Adult Sunday School Lesson for February 18, 2018
To nourish our faith by seeking help from other people of faith
Acts 9:36-43 (CEB)
36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas). Her life overflowed with good works and compassionate acts on behalf of those in need. 37 About that time, though, she became so ill that she died. After they washed her body, they laid her in an upstairs room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, when the disciples heard that Peter was there, they sent two people to Peter. They urged, “Please come right away!” 39 Peter went with them. Upon his arrival, he was taken to the upstairs room. All the widows stood beside him, crying as they showed the tunics and other clothing Dorcas made when she was alive. 40 Peter sent everyone out of the room, then knelt and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up!” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. 41 He gave her his hand and raised her up. Then he called God’s holy people, including the widows, and presented her alive to them. 42 The news spread throughout Joppa, and many put their faith in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed for some time in Joppa with a certain tanner named Simon.
Peter sent everyone out of the room, then knelt and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up!” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. (Acts 9:40)
I love our lesson this week, I think it speaks to today’s church. After Pentecost and the conversion of Saul the early disciples are faced with growing the gospel.
Our lesson text is about a community of faith coming together. Peter is visiting in Lydda which is about eight miles from Joppa. Word is sent by messenger, which would take about 3 hours one way, that Tabitha/Dorcas was dead. Obviously this widow lady was well known among the community and Peter.
Dorcas was a gifted seamstress and weaver, but more importantly she was doer. She could have held a position of deacon or deaconess in her community. She was an enormous help to other widows.
The way they treated her body and the concern they had about her death shows how important she was to that community. Just as we would do today, they sought the most spiritual man they could think of to comfort them.
Since the custom in that part of the world was for burial to take place as quickly as possible, the body of Dorcas was made ready for burial.
When Peter got the message and went to Joppa it may have been late in the day. No mention is made about raising Dorcas from the dead, they seemingly just sought comfort and maybe answers on why this would happen to such a thoughtful and loving person. Why would the God and Jesus that she talked about allow this to happen?
You have to respect Peter’s response, Peter was not seeking special notoriety. Peter did not employ any special tools or wizardry. He ask to be alone with Dorcas, and humbly prayed that God would use this to glorify Himself and strengthen the faith of those widows and the community Dorcas served.
In biblical terms, this was a resurrection of the dead, that is what the Greek implies.
It is hard to imagine the swing in emotions as they go from deep distress and doubt to one of elation and joy at how powerful this God of Dorcas and Peter is.
The death of Dorcas would have been a catastrophic blow to the faith community and to the widows her ministry had helped. But God’s plans are not always evident to us. Imagine the impact this whole episode had on the entire city of Joppa.
Today our faith community is very important to God, and therefore ought to be important to us. Peter entered a room with nothing but God, and that is all he really needed. With faith we can all be “more than conquerors.” And with a community of faith together we can accomplish everything God wants us to accomplish.
My hymn for this week is “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place.”