Acts 20:7–12 (ESV)✞: Eutychus Raised from the Dead
This is a short passage—in fact, I’m only taking part of the passage as broken down by the ESV headings—but it was thematically separate so it didn’t make sense to bundle it in with another.
Paul and some companions (including Luke himself) are in Troas on the first day of the week, but planning to leave the next day, so Paul seems to want to talk to the people in Troas as much as he can for the short while he’s there. He keeps going until after midnight, until a young man named Eutychus succumbs to sleep.
Given the long day, the way that long speeches can lull one into sleepiness, and the fact that the room was probably very warm—Luke makes a point of mentioning the fact that there are many lamps in the room where they’re gathered—it’s not surprising that Eutychus falls asleep but he’s sitting at the window and when he falls asleep he falls out – to his death!
Paul heads back inside, they eat, and he continues to talk until daybreak, whereupon he leaves as planned. We’re told that the people of Troas are “not a little comforted” (v. 12 (ESV)✞) that Eutychus is alive.
I often think of this passage as being a pastor’s worst nightmare: everyone is so caught up in talking about spiritual things that this boy falls out a window and dies. (Not that I think we could have blamed Paul for this – but I’m sure he would have blamed himself, rational or not.)
That being said, the ESV Study Bible points out that Luke is likely attempting to present this as a humorous episode:
Acts 20:9 The story has a touch of humor and a happy outcome. The etymology of the name Eutychus is “lucky, fortunate.” The “many lamps” (v. 8) and long sermon likely led “Lucky” to seek air in the window, but he fell asleep anyway and fell three stories. Taken up dead (not “as dead”) indicates his actual death.
ESV Study Bible
It’s easy to read this passage as another person being raised from the dead, as if it’s commonplace, though we should remember that it’s not common at all! There are a few high-profile instances where people do die and get raised from the dead, but not many; we shouldn’t assume Paul was wandering around the Roman empire raising dead people back to life all over the place.
At least, not in the physical sense. In a spiritual sense many people were born again as a direct result of Paul’s ministry, and untold millions as an indirect result by reading his letters in the New Testament.
I do find Paul’s words interesting when he finds the boy, however:
But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.”
The First Day of the Week
Another point that the ESV Study Bible pointed out, that I wouldn’t have caught myself, is around this occurring on the “first day of the week,” which means Sunday, so this is the first mention in Acts of worship on Sunday.
- The passage doesn’t say he “rushed,” but it’s a fair assumption. ↩