“We sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and within five days we came to the others in Troas, where we stayed for seven days. On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul began to speak to the people, and because he intended to leave the next day, he extended his message until midnight. (Now there were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.) A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, was sinking into a deep sleep while Paul continued to speak for a long time.
“Fast asleep, he fell down from the third story and was picked up dead. But 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!” Then Paul went back upstairs, and after he had broken bread and eaten, he talked with them a long time, until dawn. Then he left. They took the boy home alive and were greatly comforted” —Acts 20:6-12
In the Book of Acts, we don’t read anything about Paul doing any evangelistic work at Troas. We know that he received the Macedonian vision while at Troas, but Luke gives us no report concerning Paul’s evangelistic activity in this city. We do read about “an open door” for ministry in Troas in Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians:
“When I arrived at Toas, bringing the good news of the Messiah, the Lord opened a door there for me (Luke speaking here). Yet my spirit was restless because I could not find my brother Titus. Eventually I old them goodbye and set out for Macedonia.
“Yet I am so thankful to God, who always marches us to victory under the banner of our Liberator, and through us He spreads the beautiful fragrance of His knowledge to every corner of the earth —II Corinthians 2:12-14
It’s obvious that there was a church in Troas when Paul and his associates arrived on board ship. Paul was able to meet with the church when they normally came together for worship. However, this is obviously not a typical day of worship for this congregation. This was a very unusual meeting, prompted by the fact that Paul would be leaving the following morning. Paul extended his message until midnight. In addition to this being a long message, it was late at night, they were on the third floor in an upper room, and there were a number of torches burning to provide light. All this was just too much for young Eutychus, who was sitting in the window. You can almost picture Eutychus slowly succumbing to sleep, until he suddenly drops out of the window, falling to his death three floors below.
I’ll be honest, every time I read this I chuckle . . . whoa I better explain before you think I’m some morose, insensitive clod . . . now there is no doubt that Eutychus was dead, which is very sad, but I remember a large group of college students sitting in my living room one night and someone asked me something, I don’t remember what they asked, but I had them turn to the fifth chapter of Hebrews . . . I began to answer their question, but I had them back up to the beginning of the chapter so we could get a running start and they could understand the context . . . but then we had to back up a little further . . . then a little further and eventually we started at Hebrews 1:1 and went through the entire letter. Now granted, I had a wonderful time teaching the whole letter, so I didn’t notice that occasionally a couple of the people would dose off, while the rest remained in rapt attention . . . then the ones dosing would wake up about the time others would dose off. One good thing though, since we were in our living room none of them ran the risk of falling out of a three story window!
This story about Eutychus has always been an encouraging passage to any pastor. It shows that even the Apostle Paul had people go to sleep on him. Someone has said that the art of preaching is speaking in other people’s sleep. This was certainly the case here. At any rate, Eutychus fought a losing battle against falling asleep. Luke, with his physician’s eye, is quick to make it as easy as possible on him. He tells us that there were many lamps in the upper chamber and each, of course, was burning up the oxygen. So, with the loss of oxygen in the atmosphere, and the late hour, and, perhaps, a long week’s work behind him, and given Paul’s long message, this young man was unable to hold out. He was seated in the window and fell into a deep sleep. Actually the Greek word is the one from which we derive “hypnosis.” He fell into a deep state of hypnosis as Paul droned on, and so he fell from the third floor and was taken up dead.
As I said, there’s no question in my mind that Eutychus was dead. While Paul was only thought to be dead when he was stoned in Lystra, Eutychus was “good-n-dead” when they found him lying on the ground. “They picked him up dead,” Dr. Luke tells us. Nothing can be clearer than these words. Paul’s words, “Do not be distressed, for he is still alive!” The word still is unfortunate because it’s not found in the Greek text, and it is misleading. The boy fell to his death and was taken up dead. Paul then “threw himself on the young man” and “put his arms around him.” The boy came back to life, and Paul announced this fact by saying (literally), “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.”
I have no doubt that Eutychus died and was raised from the dead. What amazes me is the casual and matter-of-fact way that both Paul and Luke deal with this miracle. What an opportunity for Paul to capitalize on this miracle. Not only that, think of how Luke could have embellished the story. And yet we simply read that after the boy was brought back to life, Paul went back upstairs, broke bread with the saints, and then talked with the saints until dawn.
My sense is that Paul was “winding up” his sermon when Eutychus fell to his death. This brought his preaching to an abrupt end, but what could have a better conclusion to his message than the raising of a young lad from death? After they had broken bread together, Paul and the saints talked until dawn. This “talking” wasn’t a formal message, but the sweet fellowship of those who will soon part forever. When morning came, Paul left, and the young boy was taken home alive with those who accompanied him (his parents?) greatly comforted.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts