I have always loved the story of Eutychus in Acts 20. I don’t have a deep theological observation to draw from it, but the thought of the Apostle Paul literally preaching someone to death makes me laugh every time I read it.
This bit of humor is needed in this chapter which is full of farewells and foreboding. Paul has come to the end of his third and final missionary journey, and he knows that he will not see his friends and followers again this side of paradise. The speech he gives reflects this - unlike so many of the other speeches in Acts, this one contains no call to repent and isn’t intended to win anyone to the faith. Instead, Paul acknowledges that he will no longer be the one to look after these churches, and that he must entrust them to the Lord. He warns them not to be led astray.
Finally, Paul closes, somewhat cryptically, by quoting Jesus’ proverb: “It is better to give than to receive.” Surely no words could more appropriately bookend this man’s life. Heedless of his own safety or comfort, he has traveled the world to spread the gospel, enduring beatings, prison and narrow brushes with death at every turn. He has been unquestionably selfless - looking to the eternal good of the Gentiles rather than what was convenient for him.
In this passage and this speech, Luke is clearly holding Paul up as an example for us to follow. While we are all called to follow Christ, sometimes it is difficult for us to imagine what He would do in our situation. After all, His was a unique calling and His relationship to the Father is something we can aspire to, but never fully attain. It can be helpful to look at the example of other Christians - those who have followed well, despite their imperfections.
Paul, of course, is an excellent model for us, but he is not the only one. Who in your life serves as an example for how you should live as a Christian? Who do you know that you can talk to, learn from and imitate? A mentor of mine once told me, “If you are the strongest Christian you know, you’ll never grow any stronger.” Pray today for God to help you identify those people in your life who can strengthen your walk with God.
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