many in Ephesus. The crowd of people whose livings were tied to idol worship went berserk when they realized the potential impact of the teaching about Jesus. They feared losing their money more than they wanted to know the truth. They feared losing their financial income and the prestige of their city more than they wanted to be people of character. A riot ensued, and the Roman government would not tolerate social unrest. Paul's friends and the Holy Spirit kept him safely away from the trouble, and as a result of the message about Jesus, a cluster of house churches formed a Christian beachhead in the very religious but very lost city of Ephesus. Paul's subsequent letter to these believers speaks about the Holy Spirit, prayer, the power within us, and the armor of God and about our battle against dark and evil forces. Culturally, socially, and economically, everything was stacked against monotheistic faith in Jesus as God come to be with us. Nevertheless, propelled by the power of the Spirit, the message of Jesus was unstoppable, even in the heart of an idolatrous stronghold! The threat that the powers of darkness felt should be good news for us. Jesus brings grace and deliverance for people enslaved by dark powers, ignorance, false spirituality, and cultural slavery.
Almighty God, there is no rival to you. You alone are God. You created all things and then came to the world you made to redeem it from the mess your children had made of it. Please use us, the followers of Jesus, to bring your grace, mercy, healing, and freedom — freedom from superstition and from bondage to dark powers — to the people you long to adopt back into your family. Please use me to be an agent of grace, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and committed to loving others so that they can find their way home to you. I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.