Summary: In this sermon and text we look to the past, present, and future to interpret the meaning of the confrontation between Artemis of the Ephesians and the Gospel.
NOTE: POWER POINT PICTURES WERE USED IN THIS SERMON WHICH GREATLY ENHANCES THE EXPERIENCE OF THE SERMON ITSELF. I USED MANY PICTURES FROM WHAT IS LEFT OF EPHESUS AND ARTEMIS’ TEMPLE TO HIGHLIGHT THE ’GHOST TOWN’ CONCEPT. I FOUND MOST OF THESE ON-LINE, BUT IF YOU NEED THE ONES I USED CONTACT ME.
Introduction: Hearing voices of the past.
1. Listen carefully to the past when you visit a ghost town.
During the gold rush and western migration, boom towns popped up everywhere along the routes to California and other western destinations. These towns buzzed with excitement and anticipation of great things to come. Today, many of them are ghost towns, completely abandoned…now a historical curiosity. Have you ever visited one of these towns? You stand in the middle of an old dusty dirt road between old closed up stores and bars and listen carefully. If you listen through the silence, you can almost hear voices and activity all around you. You can hear the sounds of life in the 19th century. Horses and carriages, people discussing a price for clothing or food. Laughter of small children who are just excited to be there. These sounds fill our imagination of what used to be and causes us to wonder what happened.
2. Ephesus, the biblical ghost town.
Today, we are going to travel to a ghost town called Ephesus. When we get there we can see nothing but a muddy marsh and a few abandoned ancient dwellings. We do see one pillar sticking up from the marsh marking the site of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the temple of the goddess, Artemis. It is hard to imagine that this ruin in the marsh of modern day Turkey was once a booming city of over 200,000, and the center of imperial worship and the worship of the great goddess Artemis. It was an important seaport. It was a financial, cultural, and religious phenomenon of the ancient Roman Empire. (Time machine) With the help of the biblical writer, Luke, we return to that city when it was at its peak.
Move 1: The Ephesian skyline and Demetrius (23-27)
1. What Paul saw when he entered Ephesus.
As we travel with Paul into ancient Ephesus we see an impressive skyline. In America, we usually see the skyline dominated with financial institutions and huge corporate buildings. But when we enter Ephesus we see a skyline that is populated with religious temples and temples built for the imperial cult. As we walk down the main thoroughfare we see statues of the emperors. We also can see beautiful fountains. But it is not a religious city alone. We see the huge agora, full of people shopping in the ancient mall. But nothing dominates the skyline more than the gigantic temple of Artemis. It is the first structure ever constructed of all marble. It rises 60 feet in the air, but as we come close we see its dimensions are in its sheer mass. It is 425 feet long and 225 feet wide. It is supported by 127 columns. One look at this temple and we know this is what defines Ephesus.
2. Demetrius rallies the troops.
Now we understand why Demetrius, the silversmith, is so upset about the mission work of Paul. It isn’t that Paul’s teaching has singled out their temple, but the implications of there only being one true God and his only Son, Jesus Christ, can’t be good for those who make their living selling silver statues of Artemis. He is upset by the mass conversion that happened earlier and begins to count the potential cost. He makes a stirring speech to an anxious crowd. He even convinces them that Paul has made an attack on the temple and Artemis herself. (Read vs. 27, 28). There is nothing quite like combining religious insult with the prospect of financial loss.
3. The goddess, Artemis.
She was their primary god, one of the gods of Olympia. She was the goddess of fertility. If you wanted to really worship her you came to Ephesus. She and her temple were the center of life in Ephesus. You didn’t mess with her and her devotees defended her passionately. The city was responsible for the purity of worship of what was probably the most worshipped deity of their time. The temple also became the largest bank in the Roman Empire. In 356 BC, the temple was burned down by a man named Herostratus. Anyone who even spoke his name was put to death.
Move 2: Our skyline.
We can come back from the ancient world of Ephesus for a moment and consider our own religious skyline. Our world is populated with thousands of religions and innumerable houses of worship and statues of idols. Some of these religions are new some of them older than Christianity. How can we claim that Jesus is superior to them all? Our world champions toleration and celebrates this diversity. We feel a lot like Paul might have when he strolled into Ephesus.