1. The Sermon Vigil of Paul
In Acts 20:7-9, we read of the vigil at which “Paul preached… until midnight.” During that vigil, a sleepy young man named Eutychus “sat in a window,” probably to get his tired body as close as possible to the source of fresh air in the crowded hall. “As Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.”
Who says there is no place for long sermons? One or two may crash out and crash down from such services, true, which only means that long sermons have their liabilities; but they have their occasional place also, especially at vigils.
Shouldn’t someone skip a vigil when they have had a very busy day and are tired? Ask Eutychus, For this man, even when he crashed, help was not far. The voice of a weary body is not often reliable in deciding where and how to spend our nights.
2. The Prayer Vigil of Jesus
We read in Mark 1:35 that, on one occasion, Jesus got up “a great while before day ...went out [of the house?], and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” We do not know exactly how many hours “before day” it was, except that it was “a great while before day,” and He prayed until morning. This was not an early vigil; it was a late vigil. But whatever the label, He found it useful to spend the night time to pray. One Bible commentary, the Robertson’s New Testament Word Pictures, states that the Greek word “prôi, translated “morning” in Mark, means the last watch of the night, which is from 3.00-6.00am. That may place the duration of this prayer vigil somewhere within that timeframe. Moreover, the word “depart,” translated aperchomai in that verse, also means to escape. How aptly that describes what should sometimes be the drastic process of extricating oneself from an entrapping cosy bed into the needful rigours of a vigil!
This prayer vigil was coming after Jesus had “healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils”(Mark 1:34). Who would have thought that that was the time to go off to pray, rather than sit back to relish the fame from the many miracles that had been done? Besides, Jesus could have been tired enough from such a crusade to have justified the need to go to sleep rather than go to pray. The weary flesh may not always be right.
From The Preacher's diary.
Culled from one of our little books, Why Vigils?