Real Folks Reacting in Real Ways
Acts 20:7 ¶ On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight.
Acts 20:8 There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were meeting.
Acts 20:9 A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer. Overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground three floors below and was picked up dead.
Acts 20:10 But Paul went down, and bending over him took him in his arms, and said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.”
Acts 20:11 Then Paul went upstairs, and after he had broken bread and eaten, he continued to converse with them until dawn; then he left.
Acts 20:12 Meanwhile they had taken the boy away alive and were not a little comforted.
I love this story because we catch a glimpse of just how real and ordinary these people were -- including the Apostle Paul. They ordinarily met together on Sunday -- the first day of the week, because they wanted to honor and remember that it was on this day that Jesus rose from the dead. This was so central to the lives of the new believers that they met on the day of the resurrection and they celebrated communion together as a constant reminder of the central focus of their faith. It was Jesus! It was his resurrection!!
Paul was excited to be with these folks and knew that he had a limited about of time with them. He had to leave early the next morning so he was going to pack in everything that he could -- disciple them all night long if necessary. Someone was watching the time because they specifically noted that he had now kept talking until midnight! How often do we glance at our watches when someone is speaking for a long period of time? We love them and appreciate them but sometimes we're dying to stay awake! I think that the next verse is trying to help us understand what the people were feeling. Not only was Paul, according to one translation "talking on and on" but because it was night many lamps had been lit. The implication is that it had gotten hot and stuffy in the room and Paul is completely oblivious. He just wants to teach these people and now it's late, people are tired and the room is rather stifling. I'm guessing that Eutychus wasn't the only one falling asleep while Paul "talked still longer." However, he was the one in the most precarious position. By now all around people are struggling to keep up with Paul and Eutychus simply does what many would like to do -- he falls into a deep sleep, except there is one problem -- he falls out of the window where he is resting his head. He falls three floors to the ground -- and he is dead.
Probably that at this moment everyone pretty much woke up. Paul runs to the young man and grabs him in his arms and he suddenly comes back to life. It may have been at that moment that Paul realized he had gone on a little too long and needed to give the crowd a break. It sounds like they took some time to eat and refresh themselves but then, for those who stayed around, Paul talked with them until the sun rose in the morning. The people who had come with Eutychus were a little shaken and so they didn't stay until morning. They took him home and were GREATLY comforted by what had happened.
I have discovered that there are times when I read the Scriptures that the stories seem so far away and the reactions seem so unfamiliar. However, in this story somehow I can find myself right there in that room and it becomes a reminder that the word of God is real and was written for ordinary people like me. I find myself realizing that I would probably have been one of those watching the time and nodding off to sleep. I would have been trying all the usual tricks to keep awake -- biting my lower lip, counting the bricks in the wall, etc. These were real people reacting in very real ways.
As I absorb that truth, then I must ask myself how am I reacting in real ways to the word? These people were so hungry to learn everything they could that they stayed up all night with Paul to learn even more. These were real people willing to sacrifice their night so that they could be better servants of Jesus. These were real people who made it an effort to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ every single Sunday of their lives. They never wanted to forget what it was that Jesus had done for them and talking about it wasn't enough -- they had to go through the celebration of the Lord's Supper as a physical reminder of Jesus' death and resurrection. These were real people who wanted their children to understand and grasp the truths of their new-found faith. They were willing to drag their children out to all-night meetings and no, their children weren't always little angels and perfectly well behaved -- but they brought them anyway! These were real people who were hungry to know Jesus and made sacrifices in their personal lives so that they could know him and serve him.
When Paul wrote to the people in the cities where he had visited he referred to them as saints. I think sometimes that makes us think that they had become some type of inhuman creatures to whom we are unable to relate. On the contrary, they were real people who lived in a real world who were transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit into God's holy saints! They were now the holy ones because they had been willing to make sacrifices to allow God to work in and through them. Yes, just real folks living real lives but really dedicating themselves wholeheartedly to Jesus and he took real ordinary folks and transformed them into his holy citizens serving in his kingdom. We are invited to join in -- ordinary folks -- transformed into the extraordinary through the power of the Holy Spirit. What keeps us from joining?
Lord, thank you for opening up a scene from history and inviting us in to participate in your kingdom. Amen.