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
Understanding And Applying the Text
The previous passage had the healing of a paralyzed man The man was paralyzed for eight years. Here Luke records the resurrection of a dead woman.
Peter is still in Lydda. Lydda was near Joppa. Joppa was a seaport on the Philistine coast. It is in the same location as modern-day Jaffa. Joppa was not a major port. But it was an important logistical base.
Luke starts off telling us about a woman who lived in Joppa. Her name was Tabitha. She was probably a Hellenistic Jew. The Hebrews called her Tabitha. The Greeks called her Dorcas. She was Christ’s disciple. She proved her faith with good works.
What does the scripture mean by good works? Good works are the duties of love where you help your neighbor. We live in a culture that measures how much we care by how much we spend.
Watch any politician. How do we determine if he cares about an issue? We watch how much tax money he spends on the issue. If He cuts the budget, we claim he does not care. A good example is education. How do we show we care about children’s education? We care by increasing taxes and spending more on education. The fact this has not worked in the past does not matter. We claim it is because we haven’t spent enough. We only need to spend a little bit more. So, we show we care by spending more.
I use education only as an example. We refuse to love anything but ourselves. We are willing to throw money at something and claim we love. We do our good works by writing a check. Or it could be political involvement. Our good works are lobbying or protesting. That is our answer to love. That is how we show our love to the poor, the addict, the homeless. That is not the duty love demands.
Doing good requires personal involvement. Tabatha’s involvement was personal. She got involved in people’s’ lives. She helped the brethren. She relieved the suffering of the poor. She did not push it off to the church. She did not push it off to the Romans. She did not push it off to the Jewish authorities. Her love was personal.
She was not trying to solve the world’s problems. She loved those around her. She was full of good works and acts of charity.
Tabatha fell sick. This was a sickness that led to her death. They washed her body and laid it in an upper room.
The disciples heard Peter was in Lydda and sent two men to urged him to come to Joppa. It is not clear why. They did not expect a resurrection. The scriptures are not clear why. But they urged Peter to come.
Peter went with the men. We do not know what compelled Peter to go. Did he know God’s will at that point? Did he know Tabatha and wanted to grieve with the others? Peter did not go because he wanted to rise Tabatha from the dead. That would have presumed on God. The probability is that he went to console the mourners.
When Peter arrived, all the widows showed him the things Tabatha had made for them. She was a woman who cared for the poor, the widows and the needy. Yet that is not why God raised her from the dead. If that were the case God could have kept her from dying in the first place.
God raised her to live a second life. Her first life was caring for the poor. The purpose of her second life was to show Christ’s glory. Her raising from the dead confirmed many weak disciples. The church was still very young and weak, like an infant.
Peter sent everyone out of the room. This seems strange. Wouldn’t it be better to have the saints witness the actual resurrection? We may think we know a better way. We often have the audacity to believe we can advise God. The Spirit has His reasons for what He does. When He does it. Where he does it and how he does it.
Luke’s recording of Peter’s actions is vague. Peter knelt. Peter prayed. But that is all we know. Not having people in the room prevented the establishment of superstition. If we kneel like this and say these words and make this gesture Uncle Joe will rise from the dead too. No! This was an act of God. It had nothing to do with what Peter did. Peter was only the means God used.
John Wesley said Peter put everyone out “that he might have the better opportunity of wrestling with God in prayer.” I would take issue with Wesley at this point. Peter did not plan to wrestle with God. That is a guaranteed losing activity.
Peter turned to the corpse and said: “Tabatha rise” with that Tabatha got up. These were not magic words. This was a command Tabatha was to obey.
There are those who claim that God can only do a miracle for us if we have faith. Not only that we have to have enough faith. But Tabatha did not believe. She did not, not believe. She was dead. She did not have faith. She was dead. This was God and only God.
God makes us alive when we are dead in our sins. Then He calls us to repent as Peter commanded Tabatha to arise.
Peter stretched forward his hand and aided Tabatha to her feet. We too need the help of others to fulfill the command of Christ. Do not hesitate to call on your Christian brothers and sisters to help you.
Peter stayed in Joppa for several days. He stayed with Simon. Simon was a tanner. The Jews believed tanning was an unclean profession. It involved contact with dead animals. Luke is foreshadowing Peter’s vision in 10:9–23.