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“TABITHA, GET UP”

Acts 9:32-9:42
Key Verse: 9:40

Thank and praise God for the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through his death on the cross he completed our salvation. Through his resurrection the God and Father of our Lord Jesus became our God and Father. The risen Christ is living and speaks to us, knowing us very personally. He wants us to go and tell the good news of his death and resurrection to the people of this world so that they may also come to our God and Father through his Son Jesus Christ. We resume Acts study. In chapter 9 we studied Saul’s conversion and his dynamic change from a merciless persecutor of Jesus to a courageous and vigorous propagator of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Now the author Luke puts Saul, who was sent off to Tarsus, his home town, in the back stage for a while and brings Peter on the stage again. Today’s passage is about Peter’s healing ministry, making a paralytic get up and even raising a dead. His faith in Jesus Christ was true and living. Let’s think about what his faith means to us.

First, Peter’s healing a paralytic (32-35). Look at verse 32. “As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda.” Here we see that Peter’s traveling (Itinerant) ministry began. So far because of the severe persecution in Jerusalem the apostles had to stay in Jerusalem church. Now when the time of peace came to the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria, Peter traveled to preach the gospel and encourage the disciples. He went to Lydda to strengthen disciples there. In the gospel ministry, preaching the gospel to new people and encouraging the disciples, both are important.

Look at verse 33. “There he found a man named Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years.” Among many people he met, Peter’s heart went out to a sick person, named Aeneas. He had been sick with paralysis and bedridden for eight years. Being ridden in a bed even for one week is hard to endure. Eight years are not a short time. When Peter saw Aeneas who had been bedridden for eight years, Peter’s heart must have been broken. His heart must have been more broken when he could see that Aeneas would be bedridden throughout his life if not healed. And Peter had absolute faith in Jesus’ healing power. So Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. What a beautiful and powerful healing!

While on earth Jesus healed many including the paralytic. Jesus once healed a paralytic when he was brought to Jesus by his four friends. Jesus said to him, “Your sins are forgiven” and “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then he got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of people there (Mk 2:1-12). Another time Jesus said to a man who had been invalid for 38 years, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked (Jn 5:1:8). Peter was doing what Jesus had done. But the difference is that Jesus had power to heal, but as for Peter, he had faith in Jesus’ healing power. So Peter did not say to Aeneas, “Get up and take care of your mat,” but, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.” Also, when Peter healed a man crippled from birth, Peter said to him, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Then the cripple walked, even jumping to his feet. We see that Peter had faith in Jesus’ name and his healing power. “Jesus Christ heals you.” What a simple and powerful faith! Later Peter said in 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

There are many sick people, sick both spiritually and physically. Jesus heals what humans cannot heal. Last week I was surprised to hear about study drug. When I heard of it, I wondered, “How come there is such a drug?” They say that it helps students to not be distracted but to concentrate and study even for more than 10 hours straightly, and they estimate that more than half of the students are using it, especially at final exam period. Then the problem is that those who use it will be more and more addicted to that drug. The reality of many students is that they cannot overcome their anxiety and many other distracting factors by themselves. In their desperate situation they take such a drug. But we know that no drug can heal them, but Jesus Christ. I thank God that some of our students experienced Jesus’ healing power in their anxious mind and panicking situation at exam times when they depended on Jesus. We can pray for ourselves and others for the healing of various kinds of sickness, such as eating disorder, sleeping disorder, complaining and blaming spirit, dependant spirit, etc. believing that Jesus Christ can heal any sickness. And God wants us to get up from any fatalistic life situation and take care of our life since Jesus Christ our Lord has healing power over anything.

Look at verse 30. “All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.” This verse is interesting. In our understanding since a paralytic was healed, the following verse should be like this, “many other sick people came and were healed.” But what is written here is that all those who lived in that place turned to the Lord. Always, people’s turning to the Lord should be the final purpose.

Second, Peter’s raising a dead (36-41). Look at verse 36. “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor.” We did not know anything about Aeneas. But about Tabitha, how she lived is written here. What a beautiful life she lived always doing good and helping the poor, despite her poor human condition as a widow with the job of clothes-making! Then about that time she became sick and died. Probably she worked very hard not taking care of her body. Anyway, she died and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room, mostly likely being ready to be buried. At that moment the disciples in Joppa heard that Peter was in Lydda, which was near Joppa, and sent for Peter, urging him, “Please, come at once!” (Lydda, about twelve miles south-east of Joppa) Certainly it was out of their love for Tabitha and faith in God that God could do something even with the dead person through Peter.

Then how does the story go on? Look at verse 39a. “Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room.” Then what was the situation? All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. The people there seemed to have much human sorrow in the reminiscence of Dorcas’ life. In a sense we can understand their human sorrow. Yet, this was not a good spiritual environment for God to work. According to the description all the widows joined in displaying their sorrow standing around Peter. Certainly, they did not call Peter for them to cry before him, but to see the work of God through him. However, what they were doing at this moment was a big hindrance for Peter to do God’s work.

What did Peter do? Look at verse 40. “Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed.” Peter knew that God could not work in that unbelieving environment. So he sent them all out of the room. To God one believing person is more important than many unbelieving people. We should not join in unbelieving majority, but believing minority. On one occasion Jesus went to Jairus’ house to raise his dead daughter. When Jesus arrived in the house, he saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. Then Jesus put them all out and took the child’s father and mother and his disciples, Peter, John and James and went in where the child was (Mk 5:37-40). Thus Jesus made a believing environment.

Peter must have learned from Jesus. Sending all the unbelieving people out of the room, Peter got down on his knees and prayed. Peter knew he could not raise the dead. He himself had no such power. But he believed that God could raise the dead. For he saw Jesus’ raising the dead and most importantly Jesus was raised from the dead, defeating the power of death. Peter had faith in the risen Jesus and challenged the humanly impossible situation by getting down on his knees and praying. He humbly and earnestly depended on God in prayer. In Acts we often find praying Peter, while in the gospel story bragging and sleeping and then cowering Peter. In Acts 3:1, “Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon.” It was before his healing a cripple from birth. In 10:9, “About noon…Peter went up on the roof to pray.” It was before his seeing God’s vision. Prayer makes all the difference. While Jesus was with his disciples in an upper room, he said to them, “In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” Here ‘in that day’ refers to ‘after Jesus’ resurrection.’ Through his resurrection Jesus gave us the privilege to pray to God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus and our Father in heaven. Prayer is one characteristic of resurrection faith. Those who believe in Jesus’ resurrection pray, especially in a seemingly impossible situation.

What did Peter do after prayer? Look at verse 42b. “Turning toward the dead woman, he said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’” What a great challenge! Peter spoke to the dead person, calling the name and commanding. It is very interesting to see how God’s servants raised the dead. In the Old Testament, Elijah and Elisha, each raised a dead boy. As for Elijah, he carried the dead son of a widow to the upper room and cried out to the Lord. Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” The LORD heard Elijah’s cry and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived (1 Kings 17:19-20). As for Elisha, he went in where a boy was lying dead on his couch, and shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy’s body grew warm. Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes (2 Kings 4:32-35). In the New Testament Peter and Paul raised the dead, except Jesus. Paul raised the dead in a different way. When a young man was picked up dead, Paul threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him and said to the people, “Don’t be alarmed. He’s alive” (Acts 19:9-10). But as for Peter, he commanded the dead person. In the Bible, except Jesus, Peter was the only human being who commanded a dead one, saying, “Tabitha, get up.” Even in raising the dead, he was exactly following Jesus. Jesus said to Jairus dead daughter in the house, “Talitha koum! (which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’)” (Mk 5:41). On another occasion Jesus said to a young man in a coffin in the funeral procession, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” (Lk 7:14) And at another time Jesus said to a dead man in the cave, calling in a loud voice, “Nazareth, come out!” (Jn 11:42). Like Jesus, Peter commanded the dead woman, “Tabitha, get up.” If Peter spoke Aramaic on this occasion, he could have said, “Tabitha koum!” only with one single letter difference of what Jesus said in raising Jairus’ daughter, “Talitha koum!” In this way Peter was imitating Jesus and he showed his resurrection faith, faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

When Peter said, “Tabitha, get up”, what happened? She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. In this way Peter revealed God’s glory. And this became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.

Peter’s challenging and commanding spirit even toward the dead person was really great. It was the expression of his resurrection faith. His faith in the risen Jesus was true and real. God wants us to have realistic and practical resurrection faith. Yet, it is not easy to do so. When the brother of Martha and Mary died, Jesus came to their house and gave them the message that their brother would rise, although the brother had been in the cave four days. They seemed to believe it, but their faith was theoretical, thinking that Jesus would raise him at the last day. But Jesus meant here and now and urged them to believe in Jesus who is the resurrection and the life. Yet, in their unbelieving they were sorrowful endlessly even before Jesus. Jesus was troubled in spirit and challenged them to have practical resurrection faith. Jesus commanded them to take away the stone laid across the entrance of the cave. And he gave them the resurrection message again, saying “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” When they did move the stone away, Jesus raised the dead.

God wants us to pray and challenge our own impossible situation with resurrection faith. Last Easter Sunday we heard the message of Jesus’ resurrection. The risen Christ said to Mary Magdalene, “Go and tell.” The sorrowful woman would be a witness of Jesus’ resurrection, thus a powerful woman of mission. Practically, it is not easy to go and tell the good news of Jesus’ resurrection to the students in our campus, which is like spiritually deaden condition. In fact, raising a spiritual dead person and leading the person to Christ requires resurrection faith and timeless effort. Yet, this is Jesus’ command and he wants us to learn practical resurrection faith. When we have true resurrection faith, noting can be impossible. With this faith, God wants us to pray and challenge again and again difficult, even mountain-like human conditions and see things being moved and changed and thus reveal God’s glory. Let’s remember that Peter got on his knees and prayed and said to the dead woman, “Tabitha, get up.”

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