There is a question I cannot get out of my mind. I have been thinking…
Resurrection again. (Acts 9:32-43)
Yes, you read that right. If you’re anything like me, resurrection is something that’s associated with Easter or even with a guy named Lazarus who shows up in the book of John. Oh…and there’s also that time that Jesus brought a little girl back to life (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43).
But when you get to Acts 9, suddenly Peter does it too. To be sure, Peter is empowered by the Holy Spirit, but still this is Peter—not Jesus, not a deity, not God—the “Yes, I denied Jesus 3x” Peter! If you were reading the New Testament in large swaths, you’d think that even though the church is undergoing so much persecution, death is on the run.
So what’s going on?
After all the action (read: mass conversions and persecution) that’s been underway in Jerusalem, the church is beginning to scatter throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1). Little gatherings of these people with the “words of Life” (Acts 5:20) are popping up all over the place. And Peter takes it upon Himself to go and visit these burgeoning little faith communities.
One of the first places Peter visits is the town of Lydda. Upon arrival, Peter is introduced to a man named Aeneas who had been paralyzed for over eight years. Peter proclaims over this guy, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed” (Acts 9:34). And “immediately” Aeneas is healed. Linguists will highlight how the wording literally means, “right at this moment Jesus Christ heals you.”
It’s another astounding work of God on the spot. And just like the man born lame in Solomon’s Portico earlier (Acts 3:6), this was a catalyst to more people trusting in the power of the resurrected Jesus!
Well, word gets out, and Peter is summoned by followers of Jesus to another nearby town by the name of Joppa. A woman named Tabitha (in Hebrew) or Dorcas (in Greek), who was a pillar of the faith, has died. She was a woman who went out of her way to devote her life to works of charity for the vulnerable, especially widows. The ones the rest of the world ignored, she served. The ones who were shut up by the powerful cry out powerfully for her, and Peter is invited into this scene of grief.
What’s astounding isn’t just what happens next but how much this feels like déjà vu. If you were to read the situation of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5:21-24, 35-43, the parallels would be striking. In Mark, Jesus asked everyone to leave the room. So does Peter here in Acts 9. Jesus’ command in Mark 5 is Talitha kumi [“Little girl, get up”], and Peter’s command here in Acts 9 is “Tabitha, get up,” which in its Aramaic form is Tabitha kumi. In both instances, they return to the grieving party, and everyone is surprised.
The similarity is striking. Peter empowered by the Holy Spirit is doing what Jesus did in Jesus’ name. Don’t miss this! God in Christ is working through the apostles and His church to such an extent that even the dead are raised. And people in Joppa and the surrounding country begin to embrace Jesus in droves like they did on that hillside in Galilee. It was an amazing day where even death seemed to lose ground.
Resurrection power today?
But when you sit at your computer, scan through your phone, check your Facebook feed, and go about your day-to-day, it’s so easy to feel distant from God and from His power—this kind of power we read about here—at work in the world.
But just because Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father doesn’t mean He’s disconnected from His world. This passage reminds us of this truth: Jesus is in heaven still working through His people to make His name and reign known this world over, and Jesus is just as zealous to redeem the lost and broken in the 21st century as He was in the 1st century.
To be clear, this should not make us presumptuous that God will work this way every time. More often than not, God doesn’t. He works much more often through the beauty of the weak, the fragile, and even the death of His people to put to shame the powers of this world. But as we face pain and suffering and stare down the dark and lonely road of death, may we remember that God is more powerful than it all, and He will never leave His people abandoned to death.
God is the author and giver of Life. He is the Life. And He has entrusted us with life in Christ (John 14:6) to share with all. Life and life abundant. Peter spoke it. Dorcas felt it. May we embrace it, share it, and have greater confidence today in our King of Life, our resurrected King Jesus who will come again to gather the living and the dead who are His!