Acts 9:32-43


A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds

May 7, 2009 

ACTS STUDY – Session 14

(Acts 9:32-43)

 

In the first part of Acts, the prominent character of the narrative is Simon Peter.  To this point in the story we have come across Peter on numerous occasions.  For example:

  • Acts 1:13 – Peter is listed first, indicating his position of leadership, among the apostles who gathered in upper room in Jerusalem following the Lord’s ascension into heaven.
  • Acts 1:15 – Peter led the meeting in which the young fellowship chose Matthias to be the replacement among the twelve for Judas Iscariot who had betrayed the Lord and committed suicide.
  • Acts 2:14-42 – Peter is the main preacher on the Day of Pentecost.
  • Acts 3 – Peter is the main figure in the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the temple.
  • Acts 4 – Peter spoke before the Sanhedrin Court after he and John were arrested in the temple following the healing of the lame man.
  • Acts 5:1-11 – Peter was the one who confronted Ananias and Sapphira when they lied about their offering.
  • Acts 5:12-16 – Peter was the key player in a series of miracles that occurred following the episode with Ananias and Sapphira.
  • Acts 5:17-42 – Peter was the main spokesman before the Sanhedrin when all the apostles were arrested and ultimately beaten because of their preaching about Jesus.
  • Acts 8:14-25 – Peter, along with John, was sent by all the apostles to Samaria to investigate Philip’s ministry among the Samaritans.

 

All of those events except for the last one took place in the Jerusalem.  In this session we are going to begin looking at a section of Acts which focuses on some of the travels and work of Peter outside of Jerusalem.  Acts 9:31 indicates this was a time of freedom of persecution and healthy growth for the young church.  Perhaps this time of peace and prosperity gave Peter the freedom to leave Jerusalem for awhile to minister in other areas.

 

This section of Acts focuses on the ministry of Peter in four places:

  • Lydda – Acts 9:32-35
  • Joppa – Acts 9:36-10:23a
  • Caesarea – Acts 10:23b-48
  • Jerusalem – Acts 11:1-18

 

Peter at Lydda (Acts 9:32-35)

Verse 32

“came down” – Even though he traveled northwest from Jerusalem, the text describes him as going down because Jerusalem is higher in elevation than any of the surrounding area.  Jews always spoke of “going up” to Jerusalem and “coming down” from Jerusalem.  As we have seen in previous studies, this terminology may have referred to more that mere physical elevation.  It was always a spiritually uplifting experience to go to Jerusalem and a time of coming down spiritually to leave Jerusalem.

“to the saints” – We saw in the last session that the word “saints” refers to all believers.  It means holy ones or those who have been set apart by God.  We are saints not by virtue of what we have done.  We don’t earn the title of saint.  That title is conferred on us by virtue of the sacrificial death of Jesus on our behalf.  We have been made saints by the grace of God!

“Lydda” – Lydda was located about 23 miles northwest of Jerusalem and about 12 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea.  Today, Ben Gurion Airport is located very near the ancient site of Lydda.  The New Testament town of Lydda was on the site of the town known as Lod in the Old Testament.  It was situated on an important intersection of two key trade routes:  the highway known as the Via Maris (way of the sea) which was the trade route than ran from Egypt to Asia and Asia Minor and the road that ran from Jerusalem to Joppa, a seaport.

Verse 33

“Aeneas” – The name suggests he was a Hellenistic (Greek speaking) Jew.  Luke does not tell us whether or not Aeneas was a Christian, but the context seems to indicate he was.  Peter’s mission on this journey seemed to be to minister to and encourage the believers.  One of the early church fathers, John Chrysostom described Peter’s journey this way:  “…[he] went about inspecting the ranks, what part was compact, what in good order, what needed his presence…”   Since the verse states that Peter “…came down also to the saints who lived in Lydda….” it makes sense to assume Aeneas, to whom Peter ministered, was one of those saints.  If he wasn’t, no doubt he became one after this miracle!

“bedridden for eight years … paralyzed…” – This was obviously no minor illness.  Perhaps the Lord chose cases like this to demonstrate the power of the gospel.  Matthew Henry says, “Christ chose such patients as those whose diseases were incurable … to show how desperate the case of fallen [humanity] was when He undertook their cure.”

Verse 34

“Jesus Christ heals you” – The tense of the verb indicates that Peter was saying to Aeneas, “At this very moment as I speak Jesus Christ is healing you.”

“arise” – This required an act of faith on the part of Aeneas, much as we saw in Acts 4:7 on the part of the man healed at one of the gates of the temple.

“make your bed” – Peter told the man to do for himself what others had been doing for him for years.

Verse 35

“all … saw him, and they turned to the Lord” – The result of this healing was that many people came to faith in Christ.  That is a reminder of the purpose of miracles.  In Scripture they are never an end in themselves.  And, they never point to the one through whom the miracle was performed.  Their purpose is always to point people to the Lord.  In light of what happens in the following chapters, the “all” in this verse obviously means all Jews.  At this point, the early church had not yet reached to point of welcoming Gentiles into the fellowship.

 

Peter at Joppa (Acts 9:36-10:23a)

Two key events occur in Joppa, the seaport town 35 miles northwest of Jerusalem and 12 miles northwest of Lydda.  Today, Joppa is a suburb of Tel-Aviv.  The first notable event is the raising of Dorcas from the dead.  The other is a vision God gave Peter to prepare him for taking the gospel to Gentiles.

 

The raising of Dorcas (Acts 9:36-43) – This is the first account of someone being raised from the dead in Acts.  Dorcas is only the third woman mentioned by name in Acts.  Mary, the mother of Jesus is mentioned along with some unnamed women in Acts 1:14.  Sapphira, the wife of Ananias, is mentioned in Acts 5.  Now we come across the name Dorcas.  Nothing is known about her except what is said in this passage.

 

Verse 36

“…Tabitha…Dorcas…” – Tabitha was her Aramaic name and Dorcas was her Greek name.  The word means gazelle and it brings to mind graceful.  Since no husband is mentioned, we can assume that either she never married or was a widow.

“...disciple…” – No question that she was a believer in Jesus.

“…abounding in deeds of kindness and charity … continually did…” – She used her abilities and her resources to benefit others.  She was a model of unselfishness and graciousness.  The verses that follow indicate she positively impacted the lives of many people.

 

Verses 37-38

“…laid it in an upper room … sent two men to him…” – The fact that they did not bury Dorcas’ body right away, which was the custom of the time, but instead sent for Peter is an indication that they expected Peter to do something about her death.

“…do not delay to come to us…” – This reflects the urgency of their request.  The Jewish custom was to bury a body before sundown on the day of death.  While they did not specifically request that Peter raise Dorcas from the dead, the clear implication is they had heard of the miracle performed through Peter in Lydda and were hoping for a similar miraculous event in the case of Dorcas.

 

 

Verses 39-41

      There are obvious similarities between the actions of Peter in these verses and the actions of Jesus when he raised the young daughter of the synagogue official, Jairus, from the dead (see Mark 5:38-43).  Peter had witnessed first hand a resurrection performed by Jesus, and in this case he copied what he saw Jesus do.  The similarities include:

·        Putting out of the room those who were weeping and mourning (Mark 5:40 and Acts 9:40).

·        The words that were spoken.  Jesus said in Mark 5:41 “Little girl (talitha), arise” and Peter said in Acts 9:40 “Tabitha, arise.”

·        Jesus took the little girl by the hand (Mark 5:41) and Peter took Tabitha by the hand (Acts 9:41).

      The primary difference in the two accounts is that Peter “…knelt down and prayed…” before instructing the girl to arise.  Peter did not presume to do such a thing in his own power.  He took no credit for the miracle and understood that the power came not from him but from the Lord.

 

Verses 42 tells of the after effect of the raising of Dorcas.  Obviously news of such an event caught the attention of many people.  The result was that the number of believers increased.

 

Verse 43 is a transition verse that leads us to the next narrative about Peter’s travels.

“…stayed many days in Joppa…” – Some have suggested that he was there for as long as a year.

“…with a certain Tanner, Simon...” – One of the characteristics of the writing of Luke is to provide detailed information about where people lodged during their travels.

·        Acts 9:11 says Paul stayed in the house of Judas on Straight Street in Damascus

·        Acts 16:14-15 says Paul stayed in the house of Lydia in Philippi.

·        Acts 17:5-7 tells us that Paul stayed in the house of Jason in Thessalonica.

·        Acts 18:2-3 tells us that Paul stayed in the home of Aquila and Priscilla at Corinth.

·        Acts 21:8 says Paul stayed in the home of Philip in Caesarea.

·        Acts 21:16 says Paul stayed in the home of Mnason in Jerusalem.

The significance of Peter staying in the home of Simon the tanner must not be overlooked.  Being a tanner was considered having an unclean occupation.  If a husband became a tanner after marriage, that was grounds for his wife to divorce him.  F.F. Bruce, the well known Bible commentator writes, “Peter’s lodging with such a man was a mark of his increasing emancipation from ceremonial traditions.”  God was leading Peter step by step toward the acceptance of Gentiles into the Kingdom.

 

Practical application of Acts 9:32-43:

  1. God has the power to do things we view as impossible.  Does it not make sense to believe that the God who created the laws of nature is more powerful that the laws He created?
  2. It is the role of believers to give God the credit for what He chooses to do through them.  Notice the phrase “Jesus Christ heals you” in verse 34 and Peter’s praying in verse 40.
  3. Jesus is our model for life and ministry.
  4. God is constantly preparing us for future events in our lives.
  5. The Christian life is a journey/pilgrimage of growth.