Monday, April 20, 2009

"Bringing New Life to Those in Need" Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending April 26, 2009

Purpose: To offer assurance that through the life and witness of the church, we can extend Christ's power and presence in times of need.

Scripture Text: Acts 9:32-43 (NRSV)

Acts 9:32-43
(32) Now as Peter went here and there among all the believers, he came down also to the saints living in Lydda. (33)There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years, for he was paralysed. (34)Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!’ And immediately he got up. (35)And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.

(36) Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. (37)At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. (38)Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, ‘Please come to us without delay.’ (39)So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. (40)Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. (41)He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. (42)This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. (43)Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

As I look at this text from Acts, I am struck by a couple of things, first, God's will is not always done on earth, second, that is why it is so important they we communicate with God about our needs and desires. It appears to me, God responds to our prayers when His response is in agreement with His will.

Last week we talked about the writings of Luke (The Gospel of Luke and the Act's of the Apostles). The Gospel of Luke points us towards Jerusalem and the Book of Acts points us outward from Jerusalem. We can further divide the Book of Acts into those things that went on in Judea and Samaria and then all the way to Rome. It can also be divided into the ministry of Peter (1-12) and the ministry of Paul (13-28).

Our text takes place in the Judean and Samaritan time frame, as Peter was visiting the early Christians in the area away from Jerusalem. The healing of Aeneas is very similar to the healing of the paralytic found in Luke 5:17-26. It is easy to make the case that this miracle was an important part of spreading the good news in this area outside of Jerusalem, and we know it is God's will “that all should be saved”. However we may miss the importance of Peter's prayer, “Jesus Christ heals you”. I do not think it was because of God’s will that Aeneas was paralyzed, and because of that fact God was willing to answer Peter's prayer for Aeneas's healing. It would serve to glorify God in several ways, the obvious way and in the strengthening of Peter's faith, for even greater acts. It is important to note Peter did not heal, Jesus Christ was the healer.

With the spreading of the news about Aeneas throughout the area it is no wonder help was sought when in the neighboring town of Joppa the Christian community was going through a trial of its own. It had lost a disciple named Dorcas,(in Greek) or Tabitha (in Aramaic or Hebrew). Dorcas is the only woman identified as a “disciple” in the Book of Acts. Dorcas seemed to have been a very diligent and gifted disciple and was especially loved by the widows of Joppa. We do not know the circumstance of her death. It did not have to be God's will that she die, but it was certainly His will that she be called back from the dead by Peter, but without Peter's prayer it would not have happened.

Where does prayer stand, in your witness? In your church's witness? Prayer is a powerful tool that we have been given; our responsibility is to use it wisely. It is not to be used like a magic wand, but it is to be used to communicate to the Father our concerns and our needs and the needs of others. We are taught to pray “thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven”. I believe God's will is done in heaven, I pray that it will also be done on earth, but I need to ask Him to do that, and if I don't ask, I will never know what His will is.

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