Long-winded Paul

There is a story in the New Testament that is morbidly funny. I don’t want to make light of a tragic event but everything worked out in the end so maybe there is justification in seeing the humor of the situation.

The Apostle Paul was a tireless champion of the cross. He preached Christ in whatever situation he was in and selflessly spread Christ’s gospel. He fulfilled his calling as an apostle – a special witness of Christ. Paul was a powerful preacher. As an aside, I’ve always been interested in physical descriptions of historical figures, particularly from scriptural history. Joseph Smith described Paul’s physical appearance like this: “He is about five feet high; very dark hair; dark complexion; dark skin; large Roman nose; sharp face; small black eyes, penetrating as eternity; round shoulders; a whining voice, except when elevated, and then it almost resembled the roaring of a lion” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 180; see also Paul: Untiring Witness of Christ). This compact man was a lion of the Lord. He was also long-winded.

“And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.” (Acts 20:7-12).

Sometime on Sunday the disciples of Christ held a sacrament (communion) meeting. Needing to get an early start on a journey the next day their church meeting was kept short. Actually, no it wasn’t. Paul preached “and continued his speech until midnight.” Lamps were lit as Paul continued to talk. One of those at the long meeting was a young man named Eutychus. He, understandably, dozed off while Paul taught long into the night. Unfortunately, Eutychus was sitting on a window ledge on one of the upper floors. The loss of muscle tone with sleep and the combined effects of height and gravity resulted in the premature demise of poor Eutychus. It might even be said that Paul bored this man to death. So Paul rushed down and raised Eutychus from the dead. Many might have taken this as a sign to cease preaching but Paul went back up, broke bread (sacrament) and “talked a long while, even till break of day.” Paul wasn’t one to let a little thing like death and bringing someone back to life get in the way of a good sermon.

There are many reasons why Paul preached for so long. One of the most important is that Paul was a visiting church authority who had a lot of instructing to do. He had just a short time in Alexandria Troas (where this story takes place) before he had to continue on his journey. Paul had one short week and likely only one sacrament meeting to teach and organize the church in that city. So he taught, day and night, without ceasing and without tiring. Paul was an unflinching and unfailing witness of Christ. There is a reason Christ appeared to the man who was then called Saul on the way to Damascus. Just as Saul was zealous in his defense of the Law of Moses and in attacking Christianity, he became zealous in defending Christ once converted. Yes, Paul was long-winded but he was a powerful witness of Christ and one of the most important and influential leaders of the early Church of Jesus Christ.

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