Text: Acts 9:32-43
How do you like your Christianity? Spectacular, or ordinary?
1. Spectacular – the dead raised
The gospel has been moving out in ever increasing circles.
Peter and John have been sent from Jerusalem to Samaria, 8:14ff. Now Peter is moving to the outer regions of Judea. Visiting the ‘saints’ in Lydda.
First, the healing of Eeneas.
Then 10 miles away, in Joppa, Tabitha/Dorcas has died.
They send for Peter – what did they expect him to do? No doubt they had heard of Eeneas’ healing.
Peter comes – surrounded by widows, showing him the clothes that Dorcas had made for them.
What would he do? Same procedure as raising of Jairus’ daughter, Mk 5:41. Goes into the room. Sends everyone else out. Says: ‘Tabitha koum’ (cf. ‘Talitha koum’).
In the days of his flesh, Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter Mk 5:41, son of the widow of Nain, Lk 7:11-17, Lazarus, Jn 11. Acts records the continuing acts of Jesus, including this raising of a dead person.
2 Cor 12:12 – ‘The things that mark an apostle – signs, wonders and miracles’, Peter did with great power. He’s the genuine article.
But he was about to have his world turned upside down. It would be vital for him (and those around him) to know that God was with him.
And vital for us too. The gospel is much more revolutionary than many of us imagine. Its central proclamation of a crucified and risen saviour is foolishness to many and a stumbling block to others. To know that this gospel has been faithfully passed down to us by divinely appointed and divinely attested eyewitnesses makes all the difference. No-one who hears that message has any excuse for rejecting it as a fairy tale, wishful thinking, or an irrelevance. Nor may we keep it at arm’s length by supposing it to be of moderate importance.
2. Ordinary – everyday acts of kindness
v36 Dorcas ‘was always doing good and helping the poor.’
v39 The widows were ‘showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made.’
The difficulties faced by poor Greek-speaking Jewish widows has already surfaced in Acts 6:1-6. The needs (and responsibilities) of widows will continue to be important in the later pages of the New Testament.
She is marked out as an authentic follower of Jesus, ‘who went about doing good’, Acts 10:38.
1 Cor 13:4 ‘Love is patient, love is kind.’
Gal 5:22 ‘The fruit of Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…’
James 1:27 – ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’
Can it be said that we adorn the gospel with lives that overflow with daily acts of kindness? Such people are the unsung heroes, ‘the beating heart of the church’.
Certainly those widows thought so.
V41 ‘Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive.’
There is a pattern running through the various raisings of the dead:
1 Kng 17:23 – son of the widow of Zarepha. ‘Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”’
2 Kng 4:36 – son of a Shunammite woman. ‘Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite.” And he did. When she came, he said, “Take your son.” She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.’
Lk 7:15 ‘The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.’
It was for their benefit that Dorcas was brought back:
But it was not to her advantage! A pre-echo of Paul’s words – Phil 1:23f ‘I desire[d] to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it [was] more necessary for you that I remain in the body.’
Mystery: why was Dorcas raised, and not others? Why was Stephen (and, later, James) not spared an untimely death?
But the greatest thing of all is available to us all, and is touched on in v35, 42 ‘Many people believed in the Lord.’ ‘The greatest miracle of all is the salvation of a lost sinner. Why? Because salvation costs the greatest price, it produces the greatest results, and it brings the greatest glory to God.’ (Wiersbe)
I want to be in that number. Don’t you?