Did you hear the news? A cosmetic company has collected the sweat
of various movie stars, analyzed it, and reproduced the contents so it
can be marketed throughout the country as ‘Scent From The Stars’.
Personally, I think the idea ‘stinks’ — yet in our text, we see the
people of Ephesus seemingly likewise interested in Paul’s sweat as
they collected his sweatbands and aprons. Were these people ‘spiritual
groupies’ — precursors of the modern-day ‘roadies’ who follow rock
Six months ago, the sweatbands of Jimi Hendrix sold for
$7,000.00. Greg Eckler, one of our drummers, was at the Monterey Pop
Festival when Hendrix smashed his guitar over a loud speaker, lit it
on fire, and threw it into the audience. Greg, who happened to catch a
piece of the guitar as it flew over his head, recently sold it for
thousands of dollars at an auction in New York City.
Is that the type
of thing that was happening here in Acts 19? No, the Ephesians were
not spiritual groupies — nor were they spiritual quacks. You might
hear TV evangelists or radio preachers, who on the basis of this
passage, say, ‘Send us an offering today and we’ll send you a prayer
cloth.’ While I believe some of these men are sincere, most are
spiritual quacks who, on the Day of Judgment, will find themselves
If the Ephesians were not spiritual groupies, nor
spiritual quacks, then what was happening? I believe there are three
lessons to be learned from this brief passage which can have eternal
impact upon you and me.
The Element of Mystery
There are many passages in the Bible I can’t fully figure out —
like the one in 2 Kings 13 . . . Following the death of Elisha, some
Moabites were marauding the country of Israel when one of them died
suddenly. Wanting to dispose of the body of their comrade as quickly
as possible, the Moabites threw his body into Elisha’s tomb. But when
the corpse touched Elisha’s remains, the Moabite sprang back to life
(2 Kings 13:21). Incredible! Amazing!
The Lord is too big to be boxed
in by the theology or intellectual capacity of finite man. Thus, there
is an underlying element of mystery about Him and about His dealings
which we cannot begin to grasp or comprehend until we see Him face to
The Illustration of Ministry
Although there is an element of mystery inherent in this passage,
there is also an illustration of ministry which is important for us
personally. You see, oftentimes, we know the Lord can work, but we
have trouble believing He will. That is why we find our faith
wavering. We don’t question His ability, but we do wonder about His
willingness to work in the situations which confront us personally.
Consequently, God has given us certain physical expressions to help
trigger our faltering faith.
This is what I believe the laying on of
hands, for example, is all about. When we lay hands on people to pray
for them to be filled with the Spirit, or to ordain them for ministry,
there’s nothing magical, mystical, or miraculous about the act in and
of itself. Rather, the laying on of hands simply provides a point of
contact for the person who needs to be filled, or who desires to be
used, as it triggers his faith and unlocks his ability to believe.
That’s what happened with the woman who was hemorrhaging. For twelve
years to no avail, she sought a doctor who could help — but only lost
all of her money in the process. When she heard Jesus was coming to
town, she said to herself, ‘If I could just touch the hem of His
garment, I know I would be healed.’ So when Jesus came through the
city, although a great crowd of people lined the street, this woman
fought her way through the crowd and touched Him. Jesus stopped
Now, although there was nothing magical about the hem of
His garment, it provided a point of contact for the woman. And as the
faith bottled up within her was released, she received healing that
very day (Luke 8:43-48).
The anointing of oil, spoken of in James 5,
is another example of something material being used spiritually. As
with the laying on of hands, there is nothing supernatural or
particularly special about oil. But as a picture of the Spirit, it is
a physical illustration the Lord has graciously given to us as a point
of contact to release faith.
There are those who are so skeptical, so
uptight, and so rigid that they say, ‘No one’s going to lay hands on
me. No one’s going to put oil on my forehead. No one’s going to dunk
me in water.’ But others, who understand that faith can be triggered
and released through physical points of contact, are blessed and
healed as a result of these external expressions.
The Alleviation of Misery
All around us we see people who are miserable — depressed,
discouraged and defeated; hurting, helpless, and hopeless — like the
people in Ephesus who were diseased in body and demonized in spirit.
believe the reason sweatbands and aprons are particularly mentioned by
the Spirit and recorded for us to study, is that they were proofs of
Paul’s love for the people to whom he ministered. You see, six days a
week, Paul sewed tents from 7-11 a.m., taught the Word from 11-4 p.m., and sewed tents again from 4-9 p.m. It was an exhausting
schedule, yet Paul did this for over two years in Ephesus in order to
support himself in ministry. Thus, his aprons and sweatbands were
saturated not only with the sweat of his brow, but with his love for
So too, the people in your home, in this church family,
and in our community who are distressed, discouraged, and defeated are
greatly helped and their misery alleviated to a tremendous degree
whenever we are willing to love them practically. For Paul, that meant
sewing tents and teaching in the afternoon. For you, it might mean
making a pie, making a phone call, or mowing a lawn; taking someone
out to lunch, fixing a washing machine, or chopping a cord of wood.
the past week, what have you done to help someone else? What have you
done to practically say, ‘You’re loved’ to someone who’s discouraged,
defeated, or depressed? Do you know people who are miserable and lost
because there are no sweatbands for them to see — no aprons for them
Miracles will happen, misery will be alleviated if you will
practically love someone through the sweat of your brow. You can be
used just as Paul was if you’re willing to take your eyes off yourself
and your problems, your struggles, and your needs, and instead say,
‘Who can I love today?’ ‘How can I love someone else?’ you ask. ‘No
one has ever loved me.’
Really? Go to the Garden of Gethsemane and there you will see One
Who loved you so intensely that Luke tells us He actually sweat blood
(Luke 22:44). Why did He sweat blood? Because He was about to absorb
your weaknesses, your failings, your shortcomings. He was about to pay
the price for every sin I have done, am doing, or ever will do.
therefore, nothing less than audacity, nothing short of insanity, for
us to say, ‘Nobody cares about me.’ Go to the Garden and see His sweat
of blood. Go to Calvary and see His sweatband of thorns.
In Genesis 3,
because Adam sinned, God said, ‘Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in
sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and
thistles shall it bring forth to thee,’ (Genesis 3:17-18).
Person of Jesus Christ, this prophecy is seen in an entirely different
dimension. You see, as the thorns and thistles — the very curse of the
earth — were embedded in His brow for me, He carried upon Himself the
curse of Genesis 3.
Thus, because of the sweat and the thorns upon His
brow, the way is opened for me to live eternally in the new heaven and
the new earth, where there will be no more sweat, no more pain, no
more thorns. Know this today, precious people: There is One Who sweat
blood for you.
Once you truly see how much He loves you, you’ll find
yourself reaching out to touch the crown of thorns which circled His
head. And once you touch it, once you grasp it, once you understand
it, His love will trigger in you such faith that demons of depression
and discouragement, defeat and despair will flee.
Like the Ephesians,
you will be healed. And then you will say, ‘Who can I love
practically? What can I do to encourage someone else so that my apron,
or my sweatband might become a point of contact for his or her faith
to be released?’
Saints, I pray that, because you’ve been touched by
the blood-stained sweat of Jesus, you’ll find you have no other choice
than to touch someone else for His sake. Amen.