Paul travels to Ephesus to help the believers there and spread the word about Jesus. Paul stays there for a couple years. First, he preaches with boldness in the synagogue, and later he leads discussions in a lecture hall. Under God’s power, Paul performs some amazing miracles.
As Paul prepares to leave Ephesus, a tradesman named Demetrius sparks some serious opposition. He’s a silversmith who specializes in making silver shrines for Artemis, a local deity whose temple is in the city.
Demetrius opposes Paul, not because of theological disagreement (not really) but because of financial threat. Demetrius and the other craftsmen earn their living making things for the worship of Artemis. He fears that as people turn to Jesus, they’ll stop buying Artemis-related products.
He gathers his fellow tradesmen together and makes a passionate plea for them to act. Even though he has a profit motive, he argues that Jesus’s followers are discrediting Artemis and robbing her of her divinity. He stirs them into a riotous fervor.
The mob rampages, shouting, “Hail Artemis, god of the Ephesians!” Soon the whole city is in an uproar.
They grab some of Paul’s ministry team, Gaius and Aristarchus, when they can’t find Paul. Then they push Alexander forward to talk, but when he starts speaking, they realize he’s a Jew and shout him down.
The tumult continues for two hours.
Eventually the city clerk quiets the crowd. He appeases them by affirming Artemis’s greatness, but he also confirms that Paul and the other believers haven’t wronged Artemis.
He tells Demetrius and his crew that if they have a grievance, they must address it through proper channels. Then he chastises the crowd for their riotous behavior and sends everyone home.
The Bible tells us nothing more about Demetrius’s opposition to Jesus’s followers, so we can assume this is where the story ends.
Demetrius masked his personal agenda in religious terms. How often do we do the same?
[Discover more about Demetrius in Acts 19:23–41.]
Read more about other biblical characters in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.