We’re reading Acts 20:1-12 today.
I heard a story of a preacher who mid sermon discovered that a member of his congregation had fallen fast asleep. It happens of course and while most preachers choose to ignore such incidents, this preacher was apparently much more proactive. He called to a man sat behind the sleeper and said; ‘would you mind waking that man up, he’s fast asleep’. The man assessed the situation carefully and then replied; ‘you sent him to sleep, you wake him up!’
The first section of today’s passage is full of activity. Paul is again on the move, heading for Jerusalem (19:21) via a round trip through Greece that meant covering many hundreds of miles. Travelling was always dangerous in ancient times but for Paul there was the constant threat of evil men seeking to kill him.
From the epistles we discover some information to flesh out the picture. Firstly we learn that Paul was worried about the church in Corinth and Titus who he had sent there. He writes of having; ‘conflicts on the outside, fears within’ (2 Corinthians 7:5) and later; ‘Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches’ (2 Corinthians 11:28). Remember, Paul isn’t worried about Church buildings, he is worried about people.
Secondly, it’s clear from a number of his letters that Paul was collecting money from the gentile Churches to supply food to the Churches in Jerusalem where there was a famine (Romans 15:25-32, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8-9). This is possibly why Paul had such a large group with him. with representatives from a number of Churches; he wanted to open about how the money was handled. It’s a lovely picture of the Church at work; the Jewish Christians had been gracious in welcoming gentile believers into the Church and now gentile Christians were being generous to their Jewish brothers and sisters in Christ. It is how it should be, for us the question is how are we doing in meeting the needs of our fellow Christians, many of whom live in poverty.
We have already read; ‘Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months’ 19:8). Now that is a long sermon! Seriously, Paul it seems did speak for long periods; ‘Paul talked on and on’ (20:9). There are all the elements to make people feel sleepy; a late night, lamps burning up the oxygen and a long message. No wonder poor Eutychus fell asleep. There is an amazing miracle here; a young man was raised back to life. God was present and at work in his Church. But God was also at work through the teaching of Paul – longwinded or not. We live in a culture where our minds are assaulted by so many different devices and messages. We don’t listen to political speeches we listen to soundbites. That’s all fine until we bring those attitudes to our approach to Scripture. Much of the Bible is difficult to understand and we all need solid teaching on the word of God. That isn’t something we can do in 5-10 minutes, we need to dig deep and grapple with the issues.
Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory. (Speak O Lord – Keith Getty and Stuart Townend)