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.Acts 19:13-16 NIV
While this story is not intended to be humorous, I always have a chuckle when I read it. These seven brothers were exorcists, traveling around and driving out demons. They must have had some success at it, or at least appeared to. But they realized that Paul was better at it than they were. So they tried to adopt the incantation they had seen him use.
Being a Disciple of Jesus
The problem was that Paul had not been using some magical incantation to drive out demons. He was calling on the Lord to do it. The power was not in the words he used. Rather it was in the one he served and was calling on.
This particular evil spirit did not respond to the sons of Sceva in the way they had expected. The evil spirit knew who Jesus was. And he knew about Paul and knew Paul had the authority to invoke the name of Jesus. But these seven did not. And they suffered the consequences of their presumption.
But amusement over their fate is not the only reaction I have to this account. I also have to stop and wonder what the evil spirit would say about me. Would he know about me as a servant of Jesus? Or would he scratch his head and say, “Who are you?” Am I faithfully serving my Lord? Does my neighbor or co-worker know whose I am? Or am I indistinguishable from the world around me?