Summary: The signs and the dangers of falling asleep spiritually, and how Christ can wake us up again.
Windows have been much in my mind the last couple of weeks. The windows in the hall that had rotten frames have all been replaced. But we have hit a snag with the fire escape at the back. The replacement doors are too big and do not fit, this was not discovered until after the old ones had been removed, so they had to be put back in with temporary timber until the correct ones arrive. This led me onto thinking about some of the episodes in the Bible involving windows – the windows placed by Noah in the Ark, Rahab and Joshua’s spies in Jericho, Paul being lowered down out of a window in a basket to escape Jerusalem. But I believe that the Lord has led me to the incident in the ministry of Paul in Acts that we have just read.
They met together
We first see that the believers had gathered together on the first day of the week, Sunday. The day when the Lord had risen from the dead, when most, if not all, of his resurrection appearances were made, also the day when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. It very quickly became known among Christians as ‘the Lord’s day’ – the Lord here referring to Jesus. We see a reference to this at the very start of the book of Revelation (1:10). Very early non-Christian reports about Christians talk of them meeting on the first day of the week. It seems that here in Troas, as early as the days of Paul, it was the custom for believers to meet together on a Sunday, to share fellowship with each other, and importantly, to hear and to listen to the word of God.
Of course they could pray alone at home. Of course they could worship wherever they were. But they also knew the vital necessity of meeting together with other believers for corporate worship and teaching. Jesus himself tells us, recorded in Mark 18:20, that were two or three are gathered together in his name, he is there in the midst of them, in a special way. Hebrews chapter 10 also tells us of the importance of meeting together as believers, to encourage and to strengthen each other in our faith. Our faith is not to be a lonely or an individual one, but to be shared in a community.
It is vital, therefore, that we do meet together, spend time together in worship, hearing the word of God, in fellowship and in encouraging each other. Since the very early days of the Church this has normally been on a Sunday, the first day of the week, to celebrate our risen Lord. He never intended us to try to live the Christian life alone, without the support of each other. If we neglect meeting together both we and the rest of the Church suffer.
The danger of sleep
It was a long meeting. Paul had been speaking for a long time, it was late, time that they would normally have been in bed. It was dark outside.
In the early days of the Church, believers were often persecuted, and would meet in darkness and secrecy; in fact some opponents even claimed that they met under cover of darkness to plan schemes to overthrow the government and various horrendous crimes. But here in Troas there was no secrecy. They boldly had the room as well lit as they possibly could, with numerous oil lamps and perhaps candles. All these flames created a smoky and stuffy atmosphere. No wonder then that a young man, probably tired after a busy day, late at night, began to doze. The text suggests that he fought against sleep, that he tried to stay awake, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stop himself drifting off. We are probably all familiar with this experience, of being tired, in a sleepy atmosphere, but desperately wanting to stay awake and not managing it. Perhaps it has even happened to some of us in a meeting here (perhaps while I have been preaching!) We feel our eyes glazing, and we wake ourselves up with a jolt, but a minute or two later off we go again.
Poor Eutychus, if only he had been sitting on the floor, and not on the window ledge – perhaps he had moved up there to try and get some fresh air in the hope of staying awake. Maybe as the sermon was so long he was starting to get a bit bored – we know after all from Paul’s own letters that he did not have much of a platform or a pulpit ‘presence’, and he was mocked for his style of preaching. As he finally slipped into the sleep that he had fought, he fell backwards, out through the window and down from the third floor to the ground. The others rushed out when they saw what had happened, but he was dead. If only a brother or sister had noticed him drifting off and had sat with him, helping him to say awake. Perhaps then it would not have happened.