When we join Peter in Acts 9, he is about the ministry God has set before him. The churches in Judea, Galilee and Samaria were experiencing peace and walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Scripture says, “…they were multiplied” (v. 9:31).
Peter was in the region of Lydda, which is close to Joppa. While there, he had the opportunity to heal a man named Aeneas, who had been paralyzed and bedridden for eight years. Peter said, “Jesus the Christ heals you,” and he was healed by the power of God (vv. 9:32-35). This miraculous healing led many who dwelt in Lydda and the surrounding areas to turn to the Lord and become disciples.
While Peter was seeing the beginning of new spiritual life in Lydda, another disciple was seeing the end of her physical life in Joppa. This disciple’s name was Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. Scripture says, “This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did. But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room” (vv. 9:36-37). She was a good disciple and faithful to the Lord, but death is no respecter of persons.
God Is a Source of Hope for the Hopeless
“Because 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. 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” (vv. 9:38-39).
Why did they send for Peter? Sure, he has healed a couple of lame men—one in Jerusalem at the Beautiful Gate and another in nearby Lydda—but he hadn’t raised anyone from the dead. Elijah and Elisha had done that. Jesus had done it on a few occasions. Peter hadn’t raised anyone from the dead. Why send for him? The widows were distraught by the death of Tabitha. The disciples there in Joppa must have been distraught, as well. Peter was God’s representative working in their area, and God was with him as evidenced by the works God was doing through him. They desperately need hope. God is a source of hope in a hopeless situation.
Have you ever been hopeless? Have you ever been up against the wall, emotionally drained, and beside yourself wondering what to do next? We all have, I suspect. When we are in these situations, we cry out to God all the more. We realize our limitations and cry out for the One who is unlimited in His ability and power. It is often the case that God manifests Himself powerfully when we are powerless…
God Is a Source of Power for the Powerless
“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. Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive” (vv. 9:40-41).
Do you think Peter was surprised when she raised again? I have no idea, but this was a first for him! God had used him before but never in this way! Could it be that Peter asked everyone to leave just in case things didn’t go well? Whatever his thought process, things did go well, and God again showed Himself mighty on behalf of His servant. God’s power was manifested in the resurrection of Tabitha, and she was restored to life to continue serving her Lord Jesus. What a miracle!
When was the last time you felt powerless? God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness. We are much weaker than we sometimes want to admit, but God remains strong for us! You can rely on this!
God Is a Source of Life for the Lifeless
“And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord” (v. 9:42).
Perhaps you think the above statement fits better with Tabitha’s resurrection than the subsequent events that follow. However, the greater miracles are yet to come.
Word must have spread quickly—and rightly so. Healing lame men is pretty amazing, but resurrection? That’s the miracle of all miracles! Or is it? Notice how God used this instance of physical resurrection to multiply His disciples in this area. This pattern occurs throughout the Book of Acts: miracle, testimony, salvation. Just as in the verses immediately preceding where God used Peter to heal Aeneas, the healing happens (miracle), word spreads about Jesus (testimony), and people turn to the Lord (salvation).
I saw him coming down the aisle one Sunday. Everyone in town knew this man. They were surprised he was attending church. He was known as a hard man who loved the world, not the Lord. As a pastor, I get unusual access into people’s lives. I am there for the good times and the bad, sickness and health, and yes, sometimes during and after death. I have seen God’s power manifest through restoration of relationships, healing of disease and freedom from addictions.
It occurred to me that Sunday, as I watched a grown man weep about his sin and ask Jesus for salvation, that I was witnessing the greatest miracle—the one miracle that extends past the physical and temporal and into the eternal. Pastors across the globe want to see the power of God manifest, and it does every time someone comes to the saving knowledge of the gospel. What a miracle!
The greatest miracles recorded in Scripture are the salvations of men and women, boys and girls, who are restored to fellowship with God and granted eternal life through Christ Jesus: healed for eternity, not just a lifetime; raised to new spiritual life, not just raised to physical life. People see God working in our lives and they desire for Him to be in their lives.
God brings hope to our hopeless situations. God shows His power while we are powerless. God brings life to those who are lifeless. In this text, Tabitha is raised to physical life by the power of God. This is a great miracle, but what about all those who were raised to eternal life because of what God did for Tabitha? They were disciples, they knew Christ, they had eternal life because of this single miracle that also multiplies!
Jeffrey C. Campbell is the W.A. Criswell Assistant Professor of Preaching at Criswell College in Dallas, Texas.