Acts 20:7-12

There are morning people and there are night people. Some work best first thing, and others work best at night. We’re all different, and our body clocks work in different ways.

Personally, I’m better in the morning (although not too early). But as a consequence, I don’t work too well at night. Which is why the story of Paul at Troas appeals to me. Because whilst I can understand his need to talk to the people—to use the limited time available—I can still sympathise with the man who fell asleep and fell out of the window.

The story comes in three parts.

Because, firstly, we’re told that it was a Sunday in Troas (7). Furthermore, the meeting was probably a fellowship meal in which the Lord’s Supper was celebrated. (Indeed this passage may be the first indication of a group of Christians who had changed their regular weekly day of worship from the Sabbath to a Sunday.) In addition, the meeting was in the evening, which was a convenient time for those who were not their own masters and who had worked during the day. But their meeting was not regulated by the clock. And the opportunity to listen to Paul was not one to be cut short.

Secondly, we’re told that there was an interruption to the meeting (8-10). The crowded upper room had grown heavy with the smoke of torches. And a young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window (where the air was freshest), had found it impossible to keep awake. Now he’d probably already put in a hard day’s work and, with the stuffy atmosphere, not even the words of an apostle could keep him from falling asleep. So the inevitable happened. He suddenly overbalanced, fell through the window (which was only a hole in the wall), and fell to the ground beneath (remembering the room was three floors up).

And Luke, the physician, tells us that they considered him “dead.” But whether he was dead or not Paul reassured the people that it was not the end and he ran down to embrace the young man’s apparently lifeless body (reminiscent of similar actions by Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 17:21; 2 Kings 4:34-35) recorded in the Old Testament.)

Then thirdly, we’re told that Paul then resumed the meeting (11-12). He “broke the bread” and they shared their fellowship meal. He then continued to talk to them until daylight (the time when many of them would have needed to begin their next day’s work), by which time Eutychus had sufficiently recovered, to be taken home.

Now it’s a story which may be a familiar, and many may identify with the young man who fell out of the window. But I want to suggest that are at least three things that we can learn from this story.

And the first is that, like Paul, our job is to teach, encourage and equip people to grow in the faith. And whether that’s done at morning or night, our participation should not necessarily be restricted by the clock. Indeed, we need to make use of the limited time that is available.

The second is, if people doze off or have an accident or something else happens of an urgent nature, we need to be prepared to take time out to deal with issues that arise; we need to care for the people concerned. And I say that, because any words that we say are useless if we don’t have the actions to fit.

And the third is, that we need to be mindful not to be permanently side-tracked from our true purpose. Indeed, we need to realise that no matter what side-tracks we have to deal with, we need to quickly get back on track, and use the remaining opportunities that God has given us to get his message across.

In other words, we need to imitate the example of the apostle Paul.

So, can you identify with the young man, who’d probably had a busy day, and who fell out of the window? Well I can. As a consequence we need to pray for the stamina to stay alert, to carry out God’s task; we need to remember that it’s O. K. to stop, to deal with the pastoral issues that arise; but equally we then to need to quickly get back on track, and not remain diverted from our God-given task.

Posted: 24th January 2020
© 2020, Brian A Curtis