Acts 20:1-16
The Man Who Fell From The Window

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

Heading for Macedonia and Greece

1. Paul completed his approximately three years of work laboring and preaching the gospel in Ephesus, then departed for Macedonia [where Corinth and Philippi are located]. The Bible says, "So, he went around that region giving out the Word and encouraging many people; he came to Greece and spent three months there," (verses 2 & 3). Luke is giving a very brief portrait, in fact, he is writing as plainly as he can about Paul's journeys; but, in reality one surmises that Paul spends more than a year's worth of time at this locale.

2. The text only says "he went around that region." However, while Paul was on his way to Macedonia Paul also stopped over at Troas which appears later in the text. Paul himself has recorded what happened in that time period in the following manner: "When I came to Troas to preach the gospel, a door was opened for me by the Lord but, since I was not able to meet with brother Titus, I announced farewell to those persons there and departed for Macedonia with a worrisome heart," (II Corinthians 2:12). Paul sent Titus ahead to Corinth because there was a problem at the Corinthian church. Later, Titus would have news from Corinth and Paul probably decided to meet up with him at Troas. But Titus never arrived. As it already was, Paul couldn't carry the work load at Troas, nevertheless, he headed for Macedonia. Paul writes like this in the same letter: "When I arrived in Macedonia our bodies had no rest whatsoever, we had difficulty upon difficulty. On the outside we had struggles and on the inside fear," (II Cor. 7:5). We shouldn't think of Paul as a super hero who never got stressed out or afraid. This same [apostle] Paul was a man who surely wrestled with fear and anxiety on a continual basis. As far as that goes, he was just like any other normal human being. The one thing that can be said for sure is that even while he was in the midst of such fear and anxiety he had known the One who gives encouragement and support. The next part of Paul's text continues as follows: "But, God, who gives fresh strength to the discouraged person, gave us comfort from Titus' arrival," (II Cor. 7:6). Paul moved on down to Greece (probably Corinth) and after he spent three months there he tried to depart by ship to Syria. He probably intended to board a ship that had pilgrims aboard it and that was going to Jerusalem from Cenchreae [the port at Corinth]. It is believed to have been right at the time when one heads for the Passover Festival. Next, a plot against Paul is detected here. On the ship heading for Jerusalem there were many Jews taking the same ship. It is believed that there were persons who knew Paul's reputation and even a considerable number of persons who hated him. While aboard ship they probably made plans to make Paul a dead man. He escaped this crisis by a hair's breath, and after passing through Macedonia got to continue on in his journey.

3. Paul's journeys typically sat side by side with death as in the above description. Thus, Paul knew full well that many dangers were awaiting him upon his arrival in Jerusalem. That fact is important for understanding this next passage. Though I have scheduled to read it next week, chapter 20 and verse 22 on down have the following record: "So now, upon the urging of the 'Spirit' I am going to Jerusalem. I don't know one iota of what kinds of things will happen to my body there. Just this, only imprisonment and trials await me; the Holy Spirit is also clearly revealing to me what particular city to go to. So I decided to run the way fixed for me and indeed I had received it from the Lord Jesus. If I could only fulfill the duty of strongly witnessing the gospel of the grace of God, I would never feel this life was disappointing," (Acts 20:22-24). When Paul was visiting and walking through the streets he felt within his mind that this might be his last chance at a normal walk. While wrapped up in this feeling, he headed again for Troas from Macedonia. So in effect, for Paul this would be his last personal exchange with the Christians at Troas and the time of his last sermon to them.

The Youth Who Fell From The Window

4. Please look at verses seven on. "On the first day of the week, when we were gathering together to break bread, though he had plans to depart the next day Paul spoke to the people, and his speaking lasted up through midnight. On the upper level where we had gathered together, many lamps continued burning," (verses 7 & 8).

5. "The first day of the week" is what we properly call "Sunday." Since "breaking bread" is Holy Communion, what is written about here is worship. In other words, it simply was not just that since Paul would start his trip the next day, he was reluctant to part so he discussed things late into the night. Actually, they were spending time in worship with him persistently to the last minute. As this worship incident is related to another incident that appears later, let's consider at some length what they were in the process of doing. There are a number of scriptural passages that show how the church worshipped on Sunday and did not have the ancient Jewish Sabbath (Saturday). This passage is also one of them. In the first place why should worship be on Sunday? In early history, a second century Christian named Justin said the following about this issue: "As an entire body, we hold meetings together on Sundays. This was the very first day in the history of the created world when God changed the darkness and the material elements. It was also the same day our Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. Since the people put the Lord on the cross on the day before Saturday and the Lord appeared to his apostles and disciples on the day after Saturday, namely on Sunday, the Lord showed us the circumstances that we pass on to you for you to consider and study," (First Book of Proofs).

6. In short, Sunday was the day for thinking about the beginning of creation and at the same time it was the day to commemorate the resurrection of Chirst. This day is, so to speak, a day to think about the time we will be raised up from the dead to a world that will surely be created anew. In short, it used to be that worship was normally related to the end [as in the last day of the week]. But in this context, Paul and the disciples of Troas are gathering together, "in order to break bread." This is a momentary exchange in the present world. However, they are not just meeting and thinking about meeting and parting in this earth. They are gathering together in order to think about the resurrection of Christ, to think about their own resurrections, and to break bread together as co-inheritors of the kingdom of God. Their meeting lasted till the middle of the night. It was because people met when it turned night. Because many of the people were persons who served masters, they probably could only meet at nights. It seems every one contributed food to the gathering. This meal was often called by the name "Love Feast" in the ancient church. From that layer of historical contex based on the things broken up in distribution it became normal for the "breaking of bread" or holy communion (the holy feast) to take place. Therefore, it is felt that the boundary line between love feasts and holy communion was not necessarily distinct. Then, Paul was regularly worrying so that this would not degenerate into what might be called a merely  human meal of "stuffed shirts." This attitude of Paul's is expressed in a strict message to the Corinthian disciples. "Consequently, the persons who inappropriately eat the Lord's bread and drink his cup are committing a crime against the body and blood of the Lord...The person who drinks and eats the Lord's body without discerning right and wrong is drinking and eating judgment to his own person," (I Corinthians 11:27-29), Christ tore his own body and shed his blood for us. Our sins are forgiven by this honored person; and a cooperative body is thus formed which will inherit the world that ought to come after joining him in death. Therefore, in order to not have eating and drinking of him without discernment, as a matter of course, an explanation of God's Word should accompany holy communion. Upon this occasion the gospel is preached and salvation is explained. In the place where I read today the breaking of bread and preaching both appear. They have been the main wheels of the vehicle from the beginning.

7. Paul's speech lasted through the night. As for the necessity of speaking, will the thought that you must keep preaching always have worked? What happens frequently in modern times happened also at that time period. There was a person who dozed off in the middle of a sermon. Please check out verse nine. "A youth name Eutychus was sitting on a windowsill, but as Paul continued his speech at great length, he showed signs of terrible drowsiness and while fast asleep he fell from the third floor to the bottom. When they tried to wake him, he was already dead." Though it is a serious story, Luke deliberately uses a humorous style in sketching the scenario. Eutychus had probably worked very strenuously from dawn till dusk that day. Then he was listening to a message in a crowded room of people until the middle of the night. He dropped out of the window because of the difficult conditions he was under, so one cannot criticize him saying it happened because he took a nap. Any way, they surrounded Eutychus who fell in such a way from the window, and they started making a big commotion downstairs. Paul came down to that spot. He used the boy as an object lesson and picked him up in his arms and said, "Don't be alarmed. He is still alive." So, they returned back to the room and continued the worship service.

8. Well, how should we think about this incident? We don't feel that he is making a special comment on the miracle itself of the returned life. The fact is his sketch is too too plain. We can even think that although Eutychus was not truly dead, the people were just wrong and made a big fuss. Or, it was probably just a case of simply Paul dealing with things coldly. It may actually have been that way. But, Luke goes to the trouble to write in verse twelve "the people returned and brought the revived youth with them." Luke handles this episode just like he did with other stories of resurrection miracles: Jesus brought a dead girl back to life (Luke 8:40ff). Peter brought a married woman named Dorcas back to life (Acts 9:36ff). What could have been his intentions with this literary arrangement?

9. What I mentioned before, you cannot understand the Bible if you confuse salvation with miracles themselves. It's because a person, though temporarily revived, at any rate, will die in the end. A miracle is not salvation itself; it is a sign that points to full salvation. The miracle of a person come back to life is a sign that points to the world of the resurrection which God's decree alone controls. Just like the picture of them gathering and worshipping together shows in a small way the kingdom of God, even one of the miracles which happened back then points out the kingdom of God. So, the object of worship itself which is being pointed to is very important and that which happens here about the genuine value of any miracle does not matter

10. The gathering together of humans is partly a very human activity. Why people assemble can have several reasons which are based on human motivation. One may reflect upon how it is possible to do things in accordance with the human will. But, in this kind of meeting there is one major point to consider, it is definitely not based on human authority. Why not? Because no one who is present here, even if he wanted to, can make it possible to assemble himself here. The fact is you never know when it is your turn to drop out of life; you may no longer have an existence on this earth. In order that human life not be based ultimately on human authority, this meeting in which they worship God is also not based on human authority. Yes, it's because of this basis of authority itself, that worship becomes a means to point out God's kingdom. The first principle of consideration is that it is not based on any reasons pertaining to humans; God is the sponsor of it as it comes about by God's call and is a work done according to God's authority. Therefore, we must make this time important for us to hear his call.

11. What is being portrayed in this passage is that we can no longer conduct ourselves as the same old members on this earth; we must worship with all we got the first time around. Worship, in a certain sense, should normally be a fervent activity. In addition, they had been given by grace a special sign that pointed to the resurrection. As they continued to think about the kingdom of the eternal God, they continued to worship even more. They broke bread together and continued to worship until dawn.

12. On the next morning Paul and those with him started out from Troas. Paul, alone on foot, headed for Assos. There was no doubt many meetings in which he intended to drop in on. In Assos, he met up with other people, and from there he boarded ship, passed through Mitylene and Samos to arrive in Miletus. Luke records the sea route in detail. He may be basing it on his own travel diary.

13. Ephesus is separated from Miletus about sixty kilometers. That is the area in which Paul did missions for nearly three years. He had an innumerable amount of hard work to do. He probably would have visited the Ephesian assembly with much compassion. But, Paul did not make the effort to stop over in Ephesus and went forward to Jerusalem. The scripture explains that "if possible, as he wanted to arrive in Jerusalem for Passover, he hurried on in his journeying." I'm not sure why he was so particular about Pentecost. But I am sure that he never made a move based on human will or ideas. While he was anchored in Miletus harbor, he summoned the Ephesian elders. Paul knew quite well this was the last time he could meet face to face with them. (20:25) Consequently, Paul gave every encouraging word that he had to say to the Ephesian leaders. Let's take a look at the content's of Paul's speech next week in more detail.

Endnote:

*Here is an official translation of the English version of "The First Apology": "But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration."

 
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