The Walkng Dead, Eutychus

November 3, 2013

It was a tragedy, and worse than that it was a tragedy that
could have been prevented. But really isn’t that the way of most tragedies?
So here we are, week four of our Walking Dead series, so far
we have looked at 10 lepers who were healed and given their lives back.  In many ways the lepers were the walking
dead, when they were diagnosed they were declared legally dead, their spouse
was allowed to remarry and their estate was divided amongst their heirs.  And Jesus miraculously intervened and literally
gave them their lives back.  In week two
we looked at the story of Lazarus and how he had been dead for four days when
Jesus called him out of his tomb and gave him his life back.   When he appeared in the door of the tomb
with his grave clothes hanging off him, he must have scared some of those folks
half to death.  For many he would always
be one of the walking dead, “Look there goes Lazarus, you know he was dead and
then Jesus made him alive.  That is so
wrong.” 
And then last week Pastor Ben took us on an awesome ride to
the Valley of the Dead Bones, even sounds like a great name for a horror
movie. 
If you are new to Cornerstone or visiting today you might be
wondering, what’s with this Walking Dead stuff? 
Halloween is finished.   Well, through
October and November we are looking at stories from the Bible where people have
been given their lives back.
When we are familiar with the bible it’s easy to normalize
these stories, but they aren’t normal. 
Dead men aren’t called out of their tombs; people with incurable
diseases aren’t suddenly and miraculously healed, valleys full of dry bones don’t
suddenly begin to move. 
The title of our theme comes from a Television show that set
in a post-apocalyptic world populated by Zombies or Walkers as they are called
in the show.  The hero of the show is
Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes who joins with a small band of survivors  who are trying to stay alive while at the
same time solve the mystery of what has happened to the world as they knew it
and whether or not they will be able to reverse the Zombie Apocalypse.  In honour of the geekiness of the entire show
each week I am wearing a themed T-shirt. 
 
Lest you think that Zombies and the walking dead are
something not to be taken serious.  The
CDC, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has an entire section of
their website dedicated to Zombie Preparedness and has produced a 40 page
Graphic novel on that theme. Granted the CDC claims they aren’t actually
preparing for a Zombie Apocalypse, they are simple using the concept as a
teaching tool.  Or so they say.  
It was a tragedy, and worse than that it was a tragedy that
could have been prevented. But really isn’t that the way of most tragedies?
So let’s recap the story.  Paul is on what is often referred to as his
last missionary journey and he ends up making a brief stopover in Troas, which
if we bring up our trusty map we discover is located here in what is now called
Turkey.   After being there a week Paul
is ready to move on to Assos by land. 
But before he leaves we are told Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week,
we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was
preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until
midnight.   It is interesting to note
that the church has gathered to celebrate communion, not on the Sabbath which
was Saturday or the last day of the week but instead on Sunday the first day of
the week.  The day that is referred to as
“The Lord’s Day” and is commemorated because it was the day of the
resurrection.  And because he was leaving
the next day Paul wanted to spend as much time as possible bringing the church
up to speed and teaching them all they would need to know as believers.  And so we are told that he talked until
midnight.   A couple of weeks ago I was in Moncton as part
of a task force on New Church Development and I roomed with AJ Thomas the
pastor at Deep Water Church.  And we
talked until after one in the morning. 
But the difference is that we talked and here it said that Paul
talked.  This wasn’t a discussion, Paul
was downloading as much information as possible for the believers.
And as we continue on in the
story we read Acts 20:8-9 The upstairs room where we met was lighted with many
flickering lamps. As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting
on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and
dropped three stories to his death below.
So it’s easy to visualize
what’s happening.  It’s late, people have
worked all day and now that have come weary but eager to listen to Paul.  They meet in a room crowded with people,
probably hot and stuffy to start with, 
lit with oil lamps and not just a few, the author here, who was an eye
witness, makes sure we understand that there were many flickering lamps.  This isn’t just a detail he throws in, we are
told that the author, Luke, was a doctor and I’m sure he seeking to isolate or
at least identify some of the causes for what would happen. 
And the hero of the story
begins to nod off, but instead of slumping asleep in his chair he tips back
through an open window and falls to his death. 
Now I understand that there are those who would suggest that Eutychus
wasn’t dead that he was just knocked senseless. 
But remember that this was a doctor who witnessed what had
happened.  The word that Luke uses in the
original language is the Greek word “nekros” and it means “dead”.  That word is used 132 times in the New
Testament and each time it means “dead” not senseless, not unconscious but
dead. 
Luke seems pretty sure of
himself in this case, as opposed to a story told by the same author earlier in
the book of Acts.  There he was talking
about Paul being stoned for preaching the gospel and we are told in Acts 14:19 Then
some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side.
They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. They
thought Paul was dead they knew Eutychus was dead.  Or as that great modern day philosopher Homer
Simpson summed it up “Don’t let Krusty’s death get you down, boy. People die
all the time, just like that. Why, you could wake up dead tomorrow! Well, good
night.”
Eutychus fell asleep and woke up dead. 
It was a tragedy, and worse than that it was a tragedy that
could have been prevented. But really isn’t that the way of most tragedies?  And tragedies are something we all have in
common, the degrees of our tragedies may differ but it’s very doubtful that we
will escape this life without experiencing a loss.
Billy Joel wrote “I’ve come to realize that life is not a
musical comedy, it’s a Greek tragedy.”
And it’s tough to prepare for them, nobody in Eutychus’
family would have been expecting him to go to church and die. 
The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes
9:12 People can never predict when hard times might come. Like fish in a net or
birds in a trap, people are caught by sudden tragedy.
So this morning I want to look
at:  How Do We React to Tragedy?  Actually my initial theme was “The Church,
boring people to death for 2000 years.”
Probably the most common
response to tragedy for most is that We Question We ask, why did this happen? Or
more often why did this happen to me? 
And that’s tough to answer.  Often
there is no answer or the answer is one we don’t want to hear and that is: Why
not you?  Is there someone who is more
deserving of the tragedy?  Perhaps it
would be more comforting for tragedy to only happen to bad people, but who gets
to determine who is bad enough to be subjected to the loss of a child or the
loss of a spouse.  There are only so many
Hitlers out there. 
Who gets to pick the person who
should get cancer or should lose their job because of a bad economy?  If not Eutychus was there someone else in the
room who was more deserving of falling to their death?  Would another family have been more deserving
to lose their son?
The answer to “Why?”  Often is no answer.  There is no reason.  It wasn’t because you were bad, it wasn’t
because you needed to be taught a lesson, it wasn’t because God knew you were
strong enough to stand it.  It happened
because you were a person. 
We could ask you to look around
and see how others have suffered more than you, but really would that do any
good?  Would that make you feel any
better?
And once we are done
questioning the next thing we tend to do is We Blame  If we can’t figure out why it happened to us
than we need to find someone to point the finger at. 
In the story that we have we find lots of opportunity to pin
the blame on, and often when we are faced with tragedy we seek the usual
suspects.
Perhaps it was Satan’s Fault  As Christ Followers this seems to be our
first stop when we play the blame game. 
We feel that we are under attack by the forces of evil.  And I would never want to minimize the power
of Satan.   We are warned in 1 Peter 5:8 Stay alert! Watch
out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion,
looking for someone to devour.
In this case you could see how Satan would benefit from what
happened.  The early church is starting
to gain traction in Asia, people are coming to know Jesus, leadership is being
developed, and the message is poised to spread into Europe.  A little distraction might be what is
needed.  So it would be easy to picture
Satan giving Eutychus a little shove backward. 
Sometimes when troubles come to
us personally or in our church we want to blame Satan for what’s
happening.  “After all” we say “Look at
Job.”  True enough, the central theme of
the book of Job seems to be what Satan did to Job.  Actually the central theme of the book of Job
is how Job stands up to those attacks. 
And remember what qualified Job for Satan’s wrath, Job 1:1 There once
was a man named Job . . .  He was
blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.
Probably most of us are safe.    When we focus on Satan being the author of
our problems often it causes us to be looking in the wrong direction. 
The Devil is our enemy, but he
is a defeated enemy.  That fact is
reiterated time and time again in the New Testament.  1 John 4:4 But you belong to God, my dear
children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit
who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.   That is your promise for today:  You have already won the victory. 
Well if it isn’t Satan who caused the tragedy then Perhaps
it was God’s Fault  Ultimately God could
have prevented Eutychus’ fall and subsequent death.  He could have nudged him to wake him up, he
could have provided an angel to catch him on the way down, or he could have
just done a God thing and the kid could have fallen and not been hurt. 
And it’s easy to blame God for all the things he doesn’t do.  Why didn’t he prevent the accident? Why
didn’t he cure the cancer?  Why didn’t he
keep my spouse from cheating?  Why didn’t
he keep our child from rebelling?  And
sometime those questions are valid, but in many instances they move into the
realm of removing our free will. 
Some go further instead of blaming God for not interceding
that have been those who would say that maybe God had a direct hand in what
happened.  That maybe he gave Eutychus
the nudge that sent him hurtling to his death. 
Matthew Henry writes “Others think that God designed it for a warning to
all people to take heed of sleeping when they are hearing the word preached;
and certainly we are to make this use of it. . . Let us watch and pray, that we
enter not into this temptation, and by it into worse. Let the punishment of
Eutychus strike an awe upon us, and show us how jealous God is in the matters
of his worship; Be not deceived, God is not mocked.”  
Seriously?  A kid falls asleep in a service and God
pushes him out a window?    Not the God I serve.  Not the God who told Jeremiah in Jeremiah
29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for
good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Or maybe we are just stretching it to the supernatural.  It would be easy to look around for someone
with skin on them to cast the blame on. 
So Perhaps it was Paul’s Fault 
If Paul hadn’t preached so long, if Paul had of realized how
tired Eutychus really was, and why didn’t Paul warn Eutychus that he shouldn’t
be sitting in an open window.  Bad Paul.
After all, listen to what Paul himself writes in  2 Corinthians 10:10 For some say, “Paul’s
letters are demanding and forceful, but in person he is weak, and his speeches
are worthless!”  So maybe if Paul had of
been a better preacher. . .
I’ve been preaching for thirty years and have been at
Cornerstone for 19 of those years and I’ve copped the blame for all kinds of
things.  Kid’s rebel, must be the
preacher’s fault.  You aren’t getting
enough out of church, you aren’t being fed spiritually, must be the preachers
fault.  Your spouse just doesn’t’ get it,
must be the preachers fault. 
And if it’s not the preacher it must be someone else. We
don’t want to blame ourselves  or the
ones we love so we look around to see where the blame should go.  Your kid’s not doing well in school, blame
the teacher, it couldn’t possibly be that your child isn’t interested in
learning and has behavioural issues.. 
You can’t seem to catch a break at work and then you lose your job, must
be because your boss is a jerk and the other employees are out to get you.     
Every once in a while there will be story on the news of a
police chase that ended tragically, for whatever reason the police attempt to
pull over a car and the car decides they can outrun the police they miss a
turn, hit a tree or whatever and then we hear the hue and cry in the media
blaming the police.  Really?  When I’m driving and the lights and siren
come on behind me I pull over.
Maybe Paul could have been a little more engaging but I’m
sure it wasn’t his fault.  Although it
reminds me of the story of the preacher who notice a man sleeping during his
sermon and told an usher “wake that man up!” to which the usher replied “You
wake him up you put him to sleep.”
Or Perhaps it was Eutychus’ Fault What was he doing going to
sleep while Paul was preaching?  And then
what was he thinking sitting in an open window three stories up?  Why didn’t he think?  The truth is in Billy Sunday’s words “Sinners
can repent, but stupid is forever.”
Seriously, if I played out the worst case scenario of
everything I had ever done or want to do I’d never get anything done.  So maybe it wasn’t the wisest move to sit in
an open window, but hey the room was hot and he was trying to stay awake.  You at least have to give him credit for
that.
Sometimes when tragedy hits, people blame the person
involved.  We play the “If only” game or
“What were they thinking?”  Reality, they
probably weren’t.  They didn’t do it hurt
you, or ruin your life, they were probably as surprised as anyone when the
accident happened, or they got arrested, or fired or discovered they had lung
cancer. 
The truth of the matter if we are looking to cast blame
All of the Above and None of the Above  If Satan didn’t cause it he probably enjoyed
it, God could have prevented it, fallen in a wagon full of hay, could have
nudged the kid and woke him up before he fell.
Seriously Eutychus what were you thinking?  It’s an open window!  And Paul wouldn’t be the first preacher to
have put someone to sleep.  And while bad
preaching seldom kills anyone physically I would hate to think of those my
preaching has caused to reject the gospel.  
The reality is, the hour was late, people were tired,
regardless of how good Paul was when he started to preach it’s hard to maintain
people’s attention forever.  The room was
probably too warm and because of all the lamps that were lit it was probably
stuffy and the CO2 was probably a factor.
So if it’s not Questioning or Blaming what should our
response be to tragedy?  Let’s go back to
the story that we looked at a couple of weeks ago.  The story of Lazarus in John Chapter 11.  Jesus’ friend Lazarus was sick and his
sisters sent a message to Jesus letting them know about their brother. 
For all kinds of reasons that we won’t get into today by the
time Jesus got to the village Lazarus had been dead for four days. 
When Jesus greets Lazarus’
sister Mary we hear this part of the conversation:  John 11:21-22 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if
only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know
that God will give you whatever you ask.”
I love that statement.  But even now! 
In the face of the tragedy Martha still believed in the goodness of
God.  So it’s fine if we question, we
might not like the answers. 
And sometimes there is even
someone to blame.  But ultimately we need
to be able to say “Even now.” 
Because as Christ followers we We
Need to Learn to Trust.  And this can be
tough, to be able to say, even now, I may not understand it, I may not like it,
I might not even agree but I will believe that you can be trusted. 
Why trust God?  Listen to what we are told in 1 John 4:16 We
know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love,
and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.
We need to trust God.  Why? 
Because we need to trust his love. 
How much does he love us?  John
3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so
that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
Let’s go back and pick up the
story of Eutychus, remember he’s fallen asleep and fallen three stories to his
death, Acts 20:10-12 Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms.
“Don’t worry,” he said, “he’s alive!” Then they all went back upstairs, shared
in the Lord’s Supper, and ate together. Paul continued talking to them until
dawn, and then he left. Meanwhile, the young man was taken home unhurt, and
everyone was greatly relieved.
And I know, you are thinking that isn’t fair that Eutychus
was raised from the dead but your loved one wasn’t.  but ultimately Eutychus died again, and that
time he stayed dead, just like the rest of us. 
And if his parents or other loved ones were there when he fell then they
would have to experience the loss of Eutychus not once but twice. 
Maybe we need to understand and embrace the words of Samuel
Johnson who wrote:
“When any calamity has been suffered, the first thing to be
remembered is how much has been escaped.”
Can you trust God today? 
Not only trusting that God will do what is good but that whatever God
does is good?  Let us pray.