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PAUL RAISED A DEAD YOUNG MAN

Acts 20:1-20:12
Key Verse: 20:10

Thank God for blessing our post-ISBC symposium worship service last week. Thank God that we could receive God’s words more deeply through this. Vine and branch relationship is sharing life together with Jesus in commitment to him. Life commitment is the full surrender to the will of God. In Jesus’ words on the cross, “it is finished” we see that we are so loved and are to so love. God wants us to bear much fruit to his glory by remaining in Jesus, especially inner fruit of growing in Jesus’ image. We can remain in Jesus by obeying his command, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” In our life of faith we need to fix our eyes on Jesus and run the race of faith steadfastly.

Now we return to the study of Acts. In the last lesson we studied about Paul in Ephesus, and about how he pioneered this city particularly through daily intensive Bible study. In this way,the word of the Lord spread widely in the whole province of Asia and grew in power. Amid the great work of God a great disturbance arose. But God protected Paul and the gospel work. In today’s passage we can think about travels after leaving Ephesus, and his raising a young man from the dead.

First, Paul’s travels (1-6). In the previous passage, after seeing the powerful gospel work Paul decided to go to Jerusalem through Macedonia. This was to deliver the Gentile’s offering to the poverty-stricken believers in Jerusalem. And he said, “After I have been there, I must visit Rome also.” Then he sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer. Next the incident of the uproar is recorded. Look at verse 1. “When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia.” Because of the uproar in the city the disciples may have been discouraged and dismayed and wanted to keep their faith in secret. But Paul sent for the disciples and encouraged them. How precious the disciples were! After saying good-by, Paul sent out for Macedonia, where Timothy and Erastus had been sent ahead.

Look at verse 2. “He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people…” He probably spent several months revisiting the Macedonian churches he had founded on his second missionary journey, namely: Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea. Luke describes Paul's ministry to them as "speaking many words of encouragement" to the people. We can encourage others with the words of God when we remain in Jesus. Paul finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months. During this time he wrote his major manifesto of Christian faith and life, his Letter to Romans. Then verse 3b says, “Because the Jews made a plot against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia.” He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Brea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. These were the beautiful fruits of Paul’s consistent missionary journeys. Paul’s entourage consisted of at least nine men including Paul himself and Luke. Thus, Paul had both those who stood against him, and those for him--his disciples and coworkers.

Look at verses 5 and 6. “These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas...” Troas was an unforgettable place where Paul had seen the vision of a man of Macedonia begging him for help (16:9). Now Paul’s entourage gathered and stayed there seven days.

This part can be a snapshot of Paul's missionary travels . He must have followed God’s guidance carefully in his decisions about where to go, whom to meet, what to do, and how long to stay.

We can characterize life as journey. We walk on each path in life. We do not see the full view of our paths. But our ways are in full view of the LORD (Pro 5:21) and he leads us according to his purpose in his grand plan. Those who follow his leading and his way by obeying his word are truly blessed and they will get to the final station which God has prepared. Numbers 33 is about stages in Israel’s journey. The Israelites set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after the Passover. They left Rameses and camped at Sukkoth. "They left" and "they camped" are written repeatedly throughout the 46 verses, finally ending at their encampment on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho, 40 years of journeying. Each time they "left" and "camped", the Israelites did not see the full view but followed God’s leading at each step, and finally reached the place of God’s destination. It was like making a mosaic, or piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. What they did was put a piece at each time not knowing what the outcome would be. Then as they put one piece after another, they could see a better picture at each time until the picture was made whole and complete. This is the blessing of those who follow God’s leading in obedience to him at each stage of life. Those who follow their desires and ideas cannot have this blessing. May we all experience the blessings of such traveling in life, following his way at each step. I thank God for Jemmie’s new commitment to Jesus and Peter’s fully surrendering to the will of God through 2013 ISBC.

Second, Paul raises a young man (7-12). Look at verse 7. “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.” This is the first description of Christians’ gathering on Sunday. It was called the Lord’s Day (Rev 1:10). The Jews had gathered in the synagogue on Saturday. The Christians gathered on Sunday for two reasons. First, to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, who was raised on the first day of the week. Secondly to distinguish Christianity from Judaism. Christianity is not the continuation of Judaism. It is transcendent. What happened on this Lord’s day? Look at verse 7b. “Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.” So it was a long Sunday worship service, which probably began at the sunset after the day’s work. What happened next? Look at verse 8. “There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.” The "we" here is again indicative of Luke's own physical presence at the occasion. “Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead.” This was a vivid description of an eye-witness: a young man named Eutychus, seated in a window--probably for fresh air, sinks into a deep sleep, and falls to the ground from the third floor. What an unexpected tragic event! Can you imagine the situation? While they were worshipping God, this event took place: a young man fell dead! Luke clearly wrote that he was "young" and "picked up dead". How could such a thing happen? Many questions and grumbles may have arisen in people’s minds at that moment: “Could not God who is in control prevent this accident?” “Is God living?” “Why such an extensive worship service with a long sermon?” Didn’t Paul now know that the people were tired after a long day of work?” Paul could have been the target of the criticism as the cause of such a tragedy and God’s name could have been disgraced. The Troas Tribune's headlines the next day might read, “Young Man found Dead at Christian Gathering"

In truth Paul did not do anything wrong. He was serving God wholeheartedly following God’s guidance. He was feeding God’s flock of sheep with all his heart and strength. He wanted to glorify God through the worship service, investing everything he had. Yet, such a thing happened. This might be the worst kind of thing that could happen in life, especially in the lives of believers. When this kind of totally unexpected thing happens, many Christians can doubt God’s love and become bitter and sorrowful and helpless.

Then how did Paul respond to such an awful event? What did he do? Look at verse 10. “Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘He’s alive!’” Wow! What a response! How could Paul respond such a way? We learn three things very clearly.

First of all, it is certain that Paul absolutely believed in God’s goodness. God is good all the time, even in such a situation. He wrote in Romans 8:28, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We really need this kind of faith, faith in God’s absolute goodness whatever happens in life. Then all things become opportunities to reveal God’s glory. When Sara was detained and deported and was in a situation she could not attend 2013 ISBC, at first I wondered why such a thing happened at the final stage of her internship training. Then God led me to think that God must be consistent in his goodness and way of leading and God’s name should not be dishonoured. So we challenged the situation to the end. And God himself opened the way for her to go, even in such an impossible situation.

Secondly, Paul had resurrection faith. How could he dare to think and challenge to raise the dead? Luke a doctor was there, and even the doctor could not do anything with a man’s death. In this world death is the end of everything in one’s life. But Paul had faith in the resurrection of Jesus. So he could challenge the situation to raise the dead. He believed that the Almighty God could raise the dead. With that faith he did what he could do. He threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. Because of his resurrection faith, God’s glory was displayed in that situation. Look at verse 11. “Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left.” It was a glorious and dramatic moment through. It turned out to be the real celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on the first day of the week, on the Lord’s day. What glory revealed through Paul’s resurrection faith! We remember in Acts that in the course of preaching the gospel he himself was stoned and dragged outside the city. The people thought he was dead. But Paul got up and went back into the city. Those who have resurrection faith are undefeatable in any situation. As we truly believe in Jesus’ resurrection, we should also challenge any impossible situation and render glory to God. Resurrection faith enables us to win a victory over any situation.

One’s resurrection faith stems from the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead. Believing this fact is very important. As we have been studying in Acts, this was a constant message the author intended to deliver to the readers from chapter 1. Luke wrote in 1:3 that after his suffering, Jesus showed himself to his disciples and gave many convincing proofs hat he was alive. Then Luke continually wrote that God raised Jesus from the dead (2:24; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:40; 17:3,31). Luke also recorded the event of Peter’s raising the dead, a woman named Tabitha. And then Luke himself witnessed Paul’s raising the dead and wrote it here. When we believe the truth that God raised Jesus from the dead based on his words, we can have resurrection faith. That’s why we study the resurrection of Jesus in the four gospels again and gain. And this is the reason Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:3,4, “For what I received I passed on you to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures.”

Thirdly, Paul had a shepherd heart for the young man. In this story Luke stresses that Eutychus was a young man. Look at verse 12. “The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.” Young people are not to die but live and work hard for the glory of God. In Luke’s gospel chapter 7, Jesus raised a young man, the only son of a widow, who was being carried in a coffin to the graveyard. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” (Lk 7:14). At this the dead young man sat up and began to talk. No young man should lie down in the coffin and be carried away, he should rather get up and walk and talk, and live. In John chapter 11, when a young man was buried and put in a cave, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” (Jn 11:43). Then the dead young man came out. A young man should not be confined in a cave but come out of it and walk and run for the glory of God. Thank God that here are many young men and women. Young people should live vigorously and display the glory of God in their lives. We all need the spirit of young people. I was surprised to hear heard of a 20 year old young man saying, “I am really old.” We pray that many young people be raised from their deadened states and live powerfully for the glory of God.

In our life journeys many things can happen, expected and unexpected. May we firmly believe God’s goodness and challenge any situation with resurrection faith. May God raise up many young men and women to be his servants in this generation.

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