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©John Yerkes (whatyousee.kc)

Chapter 9:32-43 (ESV)

Posted on May 08, 2021  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 9:32-43 (ESV) - Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside, 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. And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then, calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.

Question to consider: Why would the disciples at Joppa call for Peter after Tabitha had already died?

Luke’s account to Theophilus changes from Saul back to Peter, but the timelines run concurrently. While Saul was in Damascus and Arabia for three years, Peter was traveling around the Judean countryside proclaiming the gospel to everyone he encountered. Those who were persecuting the church at this time seemed to have turned their attention on Saul so it would appear that Peter faced little to no resistance among the smaller towns.

News of healings still traveled fast around the region, for when Jesus healed Aeneas through Peter at Lydda, he was requested by disciples in Joppa to restore a beloved woman named Tabitha who faithfully served the widows in Joppa. You may be asking yourself why they insisted Peter come quickly even though Tabitha had died, but they believed the soul protests the body’s death for three days according to the Midrash Tanchuma. After three days, they believed the soul returned to God to await the resurrection. There are some other interesting views regarding the soul and death in the Bablyonian Talmud:

  • The soul enters the womb at the time of conception accompanied by divine messengers and aware of its origins. This reminds me of the unborn John the Baptist leaping in Elizabeth’s womb at the mention of Jesus’ name.
  • The soul remains in contact with the decaying body for twelve months. Maybe this is where people get the idea of ghosts, but Paul suggests in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that we go to be with the Lord when we die. So if a soul does linger with the body for twelve months, maybe it is someone marked for judgment.
  • After this, they believed that the righteous souls went to paradise and the wicked souls went to purgatory (gehinnom). In purgatory, they still believed souls could be purified unless someone was guilty of a heinous crime. This could be where the Roman Catholic church introduced their view of purgatory. I take issue with this idea that someone can be purified in purgatory because scripture is clear that only Christ has paid the penalty for our sin and did so completely. To pay for our own sin is an affront to the sacrifice of Christ.  Also, the idea of a “heinous crime” is viewed from the standpoint of the second table of the law (laws regarding our neighbor). All of us have committed the most heinous crime of all: You shall have no other gods. This is why James 2:10 can say, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”

So the disciples at Joppa had heard Jesus was still healing through His disciples and had hoped Jesus would restore Tabitha to them through Peter since he was close by. I’m glad she was restored to them since it resulted in many coming to faith, but I can’t help thinking that it was rather selfish of them to make this request in light of 2 Corinthians 5:8. Instead of being with her Lord in paradise, she was brought back to a world filled with sin and death only to die again at a later time. I would hope that when it is my time to die, everyone will rejoice in the fact that I have gone home to be with my Lord. Those who wish to see me again can do so if they belong to Christ.

One final note about this passage is that Peter was willing to stay with Simon the tanner. Since tanners spent their time working with dead animals, they were never ceremonially clean and were forced to live outside of the village. Until Pentecost, Peter would have never considered to stay with such a man, but just as he was willing to lay hands on Samaritans for them to receive the Holy Spirit, now he was willing to lay hands on the lame, the dead, and the unclean. As we’ll find out tomorrow, God was preparing him for so much more.

Prayer

Dear heavenly father, thank You for bringing salvation to those whom society would consider unclean or unworthy. Help us to be like Peter who set aside all decorum and hesitation to preach Christ to anyone who would hear. May we faithfully serve in our churches to point people back to Your word of truth, for as Peter once said, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Alleluia! Amen.