Read: Acts 20:1-12
As we read many details of Paul’s travels in this chapter, we are given some significant insight into his way of encouraging leaders of the first century Church. He encourages them through teaching well into the night and even through a miraculous healing without missing a beat. We need to read his letters to the churches he planted to get a better understanding of what he must have discussed, but Luke’s focus here is to capture the broad perspective of his vast ministry.
Paul the Encourager
After the riots in Ephesus, Paul lets things settle down a bit.
When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. Acts 20:1
In Paul’s day, Macedonia included Thessalonica, Philippi, Berea, and other cities where he planted churches. The group was comprised of men from Berea, Thessalonica, Derbe, and the province of Asia. When you look at the map, this is a rather extensive area to draw from in an age where it was difficult at best to communicate over great distances. It’s no wonder that Paul chose to write letters to these churches to keep in touch and consistently teach across cultural boundaries.
Luke joins the group at some point during these travels. Notice that he inserts phrases like “we came together,” “where we stayed,” etc. This personal touch is quite interesting to me. I guess it’s why I was diverted yesterday when I wrote The Miracle of the Bible. It’s a fascinating collection of writings I hope we can all appreciate.
Paul routinely went into synagogues everywhere he traveled to preach the Gospel to Jews gathered on the Sabbath. We see this pattern repeated often. In this case, and probably in many future cases, we see the day to gather moves from the seventh day (Saturday) to the first day (Sunday).
On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Acts 20:7
I don’t want to overstate the significance of this detail, but it is quite interesting to note. It’s logical as well. Gentiles would not have a habit of going to the synagogue on Saturday, it certainly wasn’t the Sabbath for them! Sunday made more sense and it allowed Paul to continue his appeal to the Jews and the Gentiles.
Sidenote on Gathering
In these days weekends are often filled with sports and other activities that make Sunday worship seem more like an event that gets checked off of a list than an opportunity to gather and worship. So much to do and so little time. We should still get together on Sunday, no doubt, but perhaps we should gather at another time like Friday nights. It’s funny that this is often the time many look forward to for fun because there are far fewer limitations. Babysitters are easy to arrange and places are open late to serve. Our society has figured this out, how about us?
What if we gathered together to sing, share communion, fellowship, laugh, eat, and learn without the finite boundaries of time on Sunday morning. What would happen if we invested time in developing deep relationships with other Christ-followers in homes where we might actually have time to get to know one another? It’s risky. We wouldn’t be able to hide in the back row. I am suggesting the risk is worth the reward. Just a thought.
Eutychus Raised from the Dead
Eutychus was a young man among many that were drawn to Paul’s teaching. More than just a sermon, Paul keeps on talking well into the night. Luke lets us know that the room was well lit, but Eutychus gets sleepy nonetheless. He chose to listen while seated in a window on the third story of a house.
I’m not sure it matters, but in Europe, the third story is what we would refer to as the fourth floor. The ground floor doesn’t get numbered. I’m suggesting this to emphasize the height of his perch and the distance he would have fallen. Be assured, Eutychus didn’t survive the fall.
I wonder if Paul was watching him nod off during his talk. Not merely falling asleep in church, this was flat out dangerous. Suddenly, Eutychus slips out of sight.
When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” Acts 20:9-10
Remember that Luke was a medical doctor. When he says he was “picked up dead” there is no doubt, Eutychus was not alive. Paul’s reaction is crazy. Don’t be alarmed. Seriously? He wastes no time in running to the scene and the Holy Spirit works through him miraculously.
What does Paul do after this miracle? Does he teach on healing ministry or take time to mention how Eutychus was healed? Or perhaps take up a collection? Nope. It doesn’t appear that this event was even discussed. The group heads back upstairs to share communion and continue talking until daylight. The important thing was still the most urgent — teach disciples what they need to know.
As we’ll learn in the rest of this chapter, Paul’s focus was on ministry, on spreading the Gospel. His energy was not on getting his name on a placard somewhere. Just the opposite, he was there to teach an encourage others to do the same. He modeled the behavior that we should emulate.
Christ came in human flesh, served people, and showed us we should do the same. Go. Make disciples. Spread the incredible news that Jesus paid the price once and for all. Eternity includes yesterday, today, and tomorrow. May every conversation reflect this sense of urgency.