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(Acts 20:1–16) Easter at Troas

(Acts 20:1–16) Easter at Troas

by Stephen Davey
Series: Sermons in Acts
Ref: Acts 20:1–16

Is your faith rooted in the power of Christ's resurrection? Explore the significance of Sunday worship and its profound connection to Easter in "Easter at Troas." In this enlightening sermon, Stephen delves into Acts 20:1-16 to unveil how the resurrection power of Jesus Christ was vividly illustrated in the ancient town of Troas. Discover the historical and theological reasons behind Sunday worship and its role in the New Covenant. Uncover the life-giving grace that transforms the spiritually dead into the spiritually alive. Dive into this thought-provoking narrative and witness the miraculous demonstration of Christ's resurrection power.

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“Easter at Troas”

Acts 20:1-16


Nearly 2,000 years ago a man stepped onto the stage of Jewish history and claimed to be the long awaited Messiah.  He won the hearts of the common people; and the city of Jerusalem, for a brief moment, sang his praises.  His most popular title was “Star of Jacob.” It seemed he would finally throw off the Roman power.  It was in the year 135 AD that this dynamic man, named Simon ben (son of) Koseva, actually captured Jerusalem from the Romans; but then, in another battle against the Roman army, he was defeated, executed and buried. 

One thousand years later, a man by the name of Zevi started one of the most organized and momentous messianic movements in Jewish history.  Thousands of Jews believed that he would lead them back to the promised land.  Yet, in 1666, of all years, Zevi was captured and imprisoned by the sultan of modern day Turkey. While in prison, this Messiah switched sides and, believe it or not, became a Muslim.

Three hundred years later, in our day, yet another in a long line of Messiahs captured the spotlight.  An aged rabbi named Menachem Schneerson was being hailed as the true Messiah.  He lived in Brooklyn; although his followers built an identical house for him in Israel.  They said of him, “Moses was the first redeemer, the Rabbi is the last redeemer.”  The Friends of Israel ministry estimated that before this Rabbi died, around 2 years ago I believe, that nearly 300,000 Jews believed this Rabbi was the messiah.

Even as he was dying in a hospital in New York, paralyzed by a series of strokes, leaders within his movement were confident that he would recover, come to Israel and rebuild the Temple.  These men were not the long awaited Messiah.  They either abandoned their mission or failed to defeat the enemy of mankind that King David said the true Messiah would defeat – the enemy called death.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the defining statement of authenticity.  Healings could be staged; signs and wonders could be counterfeited; genealogies could be forged; but coming back from the dead is the ultimate proof that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh.

And there’s more:  the church of Jesus Christ, founded upon the deity of Jesus Christ is a church made up of people like us who were “. . .spiritually dead in trespasses and sins . . . but we’ve been made alive together with Christ.  Ephesians 2:1-5

Voltaire, the cynical agnostic even declared that he knew a way to create a religion that could compete with Christianity.  He said, rather tongue in cheek, what was indeed the truth, “We need someone to found a new religion; then all we need to compete with Christianity is for the founder to die and then be raised from the dead.”

But Jesus Christ stands alone.  He is the only one who ever dared to say, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me shall live, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”  John 11:25, 26

Now that’s quite a claim.  A claim He backed up by personally conquering the grasp of the grave.  He will prove His claim again in the coming day when the graves will empty at the sound of the trumpet; but, between that wonderful future day and that past day when Christ arose, Jesus illustrated His power over death . . . again.

Easter at Troas

Jesus chose to illustrate Easter in a little town named Troas.  I invite your attention to the Book of Acts and to the place where we left off in our study through this Book of Action – now at chapter 20 and verse 1.

20:1 And after the uproar had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples and when he had exhorted them and taken his leave of them, he departed to go to Macedonia. 2 And when he had gone through those districts and had given them much exhortation, he came to Greece. 3 And there he spent three months, and when a plot was formed against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he determined to return through Macedonia. 4 And he was accompanied by Sopater of Berea, the son of Pyrrhus; and by Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia. 5 But these had gone on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas.

Now stop for a moment.  Sometimes Luke shows you the videotape in slow motion, showing close-ups and detail upon detail.  At other times, like this, he puts the tape on play and then pushes fast forward so that you see whizzing by you events that took place over months of time in such rapid speed that you’re left saying, “Whoa there; wait a second.”

For reasons known only to the inspiring Spirit of God, Luke just raced us through a period of time when Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthian church as well as his theological masterpiece, the Book of Romans.

For whatever reason, Luke is focusing on another event, another period of time in the life of the Apostle Paul so significant that Luke seems barely able to wait to tell us about it.

Notice verse 6 And we sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and came to them at Troas within five days; and there we stayed seven days.  7 And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.

If you circled every time Luke referred to chronology, you could circle the word “days” five times in just two verses.

The days of unleavened bread . . . five days . . . seven days . . . the first day of the week . . . the next day . . .

What, did Luke get a new Daytimer, a new watch with a built in calendar?  Why the almost obsession with timing?

Two reasons.  And these two reasons would be entirely lost unless the Bible student learns to ask certain questions.  We typically read the Bible and run to the question, “What does it mean to me?”  We need to ask other questions first?  Like, “Where did it happen?”  “When did it happen?”  Great significance can be gained by asking “Where? and When?”

For instance, when Jesus Christ stood in the temple and made that incredible statement, “I am the light of the world,” He happened to make that statement during the Festival of  Booths. 

And one of the predominate aspects of that festival was a ceremony called the "Illumination of the Temple."  It took place in the treasury.   The treasury was surrounded with galleries, built to hold hundreds of spectators.  In the center of that massive courtyard were four gigantic candelabra that reached high into the air.  On the first evening of the Festival of Booths, these four gigantic candelabra were lit; and, it was said, they created an incredible blaze of light.  These candelabra represented the pillar of fire that led their forefathers though the wilderness.

Well, the Feast of Booths had ended.  Just the day before, in the treasury, these great candelabra had blazed forth their incredible light.  Now they were dark; the flames have been extinguished. 

And Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life!" John 8:12

The significance of that statement was dramatically underscored by the fact that John tells us in verse 20.  These words He spoke in the treasury.

In other words, Jesus is seated in the same courtyard where these candelabra were located.  These now darkened, silent reminders stood there as if to declare the light in the Temple had been a brilliant light; but in the end it the temple was darkened once more.  Jesus said, “I am the light which lasts for ever.  Follow me and you shall not walk in darkness!”

Where this happened and when it happened gives incredible significance to what happened.

When Did This Happen?

Now in Acts chapter 20, the paragraph loses tremendous significance unless you first ask the question that Luke obviously wants you to take note of and that is the question, “Okay Luke, just when did this happen?”


Notice verse 6 again, “. . . after the days of Unleavened Bread.”

What was this period of time?  The Passover.  A time when Israel remembered its escape from Egypt, the time when God instructed their forefathers through Moses to kill a lamb and roast and eat it.  They were also to put some of its blood on the door posts of their slave huts.  And then the angel of death would not take the life of the first born in their homes.  That night the death angel came and took the lives of all those not protected by the blood of the little lamb.  As for those who had obeyed, the angel of death passed over them.  Thus the word “Pass-over”.

It was during this same period of time that Jesus Christ was crucified.  While the nation ate their lamb and remembered their escape from death, the Lamb of God was hanging on a cross, delivering through His blood all those who would believe in Him alone.

Verse 6 says, “. . .after the days of Unleavened Bread”  After the Passover, what happened after the crucifixion?  What are we waiting for now?  Easter!  We’re waiting for the resurrection!

So, first of all, Luke wants us to know that the events of the next paragraph took place around the time we call Easter, the completion of Passover and the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The First Day Of The Week - Sunday

Now, there’s more.  You remember what day of the week the resurrection took place – the first day of the week, or Sunday. 

Now notice again verse 7.   And on the first day of the week, when were gathered together to break bread. . .”  Here’s another important piece of chronological evidence, “on the first day of the week.” 

Did you know that this is the very first time in the Bible that we’re told the church met to worship on Sunday.   Scripture will come to refer to the first day of the week, or Sunday as “The Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10)

In honor of the resurrection of Christ, the church began to worship together on the first day of the week, a day that they set aside as special.

Now you need to understand that the Romans and Greeks did not have a day of rest.  They didn’t keep a Sabbath.  In fact, the Roman author Seneca scoffed at the Jews and derided them for wasting time by resting one day out of every seven.  The Roman and Greek empires were at full throttle 7 days a week.

Well, as you know, God Himself rested on the 7th day after creating all there was in 6 days.  And he ordained the 7th day as a day of holy rest for Israel.  In fact, it happens to be one of the 10 commandments, associated with creation.

So is Paul and the other believers wrong here for gathering the believers for worship on the first day instead of the 7th?  Was he wrong to ignore the synagogue and worship in a home instead?  NO.

Five Reasons for Sunday Worship

  1. While God modeled a day of rest on the  Sabbath, the Saturday/Sabbath was given to Israel as the sign of the Mosaic Covenant.  In other words, the Sabbath was associated with the old covenant; Sunday became associated with the New Covenant. (Exodus 31:16-17; Ezekiel 20:12)
  2. Even when the Mosaic covenant was in place, the surrounding Gentile nations were never commanded or condemned in regards to Sabbath keeping, a further evidence that the Sabbath was for Israel only.
  3. The Jerusalem Council which met in Acts 15 did not require the Gentile believers to keep the Sabbath.
  4. There is no command in the New Testament for Christians to observe the Sabbath.  In fact, the example of the early church is clearly given to worship on the Lord’s day.  (Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 16:2)

One author put it this way:

“The Sabbath was associated with the first creation; Sunday is associated with the new creation.  The Sabbath was based upon the law, Sunday is based upon grace.  The Sabbath was a commitment to physical rest; Sunday became a commitment to spiritual rest." [Life in Actionm  Roy Laurin  p 347]

5)   The significant events of the New Testament church revolve around   Sunday.          

  • On Sunday Christ arose. (Matthew 28:1)
  • On Sunday the Holy Spirit descended. (The day of Pentecost is the day after the  7th Sabbath – the 50th day – which is Sunday.)     (Acts 2)
  • On Sunday, the first New Testament sermon  was preached, and the first believer’s baptisms  took place. (Acts 2)
  • On Sunday the believers came to break bread. (Acts 20:7)
  • On Sunday they gave to God their offerings. (I Corinthians 16:2)

The Sabbath has been set aside.  Every day can be a day of worship, and especially, as we observe in Scripture, this day we call the Lord’s day.

In the 2nd century, a church leader named Justin Martyr described how Christians of his day worshiped;

“On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits. . .Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.” [Acts, John MacArthur Jr. p. (20:7-17 section)]

So by the time you reach Acts chapter 20, Sunday is the significant day of collective worship; and this particular Sunday happens to be around the time we are now celebrating as the anniversary of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

What Happens In Worship?

With all that in mind, what happens in this gathering will become an incredible illustration of  Christ’s resurrection power.

Notice verse 8.   And there were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together. (notice Luke uses the word “we.”  He’s an eyewitness to what’s about to happen.)  9.   And there was a certain young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep (Stop here.  I find it incredibly encouraging that somebody fell asleep even when Paul was preaching.  I just wanted to say that . . . you can go back to sleep now; oh by the way – better to fall asleep in church than to come to church and never be awake.) he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor (or “the loft), and was picked up dead. Was he really dead?  Well Luke the physician says that he was picked up dead – nekros “a corpse.”  Perhaps Luke himself pronounced him dead. 10.   But Paul went down and fell upon him and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.” 

And Paul, in the same fashion as Elijah, put his body on the young man’s body and wrapped his arms around him, cradling him almost.  After that he said, I imagine, brushing himself off, “Don’t be troubled."  Literally, “stop the commotion.”  The tense of the verb indicates that the commotion had already started.  The middle-eastern wailing over the nekros, the corpse, had already commenced.

11.   And when he had gone back up, and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed.  12.  And they took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted.


What an illustration of resurrection power.  What a demonstration of the life giving power of the gospel.  What an irrefutable miracle that validated the Apostle and his message.

Were all these things coincidental to the text?  Did these things happen by accident when they happened?  Oh, no. 

Passover had just ended.  The Lamb had been slain.  Christ had been crucified.  Easter was in the air. 

This event occurred on the first day of the week, the day that Jesus came back to life, the day the church set aside to celebrate life over death. 

And, remember, the primary theme of Paul’s preaching was the resurrection of Christ.  Could he have been preaching that very truth just prior to bringing this boy back to life.  Imagine this for a sermon illustration?!  Imagine - following the preaching of the resurrection there will be a live demonstration!!

Even more analogies could be drawn from this event.

All mankind is in a fallen state . . . Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  (Romans 3:23)  

“And you were dead in trespasses and sins . . . But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved.”  (Ephesians 2:1,4)

Furthermore, Eutychus could do absolutely nothing for Paul in order to live.  He couldn’t give any money, couldn’t promise to be a more obedient young man, couldn’t join the church in Troas, couldn’t be baptized, couldn’t promise to never sleep in church again.   He could only be the recipient of God’s grace through the hand of Paul.  His life was a gift.

That same chapter in Ephesians goes on to say a few verses later, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Eutychus never goes around Troas saying, “You should have seen what I did with Paul’s help.”

Colossians 2:13 declares, “And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.  14.  Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”  In other words, Christ alone did all the work necessary for salvation.

Another interesting thing to me is that Eutychus’ name means fortunate.  And so is the person who has been made alive in Christ, “Blessed,” Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:3 “with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

One more thing and I’m finished.  How old was Eutychus?  In verse 9 we’re told he was a young man; the Greek word is neanias.  It could refer to a man from 24 to 40 years of age.  However, in verse 12 it is the word paida, which usually means a little boy.  A seemingly trivial contradiction unless you translate the word in verse 12 differently.  You see the word piada; pais can refer to a slave.

I believe Eutychus as indeed somewhere between the age of 24 and 40; and that he was someones servant.  He was a slave.  Jesus Himself said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin; if therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.  (John 8:34, 35)

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free!”  (John 8:32)

If there ever was a wonderful picture of humanity, it was Eutychus.  Enslaved, fallen, dead – then the embrace of grace and death turns into life - the gift of new life.

And all of this happened at Easter time, the anniversary of the resurrection of Christ and the birth of the church.  A church built upon the truth of the one and only true Messiah who claimed and here illustrated, “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever lives and believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. . .”

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