Scripture Acts 20:6-12
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
The news had spread throughout the city of Troas like wildfire. Paul was coming. A delegation had come, Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Trophimus, even Timothy had come. They let everyone know that Paul, the man who had met Jesus on the road to Damascus, was coming. The last time Paul had come through (16:8), people were awestruck that this man who once persecuted and killed Christians was now an evangelist. This would be his second time in Troas, and the word was out that this time, he was coming by the preach. Some of the Jews were upset. They didn't want this man in Troas. To them, Paul was a traitor to the true faith, a blasphemer, a person who deserved death, and they might just try to make sure that justice was done. They would be sure to show up for his sermons, just to see if they could trap him...
Eutychus and Sarah heard the news that Paul was coming. It made them excited. Eutychus at one time had been a hard working slave. But when the good news about Jesus Christ came into Troas, the master who had owned Eutychus set him free. Eutychus was now a freed man. He could only thank Jesus for his freedom. Jesus had set him free in more ways than one. Eutychus had been set free from his sin too. That had changed his life even more. But Eutychus and Sarah, his fiancee wanted to learn more about Jesus, and what Jesus had done, so they were really excited to hear that the best preacher in the empire was coming to Troas. They would be there. A hundred slave drivers could not keep them away.
The apostle Paul arrived with another man named Luke, a doctor. But the doctor was not making visits to sick people. This doctor seemed to be more interested in taking notes, writing down little details. Taking care of things for Paul. Paul delivered sermon after sermon. It seemed that if anyone asked him a question, he would respond with a sermon, right on the spot. For six days, he talked and talked. They could see the fatigue in his eyes, but he kept right on talking. Even when he was not preaching, Eutychus heard, this man was writing letters, spreading the good news through the mail. Right now he was writing letters to the Corinthians and even to the Christians in Rome.
Sunday came, the first day of the week. The church of Troas gathered together - with Paul the guest preacher, they had the Lord's Supper together. Paul mentioned how this was not his third journey with the gospel, the third time he had set out to let all who would listen know about this Jesus who had arisen from the dead 23 years earlier. In fact, he mentioned how he had just celebrated the feast of Unleavened Bread with the Christians in Philippi, the feast that started with the Passover (Good Friday) and lasted for 10 days. If was exactly 23 years earlier that Jesus arose, appeared to many people, and even to Paul about 5 years later. Eutychus could tell, just by how he preached that this man had met Jesus.
It had been a long hard week. Eutychus may have been a freedman, but freedmen still had to work hard for a living especially since he was trying to save for a dowry for Sarah. He would have to pay to marry her. That was the way things worked back then. Eutychus and Sarah came to the evangelistic meetings on the third floor of this house every night of that week. They wanted to much to learn as much as they could. Today would be Paul's last day of preaching in Troas. He was going to continue his journey on Monday.
Never had Eutychus sat in church so long. He had questions. Others had questions. Everybody had questions! And for every question, Paul had a sermon! And Paul could quote the Old Testament again and again to prove his point, you could tell that he was trained by Gamaliel - one of the best theology professors in the Jewish faith. People who came became convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. Even people who had doubts, he had answers for them. It was wonderful to have the Apostle Paul as a teacher.
They took a few breaks, but the questions just kept coming, and so did the sermons. The sun set in the west. It started to become dark outside. People started lighting their oil lamps. The darker it got, the more people lit their oil lamps. They burned like candles, except they let a stream of black smoke curl into the air. There were so many questions about the resurrection of Jesus. Paul was making the point that God has power even over death, as he demonstrated through not only Jesus raising Lazarus, by even through Elijah who raised a widow's son and Elisha who raised the Shunamite's son. As Paul answered question after question, the air in the room became thicker and thicker with the greasy odor and foul air of oil lamps. Eutychus, already tired from a hard week of working and learning, had a headache from all that foul air. He went and sat in a window next to the fresh breeze of the night air. He thought it might help him to concentrate just a little bit longer.
The cool air puffing in the window relaxed Eutychus just a little to much. He fought to focus his eyes and mind on Paul a few times, but he was losing the battle with his tiredness. He didn't notice his head nod. He didn't notice Paul's voice was changing, like it was further and further away. He didn't notice the quiet little rumble that came from the depth of his throat. And he didn't notice the first second that he lost his balance and his body started falling out of the window. As he fell from the third story window, his mind forced him to awake just enough to see shadows of the ground coming and hear the slam of his head against the hard ground outside. His mind would think no more.
Meanwhile in the meeting upstairs, a young women started screaming. Paul stopped speaking. Every head turned.
"Eu - Eu - Eutychus fell out the window." screamed Sarah.
At first there was shock in the room. Everyone was silent. Then the doctor, doctor Luke started running - and the whole congregation ran after him, down the narrow stairs, doctor Luke was the first one to reach Eutychus. He asked for a lamp. With the lamp, he looked into Eutychus's eyes, felt his chest and his neck. Luke looked up to and said to the rest
"The Breath of Life is no longer in him."
"You mean he's dead?" Asked Sarah with tears in her eyes...
Luke nodded holding Eutychus' head in his arms. Luke was a doctor. He new when a person was dead. This was not a time for words. It was a time for tears. Sometimes the right thing to do is nothing. Sometimes the right thing to say is nothing.
The Apostle Paul, older, and by now very tired finally made it down the stairs and through the crowd to where Luke was holding Eutychus' dead body in his arms. But Paul did not do the right thing. He did not stand back and cry with Sarah. And he did not remain silent. Instead, like Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 17:17ff, 2 Kings 4:34ff), he lay his body right on top of Eutychus' body and he cried out to God like Elijah
"O LORD my God, let this boy's life return to him!"
People were crying. Sarah in shock didn't know what to think. A person behind her was starting whispering to complain about the Apostles strange and inappropriate behavior. "First he kills him with his preaching, now what is he up to..."
As the Apostle prayed, a minute seemed to take forever. But then he stood up - he turned to the crowd and he said.
"Stop the commotion. "Don't be alarmed," "He's alive!"
Sarah couldn't believe her eyes. In the dim light of the oil lamps, she saw it. Eutychus was moving. Moving his hands, moving his feet, turning his sore head from side to side, breathing, coughing and breathing. Eutychus was alive again! Now the crowd helped Eutychus back up to the third floor where they were worshiping. Eutychus, alive, but very sore, was not about to sit in the window again. That night, they celebrated and gave thanks to God for giving them Eutychus back, alive and well. They broke bread together - and Paul told them again the story of Jesus, how his body was broken and his blood was poured out so that we can have eternal life.
There were many questions about God's power, even his power over death. Paul spoke and spoke until they could see the light in the eastern sky come up. The time had come for Paul to catch the next ship to Assos on his way back down the Mediteranean coast. Eutychus went home with the help of a few others, his sore body would take some time to recover. He couldn't believe what had happened to him. He had become one of very few people in all of history, who along with Jesus had arisen from the dead. He knew now without a doubt what would come in the future. There would be a time when he would die, but he knew he would arise from the dead again.
Paul got on the ship to Assos, with Luke and the rest of the men that were with him. Paul retired to the small room in the ship where he would go for a sleep. But before he laid down his head on his bunk, he took his feather and ink and wrote another chapter of his letter to his friends in the city of Corinth. He had to put the theology of what had just happened in writing - the church had to hear these words...
"Death has been swallowed up in victory."
"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Acts 20 (The Passage on which this story is based) NIV
6 But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.
7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead.
10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. "Don't be alarmed," he said. "He's alive!" Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.