Acts 9 Part 4

32. Now it came to pass, as Peter went through all parts of the country, that he also came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda.

Our focus returns for now from the man Saul back to Peter, one of the greatest of the twelve, and his work at this time. We find out here that Peter was going through all parts of the country. From verse 31, we would take this to be throughout all parts of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. He was not staying put in Jerusalem at this time, but was going out to believers throughout the land wherever they might be.

Now in his travels Peter comes down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda. Lydda was a small town on the road from Jerusalem to Joppa. There were believers there, however, and Peter came to see them. It is here that the next great event we will consider took place.

33. There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed.

In Lydda Peter finds a certain man named Aeneas. There is no reason to think that this man was a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. If he was, we would expect the Divine record in Acts to tell us so. It should then have called him a disciple, even as Tabitha is called a disciple three verses later in Acts 9:36. Yet the Lord gives Aeneas no credit for being a disciple, just a certain man. This would lead us to the conclusion that he was not a follower of Jesus Christ at this time.

Aeneas is paralyzed. This is probably what we would call palsy, or paralysis agitans, now known as Parkinson’s disease. This was a terrible illness to suffer from, and he had it so badly that he had been in bed for eight years. From the time at which this takes place, which is about five years into the Acts period, we would say that his illness began about the time Christ began his ministry. He was sick all through the three years that the Lord traveled around the land of Israel teaching, and had continued to be sick through the five years of the Acts period that have commenced since that time.

Now this man Aeneas is found by Peter, a representative of God’s government. As representing God, Peter had the right to offer this man healing from God, which he will now do.

34. And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.” Then he arose immediately.

Now Peter speaks to Aeneas in the name of Jesus the Messiah. It was in His power and His character that this healing was performed. Then he commands Aeneas to arise and to make his bed. As soon as Peter said this, Aeneas did it, and was healed just like that.

Now notice how simple Peter’s method of healing this man was. He did not need to proclaim himself to be a healer. He did not have to call a meeting or advertise. Instead, he found just one sick man, and he healed him. This is how Biblical healings were carried out. There was no fanfare or emotion, just the power of God acting to heal one who was sick.

Notice that this man did not even need to be a believer or show faith before Peter did this. Like in Acts 3 when he healed the lame man, Peter gave this man no warning, but simply healed him. By this, Aeneas experienced the blessings of God’s government. This brought him under responsibility to the kingdom, and forced him to deal with the question of whether or not he would yield to it. This seems to be the idea of what Christ said in Matthew 11:12, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” The idea of “suffers violence” seems to be that it was being forcibly brought to men, whether they were looking for it or not. So it is with Aeneas, who now comes face-to-face with that government. He has no option now but to respond to it, either by yielding to its authority and claims, or by rejecting it and refusing to submit.

35. So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.

The story of Aeneas’ healing quickly spreads not only throughout Lydda, but also to the next town of Sharon as well. These were not large cities, and the inhabitants were all known to one another. These people knew this man Aeneas, they knew his illness, and they probably even knew how long he had been afflicted by it. Thus when he is healed, they all know of it, and they know that this could be nothing but the power of God. Therefore they all turn to the Lord, being convinced of the truth of Peter’s message. This again provides a contrast with so-called modern healers today, who like to meet in large cities, and will not subject themselves to the scrutiny of a small town, where everyone knows each other.

36. At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.

Now our attention is drawn to Joppa, another town on the seashore near to where Peter was in Lydda. There lives a certain disciple named Tabitha in Aramaic, or Dorcas in Greek, both of which mean “Gazelle.” She was a woman who was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did. The word “full” here is pleres, and means filled up or thoroughly permeated with. In other words, this was the dominating aspect of her life, and her time and thought were filled with these things.

37. But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room.

At this time, this disciple Tabitha becomes sick and dies. We will not understand the difficulty with this unless we are careful to put ourselves in our thoughts in the context of the Acts period and the kingdom of God that was on earth then. At that time, those who became believers saw far more happen in their lives than what occurs when one believes today. When they believed, they became subjects of God’s government, and therefore were subject to all the benefits and responsibilities that that brings.

Now one of the privileges of those who were under God’s government at that time was that they were granted the gift of health. This health was not a partial thing, and it did not become obsolete when one came to old age. Rather, those who were subject to healing at this time had every reason to expect that they would not grow sick, and that they would not die what is called a “natural death.”

Now we have already seen that Stephen died, as we saw in Acts 7:60. Yet this was no “natural death,” for Stephen was murdered by an angry mob. The Lord had promised His disciples that they would be persecuted even as He had been, and that some of them would be put to death. Therefore, this was no surprise.

Also, we have seen Ananias and Sapphira die in Acts 5:5 and 10. Yet these died as a result of lying to the Holy Spirit of God, and their death was not a natural death, but a punishment directly from the hand of God. In I Corinthians 11:30, many were weak and sick among the Corinthians because they had not discerned the Lord’s body, and had eaten and drunk judgment to themselves. Yet again this was because they were judged by the Lord for their actions, as was appropriate in the kingdom of God.

Yet when it comes to what we call “natural death,” there was simply no such thing among the believers of the Acts period. Romans 8:2 makes this clear, when Paul declares:

1. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Paul declares himself to be free from the law of sin and death. This is because there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, and who walk according to the Spirit. I believe that this was the reality and this was the experience of every Acts period believer who did not sin as Ananias and Sapphira or the Corinthians did. When they believed in Christ Jesus and therefore were placed in Christ Jesus, they were removed from the jurisdiction of the law of sin and death. There was an immediate, physical change in their bodies upon them believing, and this resulted in them no longer becoming sick or experiencing the process of dying.

Against the backdrop of these kingdom conditions, we can now see what a problem the death of Tabitha was for those believers who knew her. They knew the kind of woman Tabitha was, and they knew that she should not have died unless she had committed some crime against God’s government. Yet what crime could this kind, generous woman possibly have committed? What could one whose every effort was to do good works and charitable deeds have possibly committed that would make her worthy of death? They just could not imagine such a thing.

What had Tabitha done that had brought death upon her? The Bible does not tell us this right out, and so we can only speculate. Yet I believe that we can arrive at an answer if we will only carefully consider exactly what it says about her. The passage says that she was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did. This passage declares that she was simply full of these things. Yet the Lord had declared in Matthew 4:4 what someday will be a rule of life in the kingdom of God. There, He said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’

By this statement, the Lord declared something that will be true in the kingdom. There is no doubt but that today man can live without paying any attention at all to the words of God. If I never considered a word God said again, my life would continue unchanged as far as my physical health is concerned. Yet when God’s government is upon the earth, the words of the Lord cannot be so easily neglected. During that time, men will need the word of God to live, just as much as we need food to remain alive today. In that day, neglecting the study of the Word will not be possible. At that time, to neglect the word of God would result in death just as much as neglecting food will lead to death in our day. Men will literally need the word of God to live, and if they do not have it, they will “starve to death” from lack of God-given food!

Now Tabitha, as we read above, was full of good works. Otis Q. Sellers suggested in this connection that we consider the word “consecrate” in the Old Testament. There are times in the King James Version where this word is actually used to translate two words in Hebrew, literally “fill” and “hand.” Thus “to fill the hand” is to consecrate something to a certain use. This occurs in Exodus 28:41, 29:9, 33, 35, 32:29; Leviticus 8:33, 16:32; II Chronicles 13:9; and Ezekiel 43:26.

When your hands are filled with something, then you are consecrated to that thing. That thing fills your life, dominates your thoughts, and determines your activities. There are those who, when we urge them to study the Word of God, tell us that “my hands are full already.” What they mean is that they are consecrated to other things. When your hands are full, you can always drop something. Yet that to which one consecrates himself is what will fill his hands.

Tabitha had filled her hands with good works and charitable deeds which she did. Because of this, her hands were full, and she had room for nothing else, even the word of God. Yet Tabitha, when she had believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, had fallen under the jurisdiction of God’s government. As such, she was subject to it, and was liable under its laws. One of those laws is that a person cannot live on just food, but also must live upon the words that proceed from the mouth of God.

We have already seen in Acts 6:2-3 how the twelve considered the task of studying the word to be of greater importance even than good and charitable deeds. To them, it would have been madness to neglect their duties in the word of God, even if the reason was to perform charitable deeds. Yet Tabitha had neglected the word of God, and instead had given herself over to charitable deeds. Because of this, she had slowly begun to “starve” from lack of contact with God’s Word. At first she became sick, but still she did not amend her conduct. Finally, she died. She had suffered the ultimate penalty for failing to heed God’s words!

Now the disciples in Joppa are mystified and dismayed at this turn of events. They know the Lord’s words in John 14:19. “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.” They knew that they had been given life in the Lord Jesus Christ. As I said above, they had experienced what it meant to no longer be under the dominion of sin and death. They knew that if they were not martyred, only some grievous fault against the laws of God’s kingdom could ever bring death upon them. Therefore the case of Tabitha must have given them great difficulty. What could this kind and loving woman possibly have done to deserve losing her gift of life? What sin could she have committed that would have called for so dire a punishment? To them, it seemed that somehow God’s government had failed in the case of this woman. Thus, they do not bury her immediately, as would have been the custom in that day. Instead, they merely wash her body, and place it in an upper chamber.

38. And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them.

It seems that all the leaders in Joppa are unable to answer this difficult question. Why had Tabitha died, and what might be done about it? Yet they had heard that Peter was in Lydda, which is just nine miles away from Joppa. Thus, they sent two men to Peter, imploring him to come to them will all speed. They have a most grave and important matter to bring before him. They want to know if anything can be done about Tabitha.

39. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them.

Peter goes with the messengers, and arrives at Joppa. They bring him to the upper room where they had laid Tabitha and show her to him. Most concerned, it seems, are the widows, who stand by him weeping and showing him the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made for them while she was alive. Remember that women in that time were not allowed to work for themselves. They could work for their fathers if they were young or for their husbands, but they could not get a job on their own. Therefore widows who had no adult son to care for them were the people in their society who were the neediest and were most in need of kindness and care from those who were able to provide them aid. Thus much of Tabitha’s labors had probably been bestowed upon widows.

Now we need to keep in mind what is going on here from God’s perspective. These people are part of His kingdom, and He is the highest One in that kingdom, ruling over all. Under the Lord Himself in this kingdom are His highest chosen rulers, the twelve, here represented by Peter. To these men, the Lord had given the power to bind a thing on earth and it would be bound in heaven, or to loose a thing on earth and it would be loosed in heaven, as we read in Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18. Peter had God’s authority in this situation to act. Under Peter is Tabitha, a citizen of God’s government. She had died under the authority of God’s government. God had acted in the case of Tabitha, but if Peter wished to appeal that decision and to seek grace for Tabitha, he had every right to do so.

40. But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.

Peter put them all out, weeping widows and puzzled leaders alike. It was evident to him that he needed direction from his Superior. It was clear that God had acted in the case of Tabitha and had passed down a judgment upon her. However, it was also evident that this woman deserved mercy. Even though God’s government is a fair one, it is also a righteous government, and as such will always show mercy where it is warranted. Thus Peter prayed and asked God for direction.

Apparently he got it, for he then turned to the body and commanded Tabitha to arise. And arise she did. First she opened her eyes and saw Peter, and then she sat up. Thus, the one who with a word had pronounced death upon Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:3-4 and 9, now with a word pronounces life for Tabitha. As human beings, it is within our power to bring death, though we may not be able to do it with a word as Peter did. Yet it is utterly beyond our power to bring life back to the dead again. We can bring death, but only God can restore life. This makes it clear that Peter’s power was not his own, but he got this power from God.

41. Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive.

Peter gives her his hand and helps her to her feet. Then he calls the saints and widows and presents her alive to them. This must have brought them great joy, as well as leaving them a little in awe. Yet these people knew they were a part of God’s government, and so they were probably not as surprised as you or I would have been. It is likely that this is what they hoped would happen when they called for Peter. Under God’s government, things that seem spectacular and impossible in our day will become more or less commonplace. They were experiencing the effects of being set free from the law of sin and death every day. Thus, this miracle may not have been all that surprising to them. They were more surprised by Tabitha’s death, it seems, than by her resurrection.

42. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord.

Though this may not have surprised those who were already believers and in God’s government, it was a powerful sign to those who had not yet believed. Thus, when word of this spread throughout all Joppa, many believed on the Lord. This one act produced many new believers. Thus the gospel continued to grow, and to dominate the scene wherever it spread.

The inhabitants of these towns were all Israelites, what we call Jews, and they were accepting the word, not rejecting it. The idea that the Jews rejected the gospel in the Acts period is simply not borne out by Scripture. The overwhelming majority of the Israelites continued to accept the truth and submit to it in the Acts period. It was only among the leaders that there was a significant group opposing the word. The people continued to hear it gladly, as they had heard Christ when He was on earth.

43. So it was that he stayed many days in Joppa with Simon, a tanner.

Now Peter performs a most unusual act. That is, he goes to stay in the house of one Simon, a tanner. This was one who tanned the hides of animals. The homes of tanners were usually built away from the rest of the town, and downwind from the town. This is because many unpleasant smells would emanate from the home of a tanner. It would not be the most desirable place to stay because of this. Yet it seems Peter found one who was open to the word and eager to serve in this home, and so he did not hesitate to stay there.

The second problem with staying with a tanner is that tanners were considered unclean by Jewish tradition. Anyone who worked in the hides of animals would be considered ceremonially unclean by those who kept to strict Jewish tradition. This tradition had very little basis in the Word of God, and thus it seems that Peter completely ignored it. He well knew from the Lord that he was to follow God’s clean and unclean laws, not those made up by the Jewish leaders. Thus, he did not refuse to stay in the home of this tanner. This was a good thing that Peter did, and a step in the right direction regarding truth. Now, God is going to lead Peter further into truth regarding what He considers clean and unclean. Now, Peter is going to learn more of the mind of God, as we will see in the next chapter.

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32. Now it came to pass, as Peter went through all parts of the country, that he also came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda.

 

Our focus returns for now from the man Saul back to Peter, one of the greatest of the twelve, and his work at this time. We find out here that Peter was going through all parts of the country. From verse 31, we would take this to be throughout all parts of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. He was not staying put in Jerusalem at this time, but was going out to believers throughout the land wherever they might be.

 

Now in his travels Peter comes down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda. Lydda was a small town on the road from Jerusalem to Joppa. There were believers there, however, and Peter came to see them. It is here that the next great event we will consider took place.

 

33. There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed.

 

In Lydda Peter finds a certain man named Aeneas. There is no reason to think that this man was a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. If he was, we would expect the Divine record in Acts to tell us so. It should then have called him a disciple, even as Tabitha is called a disciple three verses later in Acts 9:36. Yet the Lord gives Aeneas no credit for being a disciple, just a certain man. This would lead us to the conclusion that he was not a follower of Jesus Christ at this time.

 

Aeneas is paralyzed. This is probably what we would call palsy, or paralysis agitans, now known as Parkinson’s disease. This was a terrible illness to suffer from, and he had it so badly that he had been in bed for eight years. From the time at which this takes place, which is about five years into the Acts period, we would say that his illness began about the time Christ began his ministry. He was sick all through the three years that the Lord traveled around the land of Israel teaching, and had continued to be sick through the five years of the Acts period that have commenced since that time.

 

Now this man Aeneas is found by Peter, a representative of God’s government. As representing God, Peter had the right to offer this man healing from God, which he will now do.

 

34. And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.” Then he arose immediately.

 

Now Peter speaks to Aeneas in the name of Jesus the Messiah. It was in His power and His character that this healing was performed. Then he commands Aeneas to arise and to make his bed. As soon as Peter said this, Aeneas did it, and was healed just like that.

 

Now notice how simple Peter’s method of healing this man was. He did not need to proclaim himself to be a healer. He did not have to call a meeting or advertise. Instead, he found just one sick man, and he healed him. This is how Biblical healings were carried out. There was no fanfare or emotion, just the power of God acting to heal one who was sick.

 

Notice that this man did not even need to be a believer or show faith before Peter did this. Like in Acts 3 when he healed the lame man, Peter gave this man no warning, but simply healed him. By this, Aeneas experienced the blessings of God’s government. This brought him under responsibility to the kingdom, and forced him to deal with the question of whether or not he would yield to it. This seems to be the idea of what Christ said in Matthew 11:12, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” The idea of “suffers violence” seems to be that it was being forcibly brought to men, whether they were looking for it or not. So it is with Aeneas, who now comes face-to-face with that government. He has no option now but to respond to it, either by yielding to its authority and claims, or by rejecting it and refusing to submit.

 

35. So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.

 

The story of Aeneas’ healing quickly spreads not only throughout Lydda, but also to the next town of Sharon as well. These were not large cities, and the inhabitants were all known to one another. These people knew this man Aeneas, they knew his illness, and they probably even knew how long he had been afflicted by it. Thus when he is healed, they all know of it, and they know that this could be nothing but the power of God. Therefore they all turn to the Lord, being convinced of the truth of Peter’s message. This again provides a contrast with so-called modern healers today, who like to meet in large cities, and will not subject themselves to the scrutiny of a small town, where everyone knows each other.

 

36. At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.

 

Now our attention is drawn to Joppa, another town on the seashore near to where Peter was in Lydda. There lives a certain disciple named Tabitha in Aramaic, or Dorcas in Greek, both of which mean “Gazelle.” She was a woman who was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did. The word “full” here is pleres, and means filled up or thoroughly permeated with. In other words, this was the dominating aspect of her life, and her time and thought were filled with these things.

 

37. But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room.

 

At this time, this disciple Tabitha becomes sick and dies. We will not understand the difficulty with this unless we are careful to put ourselves in our thoughts in the context of the Acts period and the kingdom of God that was on earth then. At that time, those who became believers saw far more happen in their lives than what occurs when one believes today. When they believed, they became subjects of God’s government, and therefore were subject to all the benefits and responsibilities that that brings.

 

Now one of the privileges of those who were under God’s government at that time was that they were granted the gift of health. This health was not a partial thing, and it did not become obsolete when one came to old age. Rather, those who were subject to healing at this time had every reason to expect that they would not grow sick, and that they would not die what is called a “natural death.”

 

Now we have already seen that Stephen died, as we saw in Acts 7:60. Yet this was no “natural death,” for Stephen was murdered by an angry mob. The Lord had promised His disciples that they would be persecuted even as He had been, and that some of them would be put to death. Therefore, this was no surprise.

 

Also, we have seen Ananias and Sapphira die in Acts 5:5 and 10. Yet these died as a result of lying to the Holy Spirit of God, and their death was not a natural death, but a punishment directly from the hand of God. In I Corinthians 11:30, many were weak and sick among the Corinthians because they had not discerned the Lord’s body, and had eaten and drunk judgment to themselves. Yet again this was because they were judged by the Lord for their actions, as was appropriate in the kingdom of God.

 

Yet when it comes to what we call “natural death,” there was simply no such thing among the believers of the Acts period. Romans 8:2 makes this clear, when Paul declares:

 

1. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

 

Paul declares himself to be free from the law of sin and death. This is because there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, and who walk according to the Spirit. I believe that this was the reality and this was the experience of every Acts period believer who did not sin as Ananias and Sapphira or the Corinthians did. When they believed in Christ Jesus and therefore were placed in Christ Jesus, they were removed from the jurisdiction of the law of sin and death. There was an immediate, physical change in them upon believing, and this resulted in them no longer becoming sick and no longer experiencing the process of dying.

 

Against the backdrop of these kingdom conditions, we can now see what a problem the death of Tabitha was for those believers who knew her. They knew the kind of woman Tabitha was, and they knew that she should not have died unless she had committed some crime against God’s government. Yet what crime could this kind, generous woman possibly have committed? What could one whose every effort was to do good works and charitable deeds have possibly committed that would make her worthy of death? They just could not imagine such a thing.

 

What had Tabitha done that had brought death upon her? The Bible does not tell us this right out, and so we can only speculate. Yet I believe that we can arrive at an answer if we will only carefully consider exactly what it says about her. The passage says that she was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did. This passage declares that she was simply full of these things. Yet the Lord had declared in Matthew 4:4 what someday will be a rule of life in the kingdom of God. There, He said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

 

By this statement, the Lord declared something that will be true in the kingdom. There is no doubt but that today man can live without paying any attention at all to the words of God. If I never considered a word God said again, my life would continue unchanged as far as my physical health is concerned. Yet when God’s government is upon the earth, the words of the Lord cannot be so easily neglected. During that time, men will need the word of God to live, just as much as we need food to live today. In that day, neglecting the study of the Word will not be possible. At that time, to neglect the word of God would result in death just as much as neglecting food will result in death in our day. Men will literally need the word of God to live, and if they do not have it, they will “starve to death” from lack of God-given food!

 

Now Tabitha, as we read above, was full of good works. Otis Q. Sellers suggested in this connection that we consider the word “consecrate” in the Old Testament. There are times in the King James Version where this word is actually used to translate two words in Hebrew, literally “fill” and “hand.” Thus “to fill the hand” is to consecrate something to a certain use. This occurs in Exodus 28:41, 29:9, 33, 35, 32:29; Leviticus 8:33, 16:32; II Chronicles 13:9; and Ezekiel 43:26.

 

When your hands are filled with something, then you are consecrated to that thing. That thing fills your life, dominates your thoughts, and determines your activities. There are those who, when we urge them to study the Word of God, tell us that “my hands are full already.” What they mean is that they are consecrated to other things. When your hands are full, you can always drop something. Yet that to which one consecrates himself is what will fill his hands.

 

Tabitha had filled her hands with good works and charitable deeds which she did. Because of this, her hands were full, and she had room for nothing else, even the word of God. Yet Tabitha, when she had believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, had fallen under the jurisdiction of God’s government. As such, she was subject to it, and was liable under its laws. One of those laws is that a person cannot live on just food, but also must live upon the words that proceed from the mouth of God.

 

We have already seen in Acts 6:2-3 how the twelve considered the task of studying the word to be of greater importance even than good and charitable deeds. To them, it would have been madness to neglect their duties in the word of God, even if the reason was to perform charitable deeds. Yet Tabitha had neglected the word of God, and instead had given herself over to charitable deeds. Because of this, she had slowly begun to “starve” from lack of contact with God’s Word. At first she became sick, but still she did not amend her conduct. Finally, she died. She had suffered the ultimate penalty for failing to heed God’s words!

 

Now the disciples in Joppa are mystified and dismayed at this turn of events. They know the Lord’s words in John 14:19. “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.” They knew that they had been given life in the Lord Jesus Christ. As I said above, they had experienced what it meant to no longer be under the dominion of sin and death. They knew that if they were not martyred, only some grievous fault against the laws of God’s kingdom could ever bring death upon them. Therefore the case of Tabitha must have given them great difficulty. What could this kind and loving woman possibly have done to deserve losing her gift of life? What sin could she have committed that would have called for so dire a punishment? To them, it seemed that somehow God’s government had failed in the case of this woman. Thus, they do not bury her immediately, as would have been the custom in that day. Instead, they merely wash her body, and place it in an upper chamber.

 

38. And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them.

 

It seems that all the leaders in Joppa are unable to answer this difficult question. Why had Tabitha died, and what might be done about it? Yet they had heard that Peter was in Lydda, which is just nine miles away from Joppa. Thus, they sent two men to Peter, imploring him to come to them will all speed. They have a most grave and important matter to bring before him. They want to know if anything can be done about Tabitha.

 

39. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them.

 

Peter goes with the messengers, and arrives at Joppa. They bring him to the upper room where they had laid Tabitha and show her to him. Most concerned, it seems, are the widows, who stand by him weeping and showing him the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made for them while she was alive. Remember that women in that time were not allowed to work for themselves. They could work for their fathers if they were young or for their husbands, but they could not get a job on their own. Therefore widows who had no adult son to care for them were the people in their society who were the neediest and were most in need of kindness and care from those who were able to provide them aid. Thus much of Tabitha’s labors had probably been bestowed upon widows.

 

Now we need to keep in mind what is going on here from God’s perspective. These people are part of His kingdom, and He is the highest One in that kingdom, ruling over all. Under the Lord Himself in this kingdom are His highest chosen rulers, the twelve, here represented by Peter. To these men, the Lord had given the power to bind a thing on earth and it would be bound in heaven, or to loose a thing on earth and it would be loosed in heaven, as we read in Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18. Peter had God’s authority in this situation to act. Under Peter is Tabitha, a citizen of God’s government. She had died under the authority of God’s government. God had acted in the case of Tabitha, but if Peter wished to appeal that decision and to seek grace for Tabitha, he had every right to do so.

 

40. But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.

 

Peter put them all out, weeping widows and puzzled leaders alike. It was evident to him that he needed direction from his Superior. It was clear that God had acted in the case of Tabitha and had passed down a judgment upon her. However, it was also evident that this woman deserved mercy. Even though God’s government is a fair one, it is also a righteous government, and as such will always show mercy where it is warranted. Thus Peter prayed and asked God for direction.

 

Apparently he got it, for he then turned to the body and commanded Tabitha to arise. And arise she did. First she opened her eyes and saw Peter, and then she sat up. Thus, the one who with a word had pronounced death upon Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:3-4 and 9, now with a word pronounces life for Tabitha. As human beings, it is within our power to bring death, though we may not be able to do it with a word as Peter did. Yet it is utterly beyond our power to bring life back to the dead again. We can bring death, but only God can restore life. This makes it clear that Peter’s power was not his own, but he got this power from God.

 

41. Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive.

 

Peter gives her his hand and helps her to her feet. Then he calls the saints and widows and presents her alive to them. This must have brought them great joy, as well as leaving them a little in awe. Yet these people knew they were a part of God’s government, and so they were probably not as surprised as you or I would have been. It is likely that this is what they hoped would happen when they called for Peter. Under God’s government, things that seem spectacular and impossible in our day will become more or less commonplace. They were experiencing the effects of being set free from the law of sin and death every day. Thus, this miracle may not have been all that surprising to them. They were more surprised by Tabitha’s death, it seems, then by her resurrection.

 

42. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord.

 

Though this may not have surprised those who were already believers and in God’s government, it was a powerful sign to those who had not yet believed. Thus, when word of this spread throughout all Joppa, many believed on the Lord. This one act produced many new believers. Thus the gospel continued to grow, and to dominate the scene wherever it spread.

 

The inhabitants of these towns were all Israelites, what we call Jews, and they were accepting the word, not rejecting it. The idea that the Jews rejected the gospel in the Acts period is simply not borne out by Scripture. The overwhelming majority of the Israelites continued to accept the truth and submit to it in the Acts period. It was only among the leaders that there was a significant group opposing the word. The people continued to hear it gladly, as they had heard Christ when He was on earth.

 

43. So it was that he stayed many days in Joppa with Simon, a tanner.

 

Now Peter performs a most unusual act. That is, he goes to stay in the house of one Simon, a tanner. This was one who tanned the hides of animals. The homes of tanners were usually built away from the rest of the town, and downwind from the town. This is because many unpleasant smells would emanate from the home of a tanner. It would not be the most desirable place to stay because of this. Yet it seems Peter found one who was open to the word and eager to serve in this home, and so he did not hesitate to stay there.

 

The second problem with staying with a tanner is that tanners were considered unclean by Jewish tradition. Anyone who worked in the hides of animals would be considered ceremonially unclean by those who kept to strict Jewish tradition. This tradition had very little basis in the Word of God, and thus it seems that Peter completely ignored it. He well knew from the Lord that he was to follow God’s clean and unclean laws, not those made up by the Jewish leaders. Thus, he did not refuse to stay in the home of this tanner. This was a good thing that Peter did, and a step in the right direction regarding truth. Now, God is going to lead Peter further into truth regarding what He considers clean and unclean. Now, Peter is going to learn more of the mind of God, as we will see in the next chapter.

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