Gathering on a Sunday evening for a ‘church service’ (v.7a), Paul’s preaching goes on for hours and hours (v.7b). Perhaps he knew he might not see them again, perhaps he lost track of time, perhaps there was an engrossing time of Q&A, but either way Paul preached until midnight. For those having come from a hard day’s work this would have been tough.
One of those was a young man named Eutychus who fought sleep as best he could before succumbing to it (καταφέρω). Unfortunately for him, he was sitting at the window and consequently fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. Dr. Luke, as our author and compiler, makes a point of saying that he was dead, that he was without life. What an awful interruption for the gathering, what a terrible punctuation in the middle of a time of teaching, friendship, and fellowship.
We then read that
“Paul went down threw himself on the young man, put his arms around him, and said, “Do not be distressed, for he is still alive!”
(Acts 20.10, NET)
A miraculous resuscitation almost as dramatic as Lazarus (John 11.43-44), Eutychus is taken back to the gathering alive and fed. Paul continues until daybreak and so departed.
Should this be normal practice for our gatherings? Is this a prescriptive or descriptive passage?
Church services don’t have to go on past midnight every Sunday evening, we’re not under compulsion to have people falling out of windows, and we’re not all called to miraculously resuscitate those who have been pronounced dead by a doctor. Trying to take every last passage in the Bible as prescriptive will not lead to us fully realising our faith, but will only lead to disappointment when we realise we are not Paul, we are not Dr. Luke, and we live in a different time and place.
Instead, see the great encouragement that the believers get from seeing God work (v.12b), see the willingness to be part of church even if it goes past its ‘normal’ finish time (v.7b), see the commitment to simply share a common life (v.11).
We want to be part of a community like this, but we’re not called to replicate every last detail of theirs.