I remember it was early spring and unseasonably warm. It was just after Passover. I can still smell the warm, salted breeze coming off the Aegean sea, and hear the squalk of seagulls circling above. We stood on the hill overlooking the harbor and waited for the ship to appear on the horizon. The ship was carrying the Great Apostle we had heard so much about.
The stories were unbelievable. In every city he visited remarkable things took place. A cripple was healed in one city. A slave girl was freed from an evil spirit in another. He was worshiped as a god one moment and nearly stoned to death the next. Nothing matched the stories told about his time in Ephesus. There his preaching upset the entire economy and started a riot in the theater one day. Another day his preaching led local occultists to burn their expensive books of magic spells in a large bonfire. The most remarkable rumor of all was the claim that peope were being healed of various diseases just by touching Paul’s hankerchiefs!
Well, who in their right mind can believe such fanstic fairytales like these? I certainly couldn’t….that is, until the incident.
My name in Greek means “Lucky.” I’ll let you decide if the name fits after you hear my story. I was a teenager at the time. I prided myself in being an intelligent, rational person who was not going to believe everything I heard — especially regarding these traveling preachers and so-called wonderworkers. I had seen enough charltans and frauds in my short life to keep me suspicious of such people and their claims.
But the one thing I couldn’t shake was the way that Dr. Luke talked about the apostle….this Saul or Paul or whatever he went by. You’re probably aware that it was Dr. Luke whom God would later ask to put the adventures of Paul into writing in what is now called The Acts of the Apostles. And what a brilliant choice, too!
He was well educated, his scientific mind gave him an eye for details and accuracy, and he was a personal traveling companion of Paul and eyewitness to many of the things he records in Acts. He also had a real knack for storytelling — especially stories of epic journeys and heroic adventures. His favorite was, of course, Homer’s stories of Oddyseus, his wild sea voyages and Helen of Troy and the Trojan Horse. You see, Dr. Luke and I both lived in the city of Troas — a city built right on top the ancient ruins of Troy where these events supposedly took place.
Dr. Luke was our family physician. It was during one of Dr. Luke’s visits to our home (I think mother was running a fever at the time) that I first heard him talking about Paul’s ministry. (As a doctor he was especially interested in the miraculous healings that were happening through Paul). I simply couldn’t understand how a clear-headed, scientifically-minded person like Dr. Luke could be convinced that Paul was the real deal. So I decided I had to go hear him for myself the next time he came to town.
When the day came for his ship to arrive, we all waited to greet the great apostle as he came to shore. And that evening all the followers of this Jesus — “Christians” they were called — held one of their weekly meetings together. I think they called them “love feasts”….which sounded strange to me.
(Enemies of the new sect would soon be spreading rumors across the empire accusing these Christians of engaging in cannibalism and incestuous orgies in these “love feasts” based on the reports that they partook of a special meal where they ate the flesh and blood of their leader, and husbands and wives called one another as brother and sister.) But Dr. Luke reassured me that these gatherings were nothing to fear, and I was welcome to attend.
They gathered typically on the first day of the week in the evening — the day that Jesus came back from the grave. Not on the sabbath as other Jews did. This was a work day and so the believers would drag themselves together, all dirty and grimy, hot and sweaty, exhausted and very hungry after a full days’ work.
I’ll never forget the loud, joyous laughter I heard coming from the upper room as I climbed the exterior staircase to eaves drop on my first Christian gathering. Dr. Luke, a man of some means, generously opened his house for the gatherings.
Just like a typical teenager, I showed up late. And by now there was no place left to sit. Half the village had packed in to hear the great apostle and the room was a sea of bodies covering every surface in the room — chairs were full, couches were full, and every square inch of the floor was occupied. As I scanned the room for any place to stand or sit, I spotted across the room an empty window ledge that would do just fine.
I made my way through the sea of people on the floor stepped on some hands and tripping over feet, until I reached the window, climbed up and began to observe these Christians.
After a joyous supper and the breaking of bread, Paul began to speak and a somber mood overtook the packed room. Paul sensed an ominous cloud hanging over his future, and knew this would be his last time with us, his last chance to encourage the believers in what it means to follow Jesus. His words still haunt me today. I remember him saying:
“And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit warns me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me” (Acts 20:22-23).
Now, that’s enough to overwhelm most anyone. But Paul….he seemed fearless. It seemed as though nothing could shake that guy’s faith….not even death threats in every city. His next statement still echoes in my ears, so laced with fierce determination and unflinching fortitude:
“I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…” ACTS 20:24
“For me, to live is Christ, and to die is even better!”
What kind of a madman talks like this?!
What kind of madman would hold his own life in such low regard?
Why would someone spend his entire life going city to city, crossing land and sea, carrying only a message of a crucified Jewish carpenter?
Why does he insist on sharing his message every opportunity he gets with every person he meets?
Why would anyone endure the kinds of hardships that this apostle endured? He was repeated whipped, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, hungry, lonely, and ridiculed where ever he went.
What message could be so important to put up with such suffering and hardship?
I couldn’t understand.
I just didn’t get it.
I came that night to see a miracleworker….and all I heard was a preacher giving warnings and desperate appeals to people. He warned about people whose lives were spiritually bankrupt and were headed toward destruction. He warned us that many people are spiritually in the dark, blind and deaf to spiritual realities. He went on and one about staying awake and alert, sober minded and so on…. Honestly, I lost interest after a awhile and don’t really remember much more.
I just remember that Paul talked ON AND ON AND ON AND ON….until well after midnight!
As each hour passed, the room grew stuffier and warmer with so many bodies sprawled across the room. And there were oil lamps scattered about the room, each one putting off a vapor that created a hazy fog that began to make me drowsy. My eye lids slowly began to droop, growing heavier by the second.
I tried to breathe in the cool night air through the window I was sitting in. But it was a losing battle…and the last words I remember coming from Paul’s mouth before I drifted off to sleep were something like, “Let us not be like others, who are spiritually asleep, but let us be awake and sober…..”
[falling noise (whistling) with sudden THUD — smack hand on table…]
[soft voice] Have you ever had one of those dreams where you were falling and falling and falling, and then you wake up just before you hit bottom? Remember the great relief you feel when you sit up, cold sweat dripping, and realize it was just a dream?
Well, imagine falling asleep in a third story window, and feeling that same falling sensation as you slip off the ledge in real life, and instead of waking up before you reach the ground, you hit bottom and the next thing you experience is total blackness, nothingness.
You see, I died that day….. I DIED!
But remember my name means “Lucky.”
Lucky?!?! But what kind of luck lets a guy go to church, fall asleep during the sermon, fall out a window and die! Can you imagine the headline in next morning’s Mediterranean Times or Imperial Journal newspaper?
“LONG SERMON KILLS BORED TEENAGER”
“FALLING ALSEEP IN CHURCH EVOKES WRATH OF GOD”
I would have been humiliated if it weren’t for the fact that I was dead — at least for a moment!
You see, that wasn’t the end of the story for me. Remember, my name means “Lucky.” But there wasn’t nothing lucky about what happened next. It was all the power of this Jesus who Paul spoke of at work.
Now, as you can imagine, there was hysteria and confusion when people saw me fall out the window. There was a mad rush down the stairs….but no one could outrun the caring shepherd as he stopped his sermon in mid-sentence to go care for the careless sheep who had fallen off the cliff, or window!
Dr. Luke described to me later what happened next. People watched in stunned silence as Paul ran to my still body. Everyone was holding their breath, praying desperate prayers to the God of these Christians. Dr. Luke felt for a pulse and confirmed the worst had happened. I was dead.
But Paul…well, not even Death itself was enough to intimidate the audacious Apostle Paul. You have to know that Paul was so thoroughly steeped in and shaped by the Scriptures that in this dire moment of need, he instinctively did exactly what other heroes of the Bible did in similar situations. He did exactly what Elijah did with the son of the widow at Zarephath, and as Elisha did with the son of the Shunnamite woman: He stretched himself on top of my body, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands and prayed until my body grew warm with new life (cf. 2 Kings 4:32-37)!
I awoke to cheers and praises to the Jesus who had said years ealier, “I am the resurrection and the life!” And I awoke to see the face of the great apostle, with tears of joy dripping off his beard onto my pale face that was beginning to regain its color. Paul held me tenderly, the sheep he had almost lost, in his calloused hands. I’ll never forget that moment.
I was born again! I was given a second chance. My skepticism was swept away in one moment as I experienced the power of the Christ whom Paul served. I became a believer.
My name is Lucky.
So….let me ask again: Why would someone spend his entire life going city to city, crossing land and sea, carrying only a message of a Jewish carpenter raised from the dead?
Why did Paul insist on sharing his message every opportunity he gets with every person he meets?
Why would anyone endure the kinds of hardships that this apostle endured?
What message could be so important?
As I laid on my back under the mediterranean stars and breathed in the cool midnight air again for the first moments of my new life…..I understood. It all began to make sense. My life in that upper room moments earlier had become a living parable.
Everywhere Paul went he saw men and woman just like me, spiritually sleepwalking toward a cliff, living lives a part from God, inching ever closer to the edge of despair and sudden destruction.
Everywhere Paul went he saw people who had already fallen and crashed, already spiritually dead and powerless to do anything about it.
But Paul knew that Jesus could at anytime, through his preaching, awaken faith, jolt people out of their spiritual haze, prevent people from falling to their own ultimate destruction, and even when it looks to be too late, Jesus can (and does!) raise dead people back to new life to give them a second chance!
So, friends, I have learned since that day to be on the lookout like the Apostle Paul for those people around me who may be inching closer to the edge, those who are on the verge of falling asleep at the wheel, those who are spiritually unconscious or just going through the motions like a spiritual sleepwalker.
I have chosen to follow in Paul’s footsteps in rousing others from their own spiritual slumber, echoing the words of Paul:
“The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” (Rom. 13:11-12)
I am now awake to the life of God! How about you? I was given a second chance — for my name is Lucky. Perhaps this is your lucky day, too. Will you receive your gift of a new life today?
My name is Eutychus. This is my story.
Based on Acts 20:7-12:
7 On the first day of the week, as we gathered together for a meal, Paul was holding a discussion with them. Since he was leaving the next day, he continued talking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we had gathered. 9 A young man named Eutychus was sitting in the window. He was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell from the third floor and died. 10 Paul went down, fell on him and embraced him, then said, “Don’t be alarmed. He’s alive!” 11 Then Paul went back upstairs and ate. He talked for a long time—right up until daybreak—then he left. 12 They took the young man away alive, and they were greatly comforted.