SERMON DELIVERED ON 10-19-19 

       In the last sermon in my series on the Book of Acts we left Paul in the city of Ephesus teaching in the lecture hall of Tyrannus where he apparently taught for some two years.  During these two years Paul performed a number of miracles including the casting out of evil spirits. Apparently some Jews thought they could do the same.  We concluded last time with the account of some Jewish exorcists trying to cast out demons in the name of Jesus but the result was that the demon possessed turn on them and beat them nearly to death.  This resulted in many coming to see Paul’s teaching about Jesus as the real deal and it is recorded that the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

       We will now return to Acts 19 beginning with verse 21 where we see Paul deciding to go to Jerusalem and afterwards intending to go to Rome as well.  It is recorded that about that same time there arose a great disturbance about what was being referred to as “the Way.”

       Acts 19:23: About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way.

        The Way is mentioned a number of times in the Book of Acts in association with the followers of Jesus. In Acts 9 we see Saul out and about taking prisoners of those who “belonged to the Way.”  Last time we read how some of those in Ephesus publically maligned the Way. When Paul was on trial before the Roman governor Felix he said this:

       Acts 24:14: I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets.

       Paul admits to being a follower of the Way which his Jewish accusers call a sect. During the early days of the development of the Church, Christianity was generally considered a sect of Judaism. As such it became known as the Way. It is apparent that this is how the Roman authorities viewed the Christians.  In Acts 24:22 we are told the Roman governor Felix was well acquainted with the Way.

      So how did the early followers of Jesus come to be looked upon as followers of the Way?  How did the moniker “The Way” come to be applied to followers of Christ?  It may have been nothing more than a way of distinguishing followers of Jesus from other beliefs within Judaism.  On the other hand, the Christians themselves may have created this designation.  In John 14:6 Jesus is quoted as saying that He is the way and the truth and the life. Since Jesus identified himself as the way, it is possible this led to Christians seeing themselves as followers of the way. 

       It is instructive that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews sees the blood of Jesus as a new and living way to enter the Most Holy place.

       Hebrews 10:19-20: Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body.

         While we can’t be certain how the Way designation came to be, we know it was commonly use as a reference to followers of Jesus. To this very day there are some Christian fellowships that title themselves as “The Church of the Way.” 

Now let’s get back to the disturbance that came to be because of the Way.

       There was a silversmith in the city of Ephesus named Demetrius.  He made silver shrines of the goddess Artemis. It is reported that this making of sliver shrines of Artemis brought much business to his craft. 

       Artemis was a much adored and worshiped God of the Ephesians.  She was believed to be the daughter of Zeus who was considered the virtual king of the gods. Artemis was seen as the twin sister of the god Apollo. Artemis was considered the goddess of the hunt, of wild animals, the wilderness, childbirth and virginity.

       Like other Greek gods and goddesses, Artemis was seen as immortal and very powerful. Her special powers included perfect aim with the bow and arrow and the ability to turn herself and others into animals. She was seen as able to heal diseases and control nature.  Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities and her temple at Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World at the time.

       So when Paul became successful at turning a large number of Ephesians to Christ and worship of the one true God, it created quite a backlash from those who profited from the worship of Artemis.

       Acts 19: 25-27:  He (Demetrius) called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: "Men, you know we receive a good income from this business.  And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty."

       Living today in what is considered sophisticated society of the 21st century, the worship of gods such as Artemis appears rather strange and nothing more than pure superstition.  It is hard to believe that historically, people actually believed such gods existed and were to be feared and worshiped.  Yet it is evident that polytheism was prevalent in the world throughout recorded history and didn’t diminish in popularity until well into the Christian era. To this very day there are still pockets of polytheistic religion in parts of the world.  

       From the very start Paul preached against polytheistic religion. In a previous sermon in this series I cover how Paul while in Athens stood up and preached that there is one God who made the world and everything in it and this God is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. He goes on to show that the divine being is not like gold or silver or stone.  It is not an image made by man's design and skill. Paul concluded his sermon on Mars Hill in Athens by saying the following:

       Acts 17:29-31: "Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone--an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."

       Paul says that in the past God overlooked (winked at KJV) such ignorance. But no longer would such ignorance be tolerated. The Christ event had changed everything. This was Paul’s ongoing message, a message he preached everywhere he went.  It is quite evident that Paul was preaching this same message in Ephesus and it was seen as a threat to extant religious practice and more so a threat to the economic success of those who made a living off such religious practice.  

       I have to wonder whether people like Demetrius actually believed in the viability of the goddess he was making shrines to or was he simply taking advantage of the people’s belief system. He did accuse Paul of saying man-made gods are no gods at all.  Was he tacitly admitting that at least to him Artemis was a man made God and nothing more than that?

       Demetrius and his associates created quite a stir in Ephesus.  It is recorded that the assembly was in confusion.  Some were shouting one thing and others were shouting something else. It is written that most of the people did not even know why they were there. The mob mentality was in full effect. 

       As was true then is still true today.  People will get involved in movements and demonstrations often having little knowledge and understanding of the dynamics involved and what the ramifications of such dynamics are.  We have seen this in our recent past with men like Hitler where people become bamboozled by the rhetoric of a charismatic leader and blindly follow such leader without having determined the validity of what such leader is saying.  We will be seeing a lot of this as the present political campaign for President heats up.

       The people began to shout, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" They shouted this for two hours.  It is recorded that soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized several of Paul's traveling companions and rushed into the theater. It is recorded that Paul was willing to go into the theater and defend himself but his disciples wouldn’t let him. They knew the risk. They probably feared for his life. This whole thing had become a mob event. Somehow the city clerk quieted the crowd and addressed them in the following manner.

       Acts 19:35-36:  "Men of Ephesus, doesn't all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven?  Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash.

       It is apparent the city clerk was trying to quite things down by publically confirming their belief in the validity of Artemis and in doing so was saying that nothing Paul or the Christians say changes that.  It was an undeniable fact that an image of Artemis had fallen down from heaven.  Whether the clerk personally believed this didn’t matter.  He knew this is what the people believed and stroked their belief to settle them down.

       The clerk went on to say that if Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody it is a legal matter and must be taken up by the courts.  The clerk advised them that they were in danger of being charged with rioting; something highly frowned on by the governing authorities.  Apparently this satisfied the crowd and they dispersed.  With that Acts 19 comes to an end.

       Acts 20 begins with Paul saying goodbye to the disciples at Ephesus and setting out for Macedonia where he travels through the area and then arrives in Greece where he stayed for three months.  We then see the Jews making a plot against him just as he was about to sail for Syria resulting in him having to change his plans and go back through Macedonia. As can be seen throughout the Book of Acts, Paul was under constant threat from the unbelieving Jews.  A number of companions of Paul are listed in Acts 20:4.

       Acts 20:5-6: These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas.

       But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.

       We use to teach that this passage was telling us that Paul kept the Feast of Unleaven Bread and therefore we should as well.  Well this passage doesn’t say Paul was keeping the Feast. Reference to the Feast may just be a time marker and is saying nothing more than it was after the Feast they sailed.  On the other hand, Paul may have been keeping the Feast.  Paul was a Jew who had kept the feasts all his life.  While it is clear from his letters that he did not see the keeping of Mosaic regulations as necessary for salvation, there certainly is evidence in Acts that he did on occasion keep Mosaic regulations.  We have already seen this in previous sermons in this series and will see it again as we move forward.

       Acts 20:7-12:  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 (utychus), 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.

       As we know, days began and ended at sunset during this historical period. When it is said that on the first day of the week they came together to break bread and Paul spoke to the people until midnight and there were many lamps in the room where they were meeting, it is evident Paul was speaking to them at the beginning of the first day of the week which would be equivalent to our Saturday evening after sunset.  The Good News translation of this passage actually renders it as Saturday evening.

       On Saturday evening we gathered together for the fellowship meal. Paul spoke to the people and kept on speaking until midnight, since he was going to leave the next day. Many lamps were burning in the upstairs room where we were meeting (Good News Translation).

       Some believe that when it is said they came together to break bread it is the Lord’s Supper that is being kept.  The breaking of bread can relate to the observance of the Lord’s Supper as seen in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11.  However it is also seen in the NT as simply the sharing of a meal.  We see this in Acts 2 where it is reported that the new converts to Christ devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and to prayer.

       Here in Acts 20 it appears to have been simply the eating of a meal.  The passage under consideration begins with “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.”  After the Eutychus event, Paul is seen as returning to the upstairs room, breaking bread and eating. There is nothing here to suggest these folks were observing the Lord’s Supper although they could have done so at some point during their get-to-gather.

       It is said the young man Eutychus was picked up dead.  Paul goes down and throws his body over the young man and puts his arms around him and proclaims he’s alive. Was this young man actually dead and Paul raised him from the dead?  Some believe that when it is said he was picked up dead it is being said he appeared lifeless and Paul determined this was not the case.

       The Greek rendered as “He’s alive” in the NIV is seen in many English translations as “for his life is in him” or something to that effect. I checked the Greek on this and it literally reads “for the life of him in him is.”  Was Paul saying this because he brought him back to life or because he had determined he wasn’t dead but maybe just unconscious. The New English Translation (NET) renders Paul’s statement as,”Do not be distressed, for he is still alive!”

       The late William Barclay, Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow, interprets this passage as meaning that when the crowd ran down the stairs, they “found the lad senseless,” but Paul calmed them, asserting that his life was “yet” in him and he had not actually died. The late NT scholar F.F. Bruce, of the University of Manchester took a similar position on this passage.

       However, this all being said, it is interesting that what Paul did is reminiscent of several events recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures. These events involve the prophet Elijah and Elijah’s student Elisha.  In 1 Kings 17 we have the account of Elijah raising the widow’s son.

       1 Kings 17:19-22: He (Elijah) took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the LORD, "O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?" Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, "O LORD my God, let this boy's life return to him!" The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived.

       In 2 Kings 4, is an account of Elisha raising from the dead the son of the Shunammite woman.  The context shows this boy was definitely dead.  Here is what happened.

       2 Kings 4:33-35: He (Elisha) went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy's body grew warm. Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.

       Paul’s actions toward Eutychus are certainly similar to the actions of Elijah and Elisha. Like Elijah and Elisha, Paul apparently prostrated himself upon the young man as we see Elijah and Elisha doing.  Of course there is nothing in the NT account associating what Paul did with what Elijah and Elisha did but the similarity is striking. I personally don’t take a definitive position on whether or not Paul raised Eutychus from the dead. The information provided is limited in scope so it is difficult to know for sure what happened. 

       I want to briefly return to the first part of the passage in Acts under consideration.

       Acts 20:7:  There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.  

       The writer says there were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.  You will notice he says “where we were meeting.”  The pronoun “we” is used.  This is called a royal “we” in that it includes the person making the statement.  The writer of this statement is part of the “we.”  We see this royal “we” used numerous times in the book of Acts.

       After Paul had seen a vision asking him to come to Macedonia to preach the gospel to them, the writer says we got ready at once (Acts 16:10). What follows in Acts 16 are eight more occurrences of the royal “we” in describing the activities of Paul and those with him.  The royal “we” is used nine times in Acts 20 alone and several dozen more times in the rest of the Book of Acts.   

       By using the pronoun “we” the author is writing in the first person and describing activity and events from a first person perspective.  We know that Luke authored the Book of Acts and was considered to be a companion of Paul. Therefore, it would seen reasonable to conclude that Luke accompanied Paul much of the time and was an eyewitness to much of what went on. It is very likely Luke kept a diary of the activities and events he was witness too and later converted his notes into the document we have to this very day called the Book of Acts.

       While Luke is not mentioned in the Book of Act, it is very likely when you see “we” used in the narrative, it is Luke speaking. It is instructive that when Paul wrote a letter to Timothy he apparently wrote it from prison and said that Luke was the only one of his companions present there with him.  You will see that in 2 Timothy 4:11.  

       It is reported that after the incident with Eutychus, Paul talked until the break of day. After which he set foot for Assos, a distance of about 19 miles from Troas. In the mean time some of his companions had apparently left the meeting at Troas early and sailed to Assos.