Healing Evangelism Acts 9:32-43 www.bible-sermons.org
The church began at Pentecost with the outpouring of the Spirit. Thousands were converted and then were taught the Apostles’ Doctrine in Jerusalem. After some time, persecution broke out, headed up by a man named Saul. He witnessed the stoning of Stephen who was one of the seven deacons. Philip, another deacon, led an evangelistic effort in Samaria with great success. Then the Spirit led him to the dessert where an Ethiopian official was converted. Saul saw this growing movement of Jesus’ followers as a distortion of Judaism and so obtained permission to round up the disciples in Damascus. On the road to Damascus he was confronted by the resurrected Lord Jesus. He called Saul to bear the name of Jesus to Gentiles, kings, and the Jews (Acts 9:15[PW1] ).
The passage today returns to Peter’s role in establishing the churches. 32 Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. Acts 9:32 Peter had apparently been traveling to the groups of believers who had fled from Jerusalem and new groups of believers that had accepted Jesus as Messiah. It was so important that these early churches accurately pass on the life and words of Jesus. One small error during those days could result in an entirely different message, as happened in some instances. The importance of conveying the central truths of Scripture cannot be stressed enough. Many of the New Testament letters deal with the errors that crept into the churches. Apostle Paul had to address the tendency to look to the keeping of the law as part of salvation rather than faith alone in what Jesus had done for us (Galatians 1:6-7[PW2] ).
Peter is living out the instruction of Jesus which was forever imprinted on his heart when he ate that last breakfast with Jesus on the shore of Galilee. Jesus had told Peter that if he loved Him, he was to feed and tend the sheep, meaning the disciples (John 21:15-17[PW3] ). That is what Peter is doing in this verse. He is going to the churches and feeding them the words of Jesus, the spiritual manna of His life-giving words (John 6:63[PW4] ). These churches probably did not yet have the Gospels. They relied on the Apostle’s teaching and memory of what was taught. Peter probably had to answer many questions wherever he ministered.
Lydda is about half way from Jerusalem to the coastal city of Joppa. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. Acts 9:33 The text does not tell us whether or not this man was a disciple, nor does the Greek text make clear if he was paralyzed from the age of eight or for eight years. Either way, it is a very sad condition, especially in that day. Theophilus, the man to whom Acts was written, would have been familiar with a paralytic being healed from Luke’s first letter to him, the Gospel of Luke (Luke 5:17-26[PW5] ). Those of us familiar with the Gospel of John will remember Jesus healing the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:2-9[PW6] ).
34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. Acts 9:34 The physiological and neurological impossibilities of this are staggering. This is unexplainable in the natural realm. Just as Jesus told the paralytic that had been lowered through Peter’s roof and as He also told the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda to take up their mats, so Peter tells Aeneas. That is because Jesus said, “The disciple should be as his master” (Matthew 10:24-25a[PW7] ). Peter is doing what he saw Jesus do and that which confirmed the message of Jesus to be the very truth of God (Mark 16:20[PW8] ).
35 And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. Acts 9:35 The result of this healing miracle was that many believed and turned to Jesus as the Lord, meaning as the Messiah. “Lord” can also mean they accepted Jesus as the master of their lives. If a miracle will help people to accept Jesus as Lord of their lives, God will provide that miracle. Could it be that at times God does not provide the miracle because those who witness it would be even more accountable for their unbelief? Could that be why we hear of more miracles in the third world? The west is too ready to explain miracles in natural terms without giving glory to God so that they don’t have to acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus, recognizing that He has the right to direct our lives.
In the book Jesus Among Secular Gods, Vince Vitale writes that when he asks people if they have had a supernatural occurrence in which they believed God had intervened in their lives there is often a positive response. People will share some amazing accounts. I have my own. Most of you probably do as well. And yet, he says, many of them still have not made a commitment to Christ.
I am convinced that most people don’t reject Jesus because of intellectual reasons, but rather from fear of what submission to Him may mean. They think God’s rules are an attempt to spoil their fun, make us boring, an arbitrary test to get Him to love us. However, God’s instructions are really a gift because He already loves us. In fact, following Jesus will lead to the most honest and life-giving relationships you will ever know. Only God can open the minds of unbelievers to recognize this is true. He may use your testimony to help them see the joy and freedom of following Christ.
After telling of Peter’s healing of Aeneas, Luke went on to write of the healing of a woman. Luke frequently writes in doublets. He often brings out the importance of women in the church and mentions them more than other New Testament writers. While some teach that the role of women in the Bible is demeaning, a study of the culture of the time will show that the church was much more inclusive of women and their importance than the societies around them. While roles of men and women differ in the church, there is an equal importance placed on them, the same salvation (Galatians 3:28[PW9] ), and the same indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17-18[PW10] ).
36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. Acts 9:36 The Aramaic name of this woman is Tabitha. The Greek recipient of the letter wouldn’t know the meaning, so Luke translates it into the Greek word for gazelle, Dorcas. We see that she is a disciple, which means a follower of the Way, one who is learning of Jesus. She appears to be a benefactor of the church, providing tunics for the widows and helping those in need. This tells us she had considerable resources. If the upper room where they laid her body was her home, it would have been a wealthy home and possibly the meeting place for the local church. Luke may be including this account so that Theophilus can relate to someone in his own social level and Jesus’ care for them. Her generosity would be an example to him. The apostle Paul tells women to be “full of good works,” the same language used here to describe Tabitha (1 Timothy 2:9-10[PW11] ).
37 In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. Acts 9:37 Jewish custom would have been to put her in a tomb or bury her body the same day she died. The dead were first washed and then anointed with spices, and then if one was wealthy, he or she would be placed in a tomb. If not, the body would be buried with rock slabs making a cavity in the ground for the body. Losing this benefactor was a big blow to the local church, but not as much for the assistance she gave as for the love of Christ that she demonstrated.
38 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.” Acts 9:38 The disciples of Joppa (pronounced ee-op’-pay) acted in faith believing God can even raise the dead through the power of Jesus’ name. Perhaps they knew the story of the little girl Jesus had raised. This account follows a very similar pattern as we’ll see as we go through it. The similarity begins with the urgent request to come with them (Mark 5:22-23[PW12] ). In Jesus’ case, it was to come to the daughter of a synagogue ruler only to find out that while on their way there she had died. Once again, the recipient had surely read Luke’s first letter in which a dead boy was raised by Jesus. Luke 7:12-15 gives that account of [PW13] a widow’s dead son being restored to life.
39 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. Acts 9:39 The text does not say that they told him why they were asking him to come. To this point in the New Testament, none of the disciples had raised the dead. I wonder if Peter was shocked to find out this is what they expected him to do. The weeping and the display of the clothing Tabitha had made for them must have been so very heart wrenching. Clothing was one of the costliest possessions of people of that century. But resurrection or any healing is up to God. It must be His will, not merely our desire (James 4:3[PW14] ; 1 John 5:14[PW15] ).
40 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. Acts 9:40 Just as he had seen his Master do with the ruler’s daughter (Mark 5:35-42[PW16] ) and Lazarus (John 11:43[PW17] ). The dead are raised! Just as Jesus had done at the ruler’s home, Peter put everyone out of the room. Jesus had allowed only Peter, James, and John and the parents to be there. Peter had witnessed firsthand the raising of that little girl from death. While the account of Jesus did not mention Jesus praying, we see at the raising of Lazarus Jesus praying aloud that he had already prayed and knew He was heard (John 11:41[PW18] ). Peter knelt down and prayed for he knew the Lord alone could raise her from death. Like Jesus, he must have already prayed about coming to Joppa and felt led to go. Now, he must be asking the Lord exactly what to do. Without Jesus we can do nothing (John 15:5[PW19] ). Is it God’s time for her to go to be with the Lord? Or was it God’s will to raise her as witness to the community. Peter had to know. If people were raised from the dead every time it caused grief to another, we’d have a lot of ancient people walking around. Some miracles are as much or more for a witness of the glory of God as they are for the individual (John 9:3[PW20] ).
It is interesting that when Jesus raised the little girl He said, “Talitha cumi” which means “little girl arise.” Peter said, “Tabitha cumi,” Gazelle arise! There is only one letter difference. The similarity should not go unnoticed. The miracle of the raising of the synagogue ruler’s daughter must have been playing in Peter’s head, along with the encouragement of Jesus, “Greater things than these you will do because I go to the Father.” John 14:12[PW21]
41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. Acts 9:41 Just as his Master had taken the little girl by the hand, so Peter took Tabitha by the hand. While Jesus healed people without touching them, He often did physically touch people, even lepers (Luke 5:12-13[PW22] ). There is something about the physical contact. We have this treasure in earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7[PW23] ). It is not the power of the body, but that the body is a vessel for the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:22[PW24] ; 1 Corinthians 3:16[PW25] ). If the healing of the paralytic was a physiological impossibility, consider what would have to take place to reverse the effects of death!
42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Acts 9:42 Word spread quickly throughout the whole city. The results were the same as in Lydda. Again, the fruit of a miracle is not that everyone came to be healed. The physical is a means to attract attention to the spiritual. The fruit was that many came to believe in the Lord. That is what happened after the resurrection of Lazarus as well (John 11:45[PW26] ).
These were back to back incredible miracles that brought many to faith in Jesus and encouraged the churches. We should note that as Peter moved west, the towns were increasingly Gentile. God is moving him among people that he would have once been uncomfortable to be around. His faith is also being stretched by these circumstances.
43 And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner. Acts 9:43 Peter needed to stay to disciple this growing church and make sure they understood the gospel. A tanner would usually be considered unclean according to the Law because of his contact with dead animals. The smell would have been offensive too. Perhaps that is why he was by the sea. The sea breeze would bring fresh air. It must have been the fellowship that kept Peter there rather than some other host home.
There is a location in present day Joppa that is said to be the tanner’s house. Of course, it is not the original building, but may be at the same location. And as at all the holy sites, you can purchase postcards, three for a dollar. This one has a picture of the present day building with the Mediterranean Sea in the background (visual).
This church in Joppa may have been started by Philip. He went up this route on his journey from the desert road up to Caesarea. One plants, another waters, but God gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:7[PW27] ). It is from this home in Joppa that Peter will have the revelation to go to the Gentiles with the gospel.
While this account is an example of a disciple following his Master, it has even older roots as both Elijah and Elisha raised a child from death in an upper room of a patron (1 Kings 17:17-24[PW28] ; 2 Kings 4:32-37[PW29] ). For the Jews of Joppa, it would have given them a real sense of confirmation that Peter’s gospel was in line with their Jewish history. It is amazing the lengths God goes to help us get past our doubts and understand the truth. The miracle of Paul’s conversion, Aeneas healing, and Dorcas resurrection show us God’s heart to reach out to everyone to draw each person to Himself.
What is our take home from these historical accounts? As a portion of the book of Acts, we can see that God is fulfilling His promise of the Messiah being a light to the world (Isaiah 49:6[PW30] ). We also see the signs God gave those communities to help them believe. Today we still have miraculous signs, but we also have signs in the wonders being revealed in nature. Science for a time seemed to be at odds with faith. Discoveries in our age are increasingly confirming the amazing design and complexity of creation.
One of the surprises for me was how closely this mirrored Jesus’ healing of the synagogue ruler’s daughter. Perhaps that was to help Peter’s faith. While we know we should walk as He did (1 John 2:6[PW31] ), we have the rightful understanding that we certainly can’t do anything on our own. It must be His life and power in and through us. We hesitate to act at times because of we doubt ourselves. Yet, God orchestrates things in such a way as to help us take a greater step of faith and trust Him to do through us what He asks of us (Ephesians 2:10[PW32] ).
The next chapter will take this journey of obedience to spread the good news to everyone and show that God loves the world. The gospel is for all people, for all time. It is the amazing love of God for us broken and sinful people. It is life and hope. It’s the only answer to the fallen condition of man.
1 What was Peter doing? Why?
2 What accounts are like that of Aeneas healing?
3 Why does Peter say things that Jesus said?
4 What was the result of him being healed?
5 Who was Tabitha?
6 Why did Peter pray?
7 What are the similarities with Jesus healing the little girl?
8 What was the fruit of this miracle?
9 Why tell a man and woman story back to back?
10 What is your “take home” from these accounts?
[PW1]Acts 9:15 (ESV)
15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.
[PW2]Galatians 1:6-7 (ESV)
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—
7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
[PW3]John 21:15-17 (ESV)
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
[PW4]John 6:63 (ESV)
63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
[PW5]Luke 5:17-26 (ESV)
17 On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal.
18 And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus,
19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus.
20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”
21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts?
23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.”
25 And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God.
26 And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
[PW6]John 5:2-3 (ESV)
2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades.
3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.
John 5:5-9 (ESV)
5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.
6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”
7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”
8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”
9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.
[PW7]Matthew 10:24-25a (ESV)
24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.
25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.
[PW8]Mark 16:20 (ESV)
20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]]
[PW9]Galatians 3:28 (ESV)
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
[PW10]Acts 2:17-18 (ESV)
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
[PW11]1 Timothy 2:9-10 (ESV)
9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,
10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.
[PW12]Mark 5:22-23 (ESV)
22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet
23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.”
[PW13]Luke 7:12-15 (ESV)
12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her.
13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”
14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”
15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
[PW14]James 4:3 (ESV)
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
[PW15]1 John 5:14 (ESV)
14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
[PW16]Mark 5:35-42 (ESV)
35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”
36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”
37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James.
38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.
39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.”
40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was.
41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”
42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.
[PW17]John 11:43 (ESV)
43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”
[PW18]John 11:41 (ESV)
41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.
[PW19]John 15:5 (ESV)
5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
[PW20]John 9:3 (ESV)
3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
[PW21]John 14:12 (ESV)
12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
[PW22]Luke 5:12-13 (ESV)
12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”
13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.
[PW23]2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV)
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
[PW24]Ephesians 2:22 (ESV)
22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
[PW25]1 Corinthians 3:16 (ESV)
16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
[PW26]John 11:45 (ESV)
45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him,
[PW27]1 Corinthians 3:7 (ESV)
7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
[PW28]1 Kings 17:17-24 (ESV)
17 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him.
18 And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!”
19 And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed.
20 And he cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?”
21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this child’s life come into him again.”
22 And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.
23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.”
24 And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.”
[PW29]2 Kings 4:32-37 (ESV)
32 When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed.
33 So he went in and shut the door behind the two of them and prayed to the LORD.
34 Then he went up and lay on the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands. And as he stretched himself upon him, the flesh of the child became warm.
35 Then he got up again and walked once back and forth in the house, and went up and stretched himself upon him. The child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.
36 Then he summoned Gehazi and said, “Call this Shunammite.” So he called her. And when she came to him, he said, “Pick up your son.”
37 She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground. Then she picked up her son and went out.
[PW30]Isaiah 49:6 (ESV)
6 he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
[PW31]1 John 2:6 (ESV)
6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
[PW32]Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
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