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Eutychus – Acts 20:7-12



Text: Acts 20:7-12.  (1st Corinthians 11:18-34)

This little passage is about a young man who fell asleep, and whose sleepiness is recorded for us in the bible, so that we can learn from it, and so that we can be encouraged, as the people at Troas were!

1 An Insight into Church Practice and Fellowship.  V7  

Look at the day and time, for this is important.  It was the first recorded instance of worship on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week.  It wasn’t confined to Troas either. 1 Corinthians 16:2.  It was the usual practice in the church, just around 25 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Let’s see what this meeting was like…

  • Meeting. when the disciples came together.  The disciples just met together. I wonder, when they finished their work for the day, did they go and seek each other’s company?  It was in the late evening and meeting lasted all night. Many of the first believers were slaves, and they worked from dawn to dark, seven days a week.  If they wanted to meet with other believers, they had to meet after work.  Would we be so enthusiastic and dedicated? 
  • Eating. to break bread, The phrase ‘Break bread’ here is familiar to us; we think of it as synonymous with the Lord’s Supper.  But when the disciples met those who had food, would have brought it and those who hadn’t any food would be fed. Remember that in the early church, many things were shared around.  Acts 432  For a slave, that meal may have been the only substantial meal they would have all week.  They met – received teaching, shared their food, – their ‘love feast’ and then at some point, while they were at the table, they would have the Lord’s Supper.  Cf 1st Corinthians 11:20   
  • Teaching.  Paul spoke at the meeting. The Greek is διαλέγομαι – dialogue – a catechism class, with instruction and questions and answers and discussion, but Paul’s leadership of the class was authoritative, he was ‘teaching’ not sharing.

Look at the location! 8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.  It was in an upper room, – we know from verse 9 that the room was on the 3rd floor.  Many of the Roman cities had tenements, including Rome itself, and this would be a private home.  And it was dark, for there were many lights.

2 Eutychus – Dead or Alive? V9-10

  • Eutychus – the sleepy young man.  And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep.  The weather in Troas in April (April 24th, AD57) must have been humid and hot.  Imagine the smoke from the lamps, the dimmed light, the long effort of concentration, the tiredness following a long day’s work. The Greek νεανίας indicates a young man in the prime of life, possibly in his late teens or early twenties.  He had moved over to sit at the window – no glass – just wooden doors or lattice work – open to get some fresh air.  Even with the fresh air from the window, Eutychus fell into a deep sleep!  
  • The effects of the fall. and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. The effect of the fall would certainly have been fatal.  It was unlikely anyone would survive, or at least survive without life changing injuries.  Dr Luke’s diagnoses was that life was extinct.  Eutychus was clinically dead and the people began to mourn vocally, as was the custom in the east.   
  • Was he dead?  10 And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.  Now here’s where things get a little bit difficult.  At first sight, Paul’s exclamation seems to contradict Luke’s initial assessment!  There’s two possibilities:-
    • Perhaps Eutychus wasn’t dead, just comatose from the fall.  Perhaps Luke’s initial assessment had been too quick, and when Paul had embraced him he’d realised that in fact the young man was still breathing – albeit faintly.
    • Perhaps Luke was right, and Eutychus was really truly dead.  If so, then when Paul cast himself upon the boy, it was an action of resuscitation.  There would be Biblical precedents for this.  Elijah, and Elisha 1 Kings 17:19   2 Kings 4:34-35

Either way, I’m glad this passage is recorded!  It wouldn’t be the first time someone has fallen asleep during a sermon I’ve been preaching! It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone and that the Apostle Paul had similar experiences.

3 The Great Comfort of the Lord’s Supperv11  

Finally, we need to assess the story to get some doctrinal or practical lessons for us. There’s much more to it than that.  Let’s return to the text and see…

  • A final meal and a sad farewell.  Now look at the structure of v11, they went back up to the room, they ‘broke bread and had eaten.’  The meal and the communion were AFTER the resuscitation of Eutychus.  After the meal the dialogue began again, and this time the lessons went on until daybreak, when the slaves among their number would have had to return to work.  Their fellowship, their communion, their Christian education, had continued all night at this stage. 
  • The significance of the event.  When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, it was to show that the power to overcome death and to experience resurrection to eternal life lay in his gift. John 11:23 It was after Eutychus was resuscitated that they had the Lord’s Supper.  When we celebrate the LS, there is always an eschatological element.  It is ‘till he come!’  At the Lord’s Table, we look back to the cross, where our salvation was purchased, – and we look forward to the future, to glory, when our communion will be complete, and we will meet around the great Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  It will be part of that great day, when the Lord shall come.  Eutychus had become a living illustration of that truth.  This would be the last time ever Paul would be in Troas, – for he would go to Jerusalem, and he would be taken as a prisoner to Rome and he would die there.  But these sorrowful Christians will not sorrow without hope, for they will meet him again, in glory.  Just as sure as Eutychus had been resurrected, to participate in that communion, so they too will be resurrected to participate in God’s greatest reunion day ever.  Is it any wonder then that the Christians at Troas V12 …brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.  I wonder, as we gather around the Lord’s Table do we dwell enough upon that coming reunion which it signifies?

Paul’s original plan had been to depart on the Monday, v7, ready to depart on the morrow;– but his plans have suffered a setback.  We learn in v13 that he sent the others on ahead on the ship, but that he remained in Troas for a time, then travelling overland, by foot to Assos – a journey of around 20 miles. V13  Why did he change his plans and stay behind?  We’re not told, but most likely it was out of concern, to see that Eutychus was ok, and recovering well.  Their loving Christian fellowship extended well beyond the gathered meetings, and into the homes of the believers.

© Bob McEvoy June 2021

From → Acts

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