One of the most startling realities in life is death! Many losing loved ones go through awful emotional distress. Bereavement can be hard. Today, after Church, I was talking to a man in his later 70’s. He was telling me that he works for a mortician every second week. His function is to get close to those who have lost a loved one and assist them in preparing for the service, during the service and after the service. I was impressed as the pain and suffering can be extreme, whether the death is related to illness, old age, disease or when the individual is much younger.
Whilst in Cape Town, a colleague who himself is very sickly helps the Church by doing the funerals. Because so many, he says, are so ill-prepared for the death of a love one, he has written pamphlets to help people get their business in order before they die as well as one for the family and what they need to do after their loved on has died. Death can be extremely taxing for loved ones, be they in the family, friends or colleagues. Our reading today is about death!
Ac 9:36 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.
1) Tabitha the deceased.
(1) Another name for Tabitha is Dorcas. Tabitha is a female name coming from Aramaic origin. It means gazelle or gracious. Dorcas is the Greek of Tabitha and also means gazelle, is feminine and was given to baby girls if the parents sense they would have a “spring in their step”.
(2) Tabitha was known for … always doing good and helping the poor. Some feel she was a widow. She probably had means because she was generous in making clothing and giving it to the needy. She was loved and appreciated for her work and generosity. Whether you are a male or a female, her example is a good one to follow. There are always people less fortunate than we are, if not in finances and possessions, certainly in their need for love, companionship, fellowship and prayer. Let us not neglect our role in helping those with such needs.
(3) Tabitha was a disciple. Out of all the things she could be commended, she was a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. As you know, being a disciple means you have not learnt everything there is to know about God, His plans for you, lost souls, this world and a host of other matters contained within the whole counsel of God. Disciples never stop learning because disciples will never conquer the depths of God within the sphere of being in this world.
(4) Whether Tabitha was older or contracted some illness or disease, we don’t know, but she fell ill and shortly thereafter died. The proper and respectful procedure of preparation for burial was conducted in the privacy of her bedroom upstairs. Wherever possible it is the right thing to prepare a body properly for burial. Just because a person is dead does not mean their body is insignificant. Jesus’ body was prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. On the Sunday morning He rose, the ladies went there to clean His body and wrap it properly.
2) Peter was called to assist.
9:38 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!”
What the disciples thought Peter could do we don’t know but whatever they thought, urgency was the order of the day. He went with the knowledge of Tabitha’s death.
Ac 9:39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room.
The scene in the room was one of extreme sadness, mourning and loss … 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. In those days professional mourners were hired. These present in Tabitha’s room were not those. These had a good relationship with her as a fellow widow! But the commotion was far too much for Peter to conduct spiritual business so he removed them from the room:
Ac 9:40 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.”
Spiritual business requires silence because one is dealing with God. Peter knelt down and prayed before her spoke to her in her deadness. It is important to realize that she was physically dead, not in a coma or deep sleep. She was lifeless. The emotional behavior of the other widows informs us that her life had ended. Soon we shall come to the purpose of what happened. Peter commands her lifeless body … “Tabitha, get up.” Notice that what follows is not dramatic or other worldly:
Ac 9:40 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.
No noise, no people to shout or clap, no one to rejoice and sing praises. Tabitha opens her eyes … life had returned. Peter helps her to stand and Peter presents her to the discples. That is all Luke tells us. She is healed. Life returned. What happened? She was dead and now she is alive. Did God not need her soul in heaven? Naturally this is a miracle. Only Peter was present and God responded to his prayer restoring Tabitha’s life.
3) News travels. The widows would see her alive. The other Church people would have seen her alive. They would have broadcasted this news of Tabitha far and wide.
Ac 9:42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.
And right there we have the purpose for this miracle … many people believed in the Lord. God used Tabitha for a purpose.
(a) The restoring of her life was a miracle. Many heard and believed. Miracles, if genuine are given that many souls believe in Jesus and find salvation.
(b) The platform for the miracle was not upbeat music and big boasts about what God is going to do. No … it was prayer. Here, quietly praying in faith leads to God working a miracle with souls being saved. Is there any reason this cannot happen in the day and age we live in? No, not the physical restoration of life but the spiritual resurrection from the dead!
O God, in mercy cause us to pray for souls to be saved for Jesus. Amen.