Through the Bible in One Year

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Day 204

Acts 9:32-43

This short eleven verse section at the end of Acts chapter 9 introduces us to a much larger and much more important section that begins in Acts chapter 10 and runs through Acts 11:18.  In this short section at the end of Acts chapter 9 we pick up the story of Peter once again.  In this short section we are going to see Peter moving from Jerusalem through the Judean countryside until he reaches the Mediterranean coast.

As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the Lord’s people who lived in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.—9:32-35

Because Aeneas is a Greek name, it is likely that this story is included to introduce Peter’s powerful ministry in Lydda and to prepare us for the account of the conversion of Gentiles that we will see as we move Acts chapter 10 tomorrow.  We should also note that this area of Judea that Peter was traveling through was heavily Jewish.

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”—9:36-38

Joppa was on the coast, northwest of Lydda, and was the main port for Judea.  Tabatha is translated into Greek as “Dorcas,” meaning “Gazelle.”  The mention of the Greek name again prepares us for the Gentile conversion that we are going to see as move into Acts chapter 10 starting tomorrow.  Dorcas was a woman memorialized for her kind and generous character.  And families in antiquity took care of the dead bodies and funeral arrangements.  It was customary to wash and anoint the body.  And while this was going on, two men called for Peter.

Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. 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.—9:39

Given that Peter’s signs ministry had become well known, it is no wonder the family and friends called for him.  They were hoping for God’s intervention here as well.  The grieving widows showed Peter clothing Dorcas had made for them, that they were quite likely wearing.  Dorcas’s Christian character is seen in her ministry to these widows.

Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” 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 for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.—9:40-43

No case of divine healing can be attributed to an individual Christian.  Aeneas had been healed because Christ commanded it.  In this case, Peter sought the will of God in prayer before calling on Dorcas to arise.  The apostles were clear: no healing or sign came because they were particularly special or powerful.  The result was that many in Joppa believed.  Peter’s host, Simon, was a tanner, someone who treated animal skins for leather and was therefore considered an outsider because of the smell associated with tanning.  And that is where we will pick up tomorrow as we move in Acts chapter 10 and the incredible story of Cornelius.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

2 Chronicles 11-13, Romans 8:26-39, Psalm 18:37-50 and Proverbs 19:27-29

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