On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 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. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.
There is a remarkable miracle that spills forth from this upper room church service, stretching on through the wee hours of the night. In the midst of Paul’s endlessly long teaching session, a young man named Eutychus falls soundly asleep and then continues the descent by falling three stories to his death on the ground below, having teetered from the window where he’d been perched. This puts an abrupt end to Paul’s teaching. Presumably everyone rushed outside. Paul, like Elijah and Elisha of old, stretches himself out on the young man, throwing his arms around him, and gives him back alive to the gathered community. An amazing miracle of God’s grace! Then, they return to the upper room.
That’s the nub of the story. But I’ve always been amazed (and amused) by Paul’s long-windedness. Not only does he initially keep on “talking until midnight” (verse 8 ), indeed talking "on and on” (verse 9), but once everyone had returned again to that third story room Paul continued further, “talking until daylight” (verse 11)!
It turns out there are two different words used for the talking Paul does. The talking before the falling-from-the-window incident involves one word, while a different word is used for the talking that occurs afterwards. Two different words for two different kinds of talking with two different purposes.
The first is a word that is often used for Paul’s careful reasoning in the Jewish synagogues. In one town after another he would visit on the Sabbath and engage in this kind of talking, “trying to persuade Jews and Greeks” (Acts 18:4), “explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead” (Acts 17:2). That’s what he’s doing now in this upper room prior to midnight – he’s instructing these brothers and sisters from the Scriptures, wanting to help them get more settled and secure in their understanding of Jesus, leading them to deeper commitment in following his word. Yes, he goes on and on, but it speaks of his heart, rather than his insensitivity – he’s giving his all to these dear ones, maximizing the time because he’ll be leaving first thing in the morning.
But the word that’s used for his talking after midnight is much more relational. It’s less inclined to a classroom and more inclined to a dinner table. It means “to be in company with,” “to associate with,” “to converse with.” Again, it’s a word that speaks of Paul’s heart. He’s interested in going deeper in fellowship and relationship. He wants to know these brothers and sisters, and for them to know him – so he talks.
It’s obvious that Paul believes in the Body of Christ. He clearly knows they need to be built up in understanding, so he uses his God-given gifts of teaching and instruction. But he also realizes that he himself needs to be built up together with them in true community, so he visits and carries on conversation. Both are crucial.
Even if they require staying up through the wee hours of the morning!
Lord, thank you so much for the gift of speech. Thank you that you use it on the lips of teachers to build up understanding and knowledge of you. Thank you that you give it to be used on my own lips to carry burdens, enjoy friendship, and share life – to laugh and pray and counsel and comfort. Thank you for the gift. Help me use it well.
Reflect: How can you use the gift of speech this day to build up some part of the Body of Christ? Is there a person, or is there a group, the Lord is putting in your line of sights?