Bible Study 5.7.12, 5.10.12, 5.13.12 For Worship 5.20.12

Bible Study 5.7.12, 5.10.12, 5.13.12 For Worship 5.20.12

Acts 9:32  Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints that lived at Lydda.

33  There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years and was paralyzed.

34  And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose.

35  And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

36  Now there was at Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity.

37  In those days she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room.

38  Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him entreating him, “Please come to us without delay.”

39  So Peter rose and went with them. And when he had come, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping, and showing tunics and other garments which Dorcas made while she was with them.

40  But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.

41  And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then calling the saints and widows he presented her alive.

42  And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.

43  And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.

COMMENTARY

The disciples had engaged in increasingly dangerous confrontations with the Temple Authorities.  They were ordered to stop teaching and healing in the name of Jesus.  They were roughed up by thugs and locked up in prison, and still they escaped from custody and continued preaching, teaching and healing in the name of Jesus.  Peter was being identified as the leader of the new Jesus movement, and so the authorities were planning to make an example of him.  But before they could arrange a stoning, or even a crucifixion, Peter slipped out of Jerusalem and began visiting the little clusters of Jesus followers that were beginning to sprout up around the country.

He headed west from Jerusalem on the Joppa Road, and along the way he stopped in Lydda, to share stories about Jesus and pray with the fledgling community of faith there.  Lydda was present day Lod, where the main airport between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv is located, part of the fertile coastal plain.  There was in Lydda a man named Aeneas (a Greek name) who had been “bedridden,” “paralyzed” for eight years.  That would have indeed been a long time for someone in ancient times to survive as a paralytic.  Similar to the lame beggar at the gate of the Temple, Peter told Aeneas to rise, and he did.  In response to the miracle some of the people in Lydda joined the Jesus movement.

News of Aeneas’ healing traveled fast, and the people in Joppa close by called for Peter to come quickly.  A widow of outstanding reputation, full of compassion and good works had become ill and apparently had fallen into a coma.  Even though the text uses the word died, we can we reasonably assured they would not have sent for Peter if that had been the case.  Whether believing her to be in a coma or dead, the community was gathered at the home of Dorcas and they had begun to grieve.  In this  instance, the text gives us both a Hebrew name, Tabitha, and a Greek name, Dorcas.  The healing of Dorcas parallels the healing of Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5:22-43 and Luke 8:41-56.  We might even note that in the Mark passage Jesus used the Aramaic phrase: “Talitha cumi,” or “little girl arise,” and how the name Tabitha is a derivative of Talitha.  The theme of the Acts of the Apostles is that the disciples were replicating the ministry of Jesus.

Again the response to the miraculous recovery of Dorcas was that new people in Joppa join the Jesus movement, and Peter settled down to preach and teach and gather more followers in this busy port City.  The very end of the story gives us an important detail.  Peter stayed at the home of Simon the tanner.  Tanners in Judaism were considered to be ritually unclean, because in their work, they were constantly handling dead animals.  For Peter to stay in the home of a man who was ritually unclean was an indication the Jesus movement was already breaking through the restrictions of the law in order to extend the gospel to an ever wider circle of people ultimately including people like us – gentiles.

Dorcus was one of those wonderful women who took soup to the sick, casseroles to grieving families, made dresses for orphan girls, washed and tore up old cloth to make leper bandages. When I was serving in Galesburg, we had a lady who diligently led the “material aid” committee.  That was Dorcus.  She was hands on and faithful – material aid.  In Galesburg our material aid lady also suffered from schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder, which just goes to prove that even in the midst of mental illness there can be a good heart. I don’t know what was the greater miracle, Dorcus’ recovery or Mary Alice’s good heart.

LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT

1. Where all was Peter visiting?

2. Why had Peter left Jerusalem?

3. What was Aeneas’ medical condition?

4. How did Peter heal Aeneas?

5. How did other people respond to the healing of Aeneas?

6. Why did emissaries arrive from Joppa looking for Peter?

7. What was the nature of Tabitha’s character?

8. What was Dorcas’ marital status?

9. Where was Dorcas laid out, when Peter arrived?

10. How was the community grieving?

11. How did Peter heal Dorcas?

12. With whom did Peter stay in Joppa?

LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US

1. Have you ever left a town, or a school, or a church, or a job, or a group,  to escape something?

2. What is the most miraculous healing you have ever experienced?

3. Have you ever known someone who was full of good works and acts of charity?

4. Have you ever know someone who died who was very, very good?

5. Do you think our rituals of grief are any different from ancient times?

6. We mainly rely upon medical science for our medical care.  What role if any do you see for spirituality in medicine?

7. Without persecution do you think the disciples would have moved beyond Jerusalem in their ministry?

8. Can you see any external forces in our culture trying to move the church to change?

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