Peter in Joppa: A woman healed Part 2 of 2

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

And all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made.When Peter entered the chamber, he saw the women grieving over the loss of their beloved friend. Some of the women were possibly there as professional mourners, a profession that was certainly prevalent at a later date—but it is more likely they were simply recipients of her gifts. They showed him the garments she had made for them, which the Greek text implies they were wearing. Why did the widows do it? Because they were among the most needy persons in the ancient world. They wouldn’t have had any clothes if it wasn’t for Dorcas. She had sewed their clothes for them. This was her ministry. Sewing was her gift of the Holy Spirit. What a beautiful revelation we have of this woman! She labored to make garments for the poor. It is true, of course, that her love grew out of the Christ-love she had mastered, for that love is always anxious to clothe the naked.


We can see that little unpretentious group of women gathered around the one who is known forevermore as the one who made coats and garments for the poor. The communion in each case is the same. The master-principle underlying the comradeship between evangelist and apostle is the same as that which underlies the companionship that exists between the woman of heart and leisure and ability, who makes garments, and the women, who in poverty and need, wear them.
While she was with them. She was no longer with them because she was dead.


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.

But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed. When Peter arrived, he sent (put forth) the weeping widows and other believers out of the upstairs . . . room, prayed on his knees for Dorcas, and commanded her to arise (cf. Mark 5:41{2]). This is reminiscent of Jesus’ raising of Jarius’ daughter (Mk. 5:40){7], except he allowed the girl’s parents and three of His most trusted disciples to remain in the room. Peter kneeled to show his lowly position before God; but not the Lord Himself, of whom it is never once mentioned that he knelt in the performance of a miracle.

And turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. We hear again the very echo of the voice of Jesus. The appeal was to the will: Arise. Once again, the picture is so much like what Jesus did that some of the ancient commentators have suggested that Peter did actually make use of the very words of Christ, for there is only one letter different. Jesus said, “Talitha cumi.” Peter said, “Tabitha cumi.” It is interesting that Peter addressed her by the Aramaic form of her name, and Luke was careful to preserve the distinction. He had used the Greek form “Dorcas” in his narrative (39). But perhaps Luke had more in mind than linguistic nicety. In the Aramaic churches who cherished the story of Tabitha, the similarity between the words of Jesus and Peter would not be missed.

And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. It was the power of God that raised her from the dead, for the dead person could certainly not exercise faith. It was not a matter of resurrection but of resuscitation.

We hear again the very echo of the voice of Jesus, of temporary restoration to life. She would die again. But all the miracles of raising from the dead are in a real sense “signs,” pointing to the one who has power even over death and is Himself the resurrection and the life for all who believe and trust in Him.


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

And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up. Peter did not touch her until after God restored her to life. Jesus had done the same when he healed Peter’s mother-in-law (Mk. 1:31){6].

And when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. The word “saints” is the all-inclusive word for “Christians,” therefore, we may safely assume that they were Christians. The working of the Spirit is manifested in the exercise of Gifts such as the raising of Dorcas. But the gift of miracles is not the only gift of the Spirit to be found there. In the Corinthian epistles, one of the gifts Paul deals with is the gift of “helps.” That gift is illustrated in the case of Dorcas. That is the meaning of “helps;” to be quite simple and literal it means gifts of relief. When Dorcas was using her deft fingers to make garments, she was doing it in the power of that gift, which the Holy Spirit had bestowed; just as surely as Peter had raised Dorcas, by the power of the gift bestowed on him by the Spirit.

The question may be asked, “Why don’t we still hear of men raising the dead?” Think about how seldom Christ raised the dead. The Bible records that He did so on three other occasions only. What was the immediate purpose in His raising the dead: In every case—the raising of the little damsel, the young man of Nain, and Lazarus, there is one answer. He raised them for the comfort of those that mourned. But everyone he brought back came back to suffering. The little damsel came back from peace into turmoil; the young man came back from eternal youth to grow old; Lazarus came back out of infinite peace to conflict. Thank God He did not raise more; and I hope my family never wishes I come back.

Notice what Peter did with Dorcas. He gave her back to the saints and the widows as a gift. It is the same Lord of life on this side of Pentecost as on the other side; not Peter, not an apostle, but the same Christ. Why doesn’t He raise the dead now? Jesus is the only One who can answer that question. I hesitate placing the blame for withholding this gift on the Church. I recognize He is doing His work in other ways, and my heart is satisfied with that.


42 And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.

And many believed in the Lord. The greatest wonder that can be found in this passage is not the raising of a woman from the dead; but the salvation of those who believed because she was raised.


43 And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.

While in Joppa, Peter resided with one Simon a tanner. This was something that just didn’t happen, because of the abhorrence a Jew felt for a tanner. In fact, a tanner was not allowed to ply his trade within a legally defined distance from the city’s limits. Just in case you may not know what a tanner does, I’ll give you a brief description. He dresses hides by removing the hair by means of lime or some other agent, steeps the skins in a brew of bark (usually oak bark), in order to saturate them with the acid juice of the bark which renders them firm, pliable, and durable and thus the hide is converted to leather. Simon lived on the seashore (10:6){5], perhaps because he required sea water for the tanning process; and Peter was a fisherman, so it would be natural for him to choose a lodging in this part of town. But Peter lodged with one Simon a tanner, which showed he was no longer bound by this particular Jewish Scruple. That is the victory of Jesus over prejudice. Now think back with me to an event on the other side of Pentecost. Jesus is seen entering the house of the very kind of man that the Jews hated, the publican, Zacchaeus; the Pharisees saw it and they said, “. . . That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner” (Lk. 19:7). Peter lodged with one Simon a tanner, who was probably shunned by the local citizenry. It was a giant step toward the larger vision, which was immediate to follow.

This passage shows the excellent preparation given Peter for his ensuing experience with Cornelius; the most significant being these three:
1. Two outstanding miracles confirmed his ministry; God was with him in a special way.
2. He was ministering in an area that was partially Gentile.
3. His living in the house of Simon the tanner was significant. Tanners were considered to be ceremonially unclean because they were constantly in contact with the skins of dead animals (Lev. 11:40{3]).

During the “many days” he spent in Joppa, Peter took the opportunity to ground these new believers in the Word, for faith built on miracles is not substantial. Someone may ask why Peter didn’t heal more people than he did. Yes, there were plenty of sick people he could have visited and healed, but God had other plans. He deliberately kept Peter in Joppa to prepare him for another great event in the history of the church.


SCRIPTURE REFERENCE AND SPECIAL NOTE

{1] almsgiving—the giving of necessities and especially money to the needy; good works such as almsgiving, tending the sick and visiting the imprisoned
{2] (Mark 5:41) And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.
{3] (Lev. 11:40) Anyone who eats some of the carcass must wash his clothes, and he will be unclean till evening. Anyone who picks up the carcass must wash his clothes, and he will be unclean till evening.
{4] (Jonah 1:1-3) The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." 3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.
{5] (Acts 10:6) He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.
{6] (Mk. 1:31) So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
{7] (Mk. 5:40) But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was.

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