(Christian Today posted an article about 5 Scriptures that most pastors won’t tackle from the pulpit. I decided that see if I could. This is number 3 of the 5 Scritpures from their article, which you can read here.)
There are some passages that are routinely passed over in favour of those Scriptures, but we want to change that. If “All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in all righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)” then there shouldn’t be any Scripture that isn’t covered from the pulpit. And that includes Acts 20:7-12.
So, let’s talk about it.
“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. 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.” – Acts 20:7-12
I have to say, I haven’t heard a whole sermon about this particular passage of Scritpure. But that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be preached. Go back to the James 2:26 article and read what I said about preaching Scripture.
While that argument is enough to convince you to preach these verses, I do have other thoughts and ways to preach or talk about these peculiar verses from Acts.
1. There Are Truths In The Jokes
If your pastor hasn’t preached on this, chances are someone has pointed it out as an example that they need to keep their sermons short. Or it will kill the congregation.
It’s not a new joke, but it hold a nugget of truth. When you get up the the pulpit, when you go to share, it doens’t have to be an hour long lecture. You dont’ have to talk for half an hour (though I’ve found that is a good length of time for a sermon.) Too long will kill the attention span of your listeners. They may not fall out a window or off their chair, but you will see it on their faces.
So, keep it short. Keep it simple. Short and simple are not oppose to the truth of Scripture. Think about some of the most powerful statements that Jesus made, short and simple.
“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34
That is a powerful statement. The meat, the solid spiritual information and formation that can come from something so simple and short is astounding. That single verse could birth a dozen sermons, and radically reshape your people. Do not be afraid to cut it short. Just be sure to give the congregation something to chew on.
2. Feed The Hungry, Whatever The Cost
While this thought is still more for the pastors and leaders in a church setting, it does still apply to those in the pews. For it is written,
“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” – 2 Timothy 4:2
If your congregation wants to learn, if they want to hear from God, through you, don’t stop. Paul had to leave in the morning, verse 7 says, but the people wanted what he had to say. So he preached all night.
Think about that. 30 minutes is a lot for some pastors, but to preach continually for 8 plus hours, because the people are that hungry for the word of God. Not because you talk too much.
That would be some pastors dream. For Paul, a reality, and a reality that he embraced and gave himself to. If they wanted to know more and more about Christ, he was going to do everything he could, no matter what it cost.
As a young father of two, sleep is one of those precious things that I don’t like giving up. I know people that aren’t parents that guard their sleep more carefully than I do. For a working tent maker, a missionary always on the go, and the most influential Christian in the 1st century, you think that he would have earned the right to sleep. Or he would been able to convince people to let him get his rest because what he had to do tomorrow was so important.
But that is nothing like Paul. He sacrificed. He gave up. He laid down his rights for the blessing and feeding of those around him. At the top of a hat, even on travelling days, Paul was reading to share with those that needed it.
While there are other Scriptures about counting the cost, or picking up your cross to follow Jesus, this is a partical example of that being lived out. So we should live it out too.
3. The Miraculous Is (Or Should Be) Normal
Jokes and truth about pastors, and what they need to do aside. There is something worth meditating on in this strange passage: the miraculous is normal.
Or it should be.
Retell the story. Paul is preaching late into the night. That’s normal. Kid gets tired listening to the preacher. That’s normal. Kid falls from a three story building and dies. Unfortunately that’s normal (normal as in that is what would happen, not that it is a regular occurrence). Paul miraculously brings kid back to life. Paul goes back to preaching.
The number of normal, everyday events in that story is striking. It makes the miraculous healing/resurrection all the most striking, but what I find most amazing it is that it doesn’t phase Paul.
He heals Eutychus and goes right back into the point that he was trying to make in his sermon. Paul breaks bread with them, and leaves in the morning.
Miracles were normal. They happened. The Gospels are littered with them. Even the book of Acts, the story of the Early Church has numerous stories of people being miraculously touched. It might not have been an every day event, but that isnt’ to say that they didn’t happen.
So, why do so many Christians disbelieve in miracles, or think miracles were for another time, or that God doesn’t do that anymore?
For Paul, miracles were normal. Something that could happen at a church service on Sunday just as well as a meal on Thursday.
Talking about miracles always raises other questions, like the purpose of miracles, how to make them happen, how to verify them, and things of that nature. But this would be the question, the idea to meditate on that I think pastors would be wise to pose to their churches.
Do you think that God is that active in the world, outside of these church walls, that the dead could rise again?
It is a question of faith, a question of our trust in God and His ability and power. It is a question of where God dwells and has dominion. It is a question of what God wants in the world. It’s a question that Christians need to answer.
Jesus said to his disciples,
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” – John 14:12
If Jesus’ words are in anyway true, then the miraculous should be something normal. Something we see on a regular basis.
I want to be clear about something. For miracles to be normal, it doesn’t mean that they are down played as “nothing” or something that is “boring”. On the contrary, they are evidence of benevolent hand of God moving in your midst.
But I come from a Christian tradition that has, at times, glorified the miraculous, that has sought the miracle, not the Miracle Maker.
So when I say that miracles should be normal, I am trying to find balance. I do want to see God moving and working in the life’s of Christians, but I want to see Christians in turn moving and working in the will of God, rather than planting themselves on a church pew, waiting for the next miracle.
God is worthy of worship and honour when things happen, things like healings, radical transformations, release from the demoninic. And so we should worship Him when these things happen.
There are some passages that are routinely passed over in favour of those Scriptures, but we want to change that. We do believe that “All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in all righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)”. And that includes Acts 20:7-12.
Those are just a few reasons as to why this verse is worth preaching and talking about from this often skipped portion of Scripture. Hopefully it will not stay that way.