Eutychus and the Resurrection
Passage: Acts 20:1–19
Ok, today we get to the story of Eutychus. The first man ever recorded to fall asleep during a sermon, but certainly not the last. I was at a party once and a friend introduced me to an Anesthetist there. In his introduction he said, “You’ll like each other. You both put people to sleep professionally.”
Here’s the context for what’s going on. Paul is in Troas for a short period of time and there is a small church there and he spends time with them in this third story room. Luke says that there were many lights lit which he probably recorded to let us know that this room was hot. These weren’t LED lights, they were fire lit lamps. Lots of people crammed in and all these lamps lit. So this guy, Eutychus, sits in the window which would have been a nice cool place to sit. Then, Paul teaches and teaches and teaches. I don’t want any complaints about my 35 minute sermons. At some point, after hours of teaching, Eutychus falls asleep and falls out of the window and dies. Paul runs down, brings him back to life, everyone is happy, and then Paul keeps on teaching! I would have taken the hint by then, but I’m no Apostle.
So, what we have is a biblical warning to pay attention to my sermons and not fall asleep. Maybe I have a biblical warning to not preach too long. I don’t know. I often think about who all we will meet in heaven. I’ll meet millions of saints and no one will have any idea who I am, but we will all have this moment when we meet someone and he says, “Hey, I’m Eutychus.” And we will all be like, “Eutychus! The guy who fell asleep during Paul’s sermon??” “Yep, that’s me.” I mean it’s not like Eutychus is a common name. You don’t see a lot of Eutychi out there. People probably stopped naming their kids that because of this guy. I’m really off the main point now.
Speaking of the main point. I stewed over how to handle this passage this week. It was like a stereogram. One of those pictures you have to stare at before the picture becomes clear. I stared at this text for a long time and then I saw it. This passage is about resurrection and it goes way beyond Eutychus coming back to life. It’s at least that, but there’s much more.
I said this two Easter’s ago, but the Christian view of resurrection is something that is so familiar to us that it can lose its awe. And it’s so familiar to us that we can forget how crazy it sounds to those who aren’t Christians. I was on a plane with one of my best friends, a guy named Kevin, about ten years ago and Kevin was talking to the guy next to him. Kevin was trying to open the door to a spiritual conversation and asked this guy what kinds of things he believes. This guy said, “Oh, I believe some weird things.” Kevin said, “Actually, I do too! You go first.” The guy then proceeded to tell him he thinks there are 4th dimensional reptilian aliens using the moon as a spaceship and they are monitoring us.” Then, Kevin said, “So I believe in Jesus and I believe that one day Jesus is coming back and if I have already died before that time, my body will be resurrected and Jesus will create a new perfect world where I live with him and every other believer for all eternity.” To which the alien spaceship guy said, “Now that’s weird!”
The resurrection should sound weird to many because it is miraculous. But it is also true, good, and beautiful and that’s what we see in this passage.
- The resurrection is true
This passage reminds us that the resurrection is true, not just because Eutychus came back to life, but because Paul brought him back to life. This is important. Paul is an Apostle. That is, someone who met the resurrected Jesus and was called by him to be sent to proclaim the message of our resurrection in Jesus. And we see all these signs and wonders in the book of Acts as God’s way of legitimizing or proving that what Paul is teaching is true. It’s one thing to teach the resurrection, but it’s a whole other to see the person teaching the resurrection actually resurrect someone.
And this is not the first time this has happened. Peter resurrects someone in Acts 9. 32 Now has Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years,who was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, iJesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. 35 jAnd all the residents of Lydda and kSharon saw him, and lthey turned to the Lord. - Acts 9:32-35. Peter’s message is validated through his healing.
Then, of course, Jesus raised three people from the dead during his earthly ministry. So, a question many have raised over the past 2000 years is should we expect God to raise the dead today? Is that even something we should consider? There is a well known charismatic ministry out of California who so believes the answer is yes that in multiple cases, their pastors have turned a funeral service into a resurrection service where they declare that person not to be dead and that he or she will stand up at that moment. To my knowledge, not one time has that happened which makes an already emotional service even more emotional and confusing.
Of course God can do whatever God wants to do, but to apply this passage in that way misses the whole point of what God is doing in Acts. God isn’t declaring that true men and women of faith should be able to raise the dead. God is declaring that these apostles' message of life after death is true! And these resurrections not only legitimize their messages, they point to the resurrection that is to come.
Just think for a second if we were supposed to have resurrection ministries…if I successfully held resurrection services. I imagine a lot of people would come back and be pretty irritated with me. Seriously? I was in heaven with Jesus feeling better and more whole than I ever thought possible and you bring me back here??
And if there were a couple dozen people spread out over the centuries who possessed this gift, it would work against the way we are supposed to view God and this world. It would create further incentive to worship the gifts instead of the giver and it would essentially make these men kings and Christianity as the universal world religion which isn’t how God said we would live in this world. The theological term here is over-realized eschatology. That just means that we would be taking the blessings of the world to come and inappropriately applying them now.
Again, I’m not saying God can’t do this and I’m not saying there aren’t even times we can’t pray for it, but if we expect it or demand it, we misunderstand what God is doing here and why Luke is recording it. God did it and Luke recorded it to show that the message of our ultimate resurrection is true.
When Jesus performed his most famous raising back to life, Lazarus, he actually makes this explicitly clear. He’s talking to Martha and says, j“I am the resurrection and kthe life.4 Whoever believes in me, lthough he die, myet shall he live,26 and everyone who lives and believes in me nshall never die. Do you believe this?” - John 11:25 Then he walks into the tomb and prays, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 hI knew that you always hear me, but I said this ion account of the people standing around, jthat they may believe that you sent me.” - John 11:41b, 42 So why is Jesus doing all this? So the people would know that he is who he says he is. That in him we will be resurrected and never die. And the same thing is happening in Acts, just through the apostles.
So, the resurrection is true, but it’s also good.
- The resurrection is good
It’s good because it means that God hasn’t set this world in motion and let it go. He hasn’t saved a people and let them wander alone in this life. Jesus didn’t retire at Pentecost. He is actively involved in the lives of his people from before we are even born all the way through our physical resurrection.
Remember how this letter by Luke began, In the first book, O aTheophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began bto do and teach, - Acts 1:1 Luke wrote to Theophilus all that Jesus BEGAN to do in the Gospel of Luke and now he is writing this letter we call Acts to tell him what Jesus continued to do after his resurrection.
I had an Aunt who years ago saw that I went to Reformed Theological Seminary and she asked my mom what Reformed meant. My mom asked me and I went to my professor, Dr. Futato, and asked him what would be the most helpful way to describe Reformed theology to my Aunt who likely was not a Christian. He said to tell her this: You believe in a God who cares about and is actively involved in every aspect of your life. That’s what we see in this text. Jesus is intimately involved in our lives. He’s involved in the hardest, most trying times and he’s involved in the smallest decisions we make.
And his purpose in this world isn’t simply to bring people like Eutychus and Lazarus back to life for a season, but during this season conform us into his image. When we put our faith in Jesus we are declared to be every bit as righteous as him and the rest of our life is him, through his spirit, making what is legally declared to be true, actually true. This process isn’t finished in this life, but at our resurrection.
You see this idea out there that God is so big and vast that he couldn’t possibly care about what goes on down here. Most of the people who have this view also think we die and we live this ethereal life as some sort of an energy wave joining the larger source of energy. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in sci-fi shows like Star Trek, the most advanced forms of life have evolved past the material and they exist immaterially as light or energy. I actually think this is one of the misunderstandings that make people think heaven will be a boring place.
Jesus never said he was going to redeem us away from the world. He’s not saving us into a fantasy land like Oz, Narnia, or Never-never Land where we will live happily ever after. Jesus cares so much about this material world that he came into it to redeem it fully. So what does that look like? When Jesus comes back, we will have a real body. In this life, when we get old we think back to the days of our youth and long for that body. We long for that energy. But, the resurrection says that the body that awaits us after Jesus’ return is better than anything we can imagine. Personally, I’m hoping we can fly. But more significantly, there will be no flaw, no wrinkle, no joint pain, no cancer.
Eutychus was resurrected back into the same sinful body he had when he died only to die again. But, when Jesus resurrected into his glorified body. It was Jesus. You could see that it was him. He still had the scars from his crucifixion. He ate real food. The best food and drink in this world will taste stale and bland by comparison. We won’t just eat, we will feast and never get fat. Jesus could appear and disappear. He could walk through walls. And, at the ascension, could float off the ground. You see what I did there?
And not only was Eutychus resurrected back into the same sinful body, he was also resurrected back into the same sinful world. But in the true resurrection, in the same way our bodies will still be us, but so much better, so the earth will still be the earth and the heavens the heavens, but so much better. It will make Pandora look ugly and boring by comparison.
If you think about it, the reality of the resurrection eliminates FOMO, the fear of missing out. We live busy lives and we’re afraid of missing that party, missing that financial benchmark, missing that work out. But if the resurrection is true, then we really won’t miss out. We can relax, we can sacrifice, we can give our money away to other people, we can bring people who look like burdens into our lives. We aren’t going to miss out on anything because we know what awaits us and we can trust that Jesus is involved in every minute, every second along the way.
But that’s not all, there is one more important thing that makes the resurrection not only true and good, but beautiful.
- The resurrection is beautiful
It’s beautiful because of who we are with. First, we are with each other. We see this in the text too. Luke points out twice in this short passage that the Christians here are breaking bread together. That is, they are celebrating communion together. Communion is in the words of Augustine, the word made visible. The proof of our resurrection before us. We hear the gospel in a sermon, we see the gospel when we read our Bibles, but in communion, we taste the gospel, we smell the gospel, and we touch the gospel. And we do this together.
It’s also important that for the first time in Acts, Luke records that they were worshiping on the first day of the week. They had shifted from Saturday to Sunday. Luke also begins to say ‘we’ instead of ‘they’ so Luke was with them. And do you know why Christians moved their day of worship from Saturday to Sunday? Because that was the day Jesus resurrected! There’s resurrection all over this passage.
So they come together on the first day of the week and when they come together and celebrate the Lord’s Supper both pointing toward the day when we will also resurrect. You can’t get around the togetherness of the body of Christ in this passage and in the whole Bible. I don’t know how many times I’ve said this, but the Bible knows nothing of a privatized spiritual life.
My mom called me this week because she was talking with a friend who says she’s a Christian, but she doesn’t go to church ever. They were talking about life after death for Christians and she had no idea we had resurrected bodies and would live in a resurrected heaven and earth. To which I said, “Well, when you cut yourself off from the body you are called into and baptized into, you also cut yourself off from knowing all you could know about things like the resurrection.”
But it isn’t just that we grow in our knowledge, we grow in our love. In my former church, there was a woman named Amanda who came to Christ and then to our church and she came with material needs, physical needs, and emotional needs. Our church spent so much time with her helping do her laundry, helping with her bills, helping with her kids, discipling her, and praying with her. And after about 3 years, she took her life. The feeling in the church was was any of that worth it? And I’ll never forget, the pastor speaking at her funeral said, “Amanda taught us to love.” Outside of the church, we would never have probably known her. But inside the church, we are a beautifully diverse group of people, united in one spirit, carrying out the one anothers with each other. That doesn’t happen outside of the church.
As a church, we come together regularly on Sundays and other days, we break bread together, we carry out the one anothers with each other, and as we do, we create a picture of how it will be in the resurrection. We will be together. We will be reunited with loved ones. We will be with saints that went before us and after us. And we will be with them with no relational friction because we will know sin no longer.
Let’s circle back to FOMO for a minute. It’s common when people are faced with death, especially an earlier death for them to feel like they are going to miss out on so much. Miss out on future years with their spouse. Miss out on milestones with their children. It’s weird for me to think that there is a good chance I won’t live to see all my grandchildren get married. Or the same thing if we lose a loved one early. We feel like we missed out on so many opportunities with them. But, if the resurrection is real, and it is, the real party awaits. The real memories await. We will look back and there will be no truly missed milestones.
But, that isn’t even the best part. We can so often look to the next life and get excited about being with loved ones in this amazing place having a resurrected body and knowing no sin, but if that’s all we look forward to, we are committing what Michael Allen calls eschatological naturalism. We look forward to the natural parts, but forget the supernatural. Not only will we be together with every Christian ever, more than that, we will be with Jesus. We will be with the one we were made by and for.
Think about the most satisfying relationships you’ve ever had. Think about the best moments in those relationships. The security of running to your father or mother and knowing everything in the world was ok. The exhilaration of the first time you kissed your spouse. The unconditional love you felt when you held your baby or your grandchild for the first time. The deep satisfaction of being truly known and accepted by an old friend. Wrap all those emotions into one and they are just a glimpse of the satisfaction and joy we will feel when we are with the One we were made for.
Do you know what this means for us now? It means the search is over. We don’t have to search for validation in our work, in our relationships, or in our morality. Every other religion and worldview has teachers who point to the way of life. Only Jesus says I am the way of life. Jesus is not another teacher pointing with clues you follow and put together on this mysterious search for joy and meaning. He is the joy, meaning, and life to which all of the clues point.
This whole passage makes me think about the juxtaposition of the life we live now with all its trials, all its confusion, and all its pain and the resurrected life to come. We have had our fair share of loss recently and we naturally quickly think about Psalm 23. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil. We do walk in the shadow of death, but why do we not have to fear? Because of Psalm 24. Psalm 23 is a psalm about death, but Psalm 24 is a psalm about resurrection. 3 yWho shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his zholy place? - Psalm 24:3
The answer is us…because Jesus did first. Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will live a resurrected life in a resurrected body with the resurrected Christ on a resurrected earth.