We get to read about another amazing miracle that happened in Peter’s ministry. This one is full of outstanding faith and reminiscent of the prophets of old as well as Jesus Himself. Let’s look in on Peter and see what’s going on.
Peter has been going about preaching and teaching the Jews wherever he can find them. He is one of the head apostles of the new church but he also likes to be a “boots on the ground” leader. He wants to reach out to the lost as well as interact with the new and established believers in the churches that have been planted. He is in Lydda when two men come to him. “Please come to us without delay” (verse 38).
Peter recognizes the urgency in their faces and voices. He immediately gets up and goes with them. As the three of them start of on their journey the men begin telling Peter about a wonderful woman form Joppa. “She is one of the most dedicated disciples of the Way there ever was. She is generous and kind and always helping out anyone in need. She is always sewing something for one or another of the widows in town. She refuses to take any kind of payment for her services. She makes everyone feel loved.”
As Peter listens to the praises being sung by these men for the services of a woman named Tabitha, he can’t help but be pleased with her spirit. But he knows there is more to this story. “She sounds like a wonderful woman and a great asset to the body, but I sense there is more to her story.”
The two men look at each other for a moment. One nods to the other. “This woman is loved by all. But you are right, there is more. She became sick a few days ago. She didn’t even tell anyone she wasn’t feeling well. She simply kept ministering to everyone who crossed her path, as was her usual custom. By the end of the day one of the sisters noticed Tabitha was moving much slower and looking pale. She asked her about it and Tabitha said she was just tired. The next morning it was clear something was amiss. Tabitha didn’t come to the meeting place to help feed the hungry children. As soon as breakfast was over one of the women went to her home to check on her. She found her on the floor of her bedroom covered in sweat and shivering. The doctor was immediately summoned. He prepared a tea for her to help break her fever but she couldn’t drink but a few small sips. The believers began praying and a few of the widows sat with her throughout the rest of that day and into the night. Late last night she succumbed to the fever and died.”
The man telling the story looked away and fell silent. Knowing there was more to this Peter remained quiet and waited for him to resume. A couple of minutes passed and the second man finally took up the story. “As my brother said, Tabitha did die. As we were washing her body for burial news came to us that you were in the area. It was decided right then that maybe God would hear your prayers and restore our beloved sister to us. So we were sent to fetch you while our brothers and sisters keep watch and pray for a miracle.”
At first Peter is a little intimidated by the task ahead. He knows he can’t restore this woman but then he remembers that HE doesn’t have to; Jesus will. He begins to pray in his spirit and continues to pray through the remainder of the journey. He KNOWS that Jesus has heard him and has faith that a miracle will meet these people today. He is awed by their faith too. Rather than releasing Tabitha to death they fight back and reach to the power of Jesus for her restoration.
Peter knows they have reached Tabitha’s home even before his companions point it out. He sees the crowd of people gathered around a modest dwelling. They are crying but also praying. They are not engaging in the traditional mourning rituals but grief is still evident in their midst.
Peter is immediately taken to an upper room where an elderly woman is laid out on a bed. The room is full of other women who are crying. They begin to tell Peter about their friend and how loved she is. Peter acknowledges them and their pain but he tells them that they need to leave so he can care for their sister.
As soon as the last woman leaves, Peter shuts the door and turns to the body lying on the bed. He walks over to the bed and kneels down beside it. “Jesus, You see the love this woman has inspired from all those she meets. You have seen her selfless service to others. I know she is with You now but she is still needed so much here. Lord Jesus, allow her to return to us so that Your name may be glorified here in Joppa as well as anywhere else her generosity reaches.”
Peter then turns to the still form of Tabitha. In a mild and kind voice he calls out to her, “Tabitha, arise.” There is no doubt in his heart or mind that she will do exactly as he has instructed. Jesus’ power will see to the “how” of it.
Tabitha opens her eyes as if waking from a long nap. As soon as she sees Peter she immediately recognizes him and sits up. She has heard him teaching before in a nearby town. Peter reaches his hand out to her and she takes it. “Welcome back Tabitha. There are a lot of people here who have been praying for you.”
Peter calls for the others to enter the room as he raises her up from her bed. The door bursts open and the room is filled with those who love Tabitha and have been praying for her. Peter steps back and lets them envelop her. The shouts of joy could be heard far down the street as Tabitha makes her way through the house greeting all those who came to care for her. She is awed by their outpouring of love. She had no idea she had touched so many lives. Today she sees just how loved she is and how God has truly used her. One ordinary life turned over to God had extraordinary impact.
Father God, Tabitha’s friends/brothers and sisters in Christ showed AMAZING faith. They didn’t prepare her for burial beyond washing her body. I believe they fully expected to have her restored to them. I wish I had that kind of faith. Again, You know my shortcomings and issues in this area.
More than that I want to have the kind of impact Tabitha had for You. I want to love like she did. I want to be willing to do whatever You would have me do. I want to be Your willing servant in word and deed. I find myself falling far short of this desire. I blame it on not really knowing if I heard You most of the time. I can work on that by listening and talking with You more so that I KNOW Your voice as well as I do my own husband’s. There is no way he can disguise his voice that I won’t recognize it. You never disguise Your voice so identifying it should be easier but I still miss it. I’m sorry Father. Help me listen with my whole heart.
Was Tabitha sad to leave You or was she overjoyed about the work she could still do for You? I imagine You and she shared a lot more stories when she finally came home again. I pray the people let her leave with joy and celebration for the woman she was instead of longing for what more she could be to them. Were they selfish to want her back? You used their selfishness to further Your Kingdom anyway.