For an introduction to this series, click here.
June 22, 2007
Here we have more of Paul's adventures. There was a plot against Paul's life in Macedonia, and he had to leave. While on his way back to Antioch, he made several stops along the way. One was at Troas, where Paul raised a man from the dead: "On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, 'Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.' And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted." (20:7-12)
I can identify with Eutychus. Whenever I stop and sit down, I often go to sleep, especially in church. It's something I've struggled with most of my life. It's really embarrassing, but I can't really do a whole lot about it. It has more to do with the assumptions people make about you, or at least you feel they make about you, when you are asleep like that. Eutychus, of course, had a little bit more dangerous seat than you'll find in most of our churches today. He was sitting in a third story window. We don't know whether he fell backwards out the window or if he fell forward into the crowd. That of course would have been more dramatic.
The rest of this chapter is Paul's farewell message to the church at Ephesus. As a side note, this is the only recorded sermon in the book of Acts that is exclusively to believers. This must have been a very emotional time for Paul. You can feel the emotion as you read Luke's account of what Paul said. Paul spent more than two years in Ephesus establishing the church there. There is so much in this passage to discuss, but honestly a lot of it is like so much other of Paul's statements in Acts and his epistles it is hard to come up with a unique comment. But I do want to mention one thing Paul said that we all know but I want to say something a little bit different about it. This is how Paul wrapped up his remarks to the Ephesian elders: "In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (20:35, ESV)
First of all, this statement by Jesus is nowhere to be found in the Gospels. It is only recorded here. It must have been a memorable statement, because Paul certainly would not have heard it firsthand while Jesus was here on earth. This would have been passed down from the Apostles who actually heard Jesus say this.
Secondly, why would this be such an important statement from Jesus to remember? Surely there are more inspiring words, like Paul told Timothy in II Timothy, which was written just before Paul died, about keeping the faith, preaching the word, and maintaining the doctrines that were passed down. I think it is important because we don't think that way naturally. We think it is more blessed to receive than give. It's certainly more exciting.
Finally, it is important to realize exactly what Jesus was saying. This is hard for me, because I am really a tightwad and besides I am broke most of the time. Those of you who know my financial situation understand why. But I need to give as much as I can, whenever I can. Of course giving is more than money, but it is a big part of it. This is really convicting. Of course the word "blessed" has deeper implications than "happy." It has more to do with being blessed and obtaining favor from the Lord than any kind of good feeling. The Lord pours out His blessings on those who give.