The incident took place at Troas as the Apostle Paul and his companions were on their way back to Jerusalem in the course of Paul’s third missionary journey about 57 AD Luke, who had sailed from Philippi with Paul to Troas, recorded the circumstances in Acts 20:6-12. Besides Luke, Paul had seven other travelling companions; Sopater of Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus of essalonica, Gaius and Timotheus of Derbe, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia (Acts 20:4).

It was the first day of the week, Paul’s last full day at Troas, and the occasion was the memorial meeting. They were remembering the death and resurrection of Christ. Paul spoke. The term used, as well as the length of time that he spoke, suggests, perhaps, questions and discussion were involved. Further, Luke points out that “Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow …”, implying that in view of his imminent departure, Paul was determined to use the time available to the full. His message was important, they needed to hear it and time was short as he would soon be gone. So he continued on until midnight and “there were many lights (lamps) in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together” (v8). So it was midnight and the disciples were, in the main, alert and listening to the Gospel message and their lamps were burning. There is only one other record in the New Testament of disciples with lamps, at midnight. We are being reminded of the Parable of the Ten Virgins of Matthew 25:1-13, when some were ready with lamps primed with the oil of the Word, awaiting their Master’s return and others were not ready.

And just as the parable spoke of disciples sleeping as they awaited the call, so young Eutychus, who with youthful bravado had taken a dangerous position in an opening in the wall, fell asleep and fell down, from his precarious position, to his death. The verse tells us that he had “fallen into a deep sleep” and then “he sunk down with sleep” (v9). When a matter, perfectly clear in one statement is repeated, we are meant to pay attention. The Word of God was being spoken, and he had fallen asleep, a sleep so deep that it cost him his life. Luke, in his Gospel, mentions other occasions when disciples were asleep. At the time of the transfiguration, “Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep”(Luke 9:32). They had to wake up to see Christ’s glory. In the garden, too, they let their Lord down as they slept: “And he said unto them, Why sleep ye? Rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation” (Luke 22:46). Our Lord chides them gently. He understood and forgave human weakness but there is nothing flattering about being asleep when the Word of God is being spoken, and the work of God is to be done.

Eutychus fell down, “and was taken up dead” (v9). They ran down and found the lad was dead. What a disaster. Verse 10 tells us that the Apostle Paul’s response was immediate; he “went down” too, as we would expect. There is an Elijah response from the great Apostle. He “fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him”. There was an exercise of divine power through the Apostle and Eutychus was both raised from the dead and his injuries healed. The day of resurrection will be like that; a day of joyous embraces, as loved ones are restored to life. We might pause here to note a particular term used by Luke, which he has used before. The expression, “he fell on him,” literally has the sense, “he threw himself upon him” (Bauer). The precise term is used in Luke 15:20 to describe the father of the Prodigal Son, who virtually threw himself upon his son with joy at his restoration. So two men are restored: one from death, and the other from a way of life which was leading to death. In both cases, there was great joy and, furthermore, there was no recrimination. The Apostle does not raise fortunate Eutychus (his name means “fortunate”) and then berate him for falling asleep. There is only joy, for he “was dead and is alive again (Luke 15:24)!”

“When he therefore was come up again,” (v11) refers particularly to Paul as he went up with the brothers and sisters to the third loft again. But perhaps there is a side reference to Eutychus, who had come up to life from the dead. Some, it seems, took Eutychus away, perhaps home to rest, while the Apostle continued to speak after the breaking of bread. How poignant to be engaged in the memorials of our Lord’s death and resurrection when the sorrow of death and the joy of resurrection had so recently been starkly set before them all. How fervent those discussions around the Word would be as the Apostle discoursed with them, all far too excited now for sleep, until the new day dawned.

As dawn came and Paul was about to set off on foot alone on the Roman road to Assos (his companions would travel by ship), the disciples of Troas brought with them to farewell the Apostle, the young man, Eutychus. What a way to end one day and begin another. The God of all comfort was active that day. The boy was alive, surrounded by the ecclesia in love. It was the quickest resurrection, or at least on par with the quickest recorded in Scripture: in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye it took place as he was given new life. The resurrection at the last day will be like that and in God’s mercy after judgment and renewal, we too will be young men and young women again in the new life of divine nature.

For the Apostle Paul, this resurrection was the most powerful public divine confirmation of his apostleship and a further testimony to the truth of the Gospel. It took place in Troas on the edge of Asia and the gateway to Europe. Many witnesses were there, including representatives from many ecclesias and localities, who would take this story back home with them in time. Many others passing through Troas would be told of this amazing story. And Eutychus was a young man, who we might surmise would live on for many years, perhaps to the end of the first century and beyond, as a living witness to all who came that way, to the power of God seen in the memorials on that glad day and seen in his amazing resurrection from the dead.

The ecclesia had oil in their lamps when the midnight challenge came. Life and forgiveness triumphed over sin and death as new life ourished “in the twinkling of an eye”. Sweet fellowship in the presence of Christ followed and joy came in the morning. It was the last recorded resurrection. The last enemy which shall be destroyed is death. It was an evening to inspire for a lifetime.