It wasn’t exactly the most flattering response...
Modern day theologians would have him on a spit: How in the world do you sleep so much that you fall dead over a ledge during a church service?
Honestly, I don’t know. What I find fascinating was Paul’s response.
I would have expected this guy to have been speedily buried and his story used as a sermon to illustrate why sleeping in church can cost you your life!
It’s one of the least-told stories tucked in the 20th chapter of Acts. A boy falls asleep and dead (all in the same sermon) and gets raised back to life by the preacher who couldn’t keep him awake!
Paul obviously knew something we don’t.
People are people. Because they are, they make mistakes and get into trouble. Jesus put it this way: it is the sick that need a doctor. Paul extrapolated: Grace is no excuse for wallowing in sin, but when we fall (and yes, we do), there is a high priest who advocates for us.
I wouldn’t have been too surprised if the story had involved Jesus instead of Paul. It’s the kind of thing Jesus is known for: defending the adulteress, employing a tax collector, being the house guest of Zacchaeus.
Jesus receiving the prodigal? Yep, that's a picture we're familiar with. Jesus is full of mercy and grace. We who call ourselves his followers . . . not so much.
Paul, for a time, was the kind of guy I used to find intimidating: zero tolerance for sin, fierce as a Christian persecutor, fiercer as a Christian preacher.
So why didn’t he just cite the boy as an example of God’s righteous wrath shown to deter the sin of church snooze?
Paul understood the concept of grace.
Having been forgiven, he laid no claim to big brother’s self-righteousness. He knew what it was like to have someone else pay the price for his salvation. He knew his CV didn’t count for much once he stood before God, and so he was able to bite his tongue and (I love this), put his arms around Eutychus, and miracle upon miracles, the boy was resurrected!
The strategy still works. People troop into churches with broken hearts, sleepy faith and hurt filled souls and they get sermons that can sometimes push them over the edge (no offense).
There are times, however, when a hug goes further to bring resurrection than the threat of brimstone and hell fire. There aren’t a lot of diehard, church-attending sinners. The miracle most people need are arms of love, and that often illustrates the Jesus we preach far better than a ten point sermon will.
There’s nothing wrong with giving a sermon, Paul eventually got back to his, but even as I wonder how much of the sermon was remembered, I’m pretty sure that miracle of resurrection was never forgotten.
Not everyone can preach a great sermon, but most folks can give a smile, give an encouraging word, or give a hug.
Don’t fuss about not being the world’s greatest preacher.
You never know what you're bringing back to life when you let Jesus use your arms of love.
Now go get some coffee before church!
Written by Afra Opoku
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