Peter in Joppa: A woman healed Part 1 of 2

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.

And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.

April 1, 2014

Acts of the Apostles


Lesson: Peter in Joppa: A woman healed (9:36-43)

Scripture
36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.
37 And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.
38 And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.
39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.
40 But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.
41 And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.
42 And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.
43 And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.


Introduction

While Peter was at Lydda, a well-beloved Christian woman, (“a disciple,” v. 36) in Joppa, by the name of Dorcas . . . died. The story of Dorcas is reminiscent of earlier raisings from the dead, such as Elijah’s raising of the son of the widow of Zarephath (1 Ki. 17:17-24) and the raising of the Shunammite woman’s son by Elisha (2 Ki. 4:32-37), both of which are in turn echoed in the story of the widow’s son, who was raised by Jesus (Lk. 7:11-17). The raising which most closely corresponds the Dorcas’ story, however, is to be found in Jesus’ raising of Jarius’ daughter (Lk. 8:49-56; Mk. 5:35-43).



36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.

Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha. Joppa was a town (a very ancient city of the Philistines) on the southwest coast of Palestine which served as the Mediterranean harbor for Jerusalem, but it is now called Jaffa. We are told that it was to this harbor that Jonah came to find a ship on which he could flee from the presence of the Lord (Jonah 1:1-3{4]). Because Jonah disobeyed the Lord, the Lord sent a storm that caused the Gentile sailors to fear. Because Peter obeyed the Lord, God sent “the wind of the Spirit” to the Gentiles and they experienced great joy and peace. What a contrast! In the New Testament, Joppa was the location for the miracle recorded in in this passage—the raising of Dorcas to life. It is also where Peter learned through a vision that the Gospel message was not to be withheld from the Gentiles (Acts 9:43-10:16, 34; 11:1-10).

There were Christians in Joppa and one of them was a wonderful woman by the name of Tabitha, who was a friend and helper of the poor

Which by interpretation is called Dorcas. Tabatha is Aramaic for “gazelle,” for which the Greek word is Dorcas.
This woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. Dorcas ministered to the city’s poor out of a loving heart guided by the Holy Spirit; a heart full of love for people and for the Lord Jesus. I think, however, that here are the results of Philip’s ministry. When the dispute arose in Jerusalem in the early days concerning the distribution of alms, the Hellenistic widows complained that they were being neglected, and seven deacons were elected, men full of the Holy Spirit, and full of wisdom who set about to make things right, Philip was the second man chosen. When he visited the cities, I believe he not only preached the Gospel, so that men might be saved, but he gave instruction concerning how the new Christians ought to live by making their lives a blessing to others, especially to the family of God. I think we gave ample evidence in the previous lesson that Philip ministered to the saints in Lydda. I think the testimony of Dorcas and the activity of the Christian community in Joppa indicates that Philip ministered there too.

At Joppa, we have this wonderful picture of Dorcas. Luke says that she “was full of good works and almsdeeds {1].”That is a lot to say about anyone, so one might think that the story ended there. But I think there may be a divine purpose in the addition of the three small words at the end of the sentence, “which she did.” So many people think of good works and almsdeeds, and dream of them; but she did them. She not only pitied the poor when the sharp winds blew; she ministered with skillful fingers to their need. She had the gift of sewing. Do you mean to tell me that sewing is a gift of the Holy Spirit? Yes, it was for this woman. I doubt that she ever spoke at a church meeting or taught a women’s Bible class. I don’t think she ever had such an opportunity because she was one of the early saints. But she did a lot of wonderful things for people. Here again is a picture of the communion of saints. There are two phases suggested here in the communion of the saints in the ministries of the church, that of the evangelist and that of the apostle. That one who proclaims the first things of salvation, and that one who instructs and edifies; that is the communion of ministry.

We need to get rid of these false divisions such as between great and small service, important and minor work. The member of the great Church of Christ who out of the growing love in her heart for the poor and needy makes garments for the poor, as Dorcas did, is rendering a service as sacred as that of the man who ministers to her with the Word of God. Let’s no longer imagine that the man who is prominent is also great. The Christian women who collect the can goods and used clothing for the poor contribute much to evangelizing the lost; visible expressions of love may be more effective than the words of the preacher.


37 And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.

And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died. It seemed so tragic that a beloved and useful saint like Dorcas should die when she was so greatly needed by the church. This often happens in local churches and it is a hard blow to take. When it happens, all we can really say is, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised" (Job 1:21).

Whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. It may seem strange to us that a corpse was washed, but this was the custom among the Jews.


38 And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.

And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, a distance of about 12 miles.

And the disciples had heard that Peter was there. There are evidences of the Spirit’s operation in His guidance of Peter as he went “throughout all parts;” to the saints at Lydda, and then to Joppa by the invitation of two men who represented the Christian assembly there, who appear to be in trouble because Dorcas is dead.

They sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. Peter went to Joppa because he was led by the Holy Spirit to respond favorably to the two men who begged him to come with them without delay. No one had been raised from the dead in the early church so far as the records of Acts declare, but the faith of the believers was so great they expected the Lord to use Peter to resurrect Dorcas.


39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.

Then Peter arose and went with them. This is not the story of haphazard journeying. The Spirit was guiding this man throughout all parts supplying the liberty, the freedom and the ability to travel from place to place. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17). All the bondage that results from separation, division, as between Christian people is due to the absence of, or the disobedience to, the guidance of the Spirit of God. The operation of the Spirit is clearly in view here, and it becomes even more beautiful when it is seen that the Spirit was guiding the apostle through the simplest human methods. Two men came from Joppa and asked him to go with them, which he did, believing it was God’s will and the Spirit’s work. Peter was a leader who served the people and was ready to respond to their call. Peter had the power to heal, and he used the power to glorify God and help people, not to promote himself.

When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber. The body was placed there for the washing of the body required by the Jewish ceremonial laws of purification and for adding spices which would mask the odor of death.

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