Rev. Jeffrey T. Howard
Sermon– Acts 9:32-43 – Tabitha, get up
Pitts Creek and Beaver Dam Churches
April 25, 2010
Listen to this sermon.
Good morning and welcome to Beaver Dam Presbyterian Church. I am continuing today with my series of sermons on the reaction to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We are looking at what happened in the days, month and years following the event to see if there is evidence that the resurrection truly happened or if it was some type of conspiracy hoax. Over the last two weeks we looked at what happened to the lives of two people, Peter and Paul. We applied a test from the first century rabbi, Gamaliel, that if the resurrection was true then we should see transformation in the lives of Jesus’ followers, but if it was a hoax then we should see the followers of Jesus scatter return to their old lives and become irrelevant to history. We saw that the lives of both Peter and Paul where transformed in such an extraordinary way that the only explanation was that the resurrection of Jesus was the cause of their transformations.
Today we will continue to look at the reactions to the resurrection, but our test of the validity of our belief in the resurrection will be different. Instead of using the Gamaliel test that we used the last two weeks we will be using a test that Jesus proposed early in his ministry. You heard this read to you earlier. Some messengers came to Jesus from John the Baptist asking if Jesus was truly the messiah they had all been waiting for. Jesus’ reply was that the truth of his identity could be found in what he was doing. The test that Jesus was suggesting was that if he was the messiah we should see him perform miracles such as healing the lame and bringing the dead back to life. If we see these things happening, according to Jesus, then we know to believe that he is truly the messiah. Today we will be using this same test and applying it to the followers of Jesus after the resurrection. If the resurrection is true then we should see the apostles healing the sick and raising the dead to new life. We will apply this test to another one of Jesus’ followers. This one is a woman, a disciple of Jesus Christ, named Tabitha. But before we get to all of this please pray with me.
“Grant unto us, O Lord, to be occupied in the mysteries of thy Heavenly wisdom, with true progress in piety, to thy glory and our own edification. Amen.” (John Calvin)
Acts 9:32-43 32 As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. 34 "Aeneas," Peter said to him, "Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat." Immediately Aeneas got up. 35 All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 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!" 39 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. 40 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. 41 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. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.
Tabitha had died and the widows were crying. This was a horrible tragedy for the widows. Not only had they lost their husbands, but no one in their families would take care of them. There were no sons, or brother-in-laws, or aging fathers who would take them in a care for them. In an age before women were accepted in the work place and before they became eligible for Social Security benefits widows who had no family to care for them became destitute. They were homeless begging for food. Widows were the poorest of the poor.
Tabitha was a disciple of Jesus Christ who had followed Jesus’ example of caring for the poor. Her ministry was to the widows. She made clothes for them. So when she died the widows had nothing but their grief and their tears.
But the widows remembered something that Tabitha had told them when she was alive. They remembered the stories she had told them about Jesus, and how he had brought sight to the blind, healed the sick, and even brought the dead back to life. Maybe, just maybe, they though if they contacted some of Jesus’ followers, they could bring Tabitha back to life. At least it was worth a try so they decided to send a letter to Peter asking him to please come at once. And since no Hebrew man was likely to pay any attention to widows they sent the letter by a couple of Christian men hoping that Peter would be persuaded to come.
When Peter arrived he was taken upstairs to the room where Tabitha’s dead body had been placed. The widows were in them room, crying. Each one came over to Peter and through their tears they showed him the garments that Tabitha had sown out of her great love for them. Surely, they thought, if the resurrection of Jesus Christ and promise of eternal life are true then Peter should be able to raise their beloved Tabitha from the dead and restore her to live.
At this point Peter must have remembered that day when Jesus sent him out as an apostle. Let me read to you what happened that day.
Matthew 10:5-23 5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.
Remembering that Jesus had given him the power to raise the dead Peter cleared the room, bowed his head and prayed. He asked the risen Jesus to restore Tabitha to life. And after his prayer he looked over at the dead woman and said, “Tabitha, get up.” And so it happened. Proving that the resurrection did happen and assuring us of the promise of eternal life Jesus Christ raised Tabitha from death to life.
I’ll leave it to your imagination to see the scene when the widows returned to the upper room and saw that Tabitha was alive. What I can tell you is that belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead spread throughout Joppa that day.
So Jesus raised Tabitha from the dead. This is the proof that we need to belief that Jesus, himself, rose from the dead to new life. And if we believe this the promise is that we will live beyond death as well.
What about today, is Jesus still living and at work in our world? I think the answer is “yes”. But, shouldn’t we expect some signs of this. If Jesus is alive today shouldn’t we see the lame walking and the dead returning to life? I don’t know about you but I have attended many funerals and I have yet to see a Pastor, after prayer, to tell a dead person to get up and have that person rise up from the casket. If something like that ever happened here in Pocomoke, we would by buying a farm and erecting a building to accommodate the tens of thousands
of people who would come to the Eastern Shore to worship with us.
There are those who believe that miracles, like raising people from the dead, stopped sometime in the first century when they were no longer needed to prove Christ’s resurrection and establish the church. They see support for their view in the writings of Paul who said,
1 Corinthians 13:8-11 8 …But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
From this it appears that we should no longer expect miracles to occur. But consider these words also from the Apostle Paul.
1 Corinthians 12:7-11 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
So it seems to me that if the Holy Spirit is with us, and I believe that it is, we should be receiving spiritual gifts of healing and miraculous power. And we exercise these gifts, as Peter did, through prayer. Scripture tells us that Jesus healed the sick and gave this power to us to heal in his name. Jesus simply spoke a command and people were healed. For us we heal by praying in Jesus’ name. And when we pray in confidence for Jesus to heal us or a loved one we are filled with hope.
When we pray for healing we must first understand the God desires healing for all who experience illness. This understanding allows us to anticipate that our prayers will be heard and acted upon. We must also have compassion for those for whom we pray. Our prayers for healing will only be effective if we truly desire for someone to be healed. When we pray for someone who is ill we become vulnerable, but we take the risk because the reward is so great. And finally we must always remember that when we pray for healing we are not doing magic. There is no direct cause and effect relationship between prayers and healing. Many times our prayers do not have the desired result. But we should not be discouraged because God heals in many different ways; our job is just to pray for healing and to trust God to act.
Lord Jesus, just as Peter bowed his head to you in prayer we bow our heads in prayer. We asked that you heal us and our loved ones of our illnesses and diseases. We trust that your presence and love will be with us no matter what happens. And we believe that even though our loved ones may die in this life that you will one day raise them to new life in the presence of you, God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.