The Book of ACTS
James J. Barker
AENEAS AND DORCAS
- Peter was very prominent in Acts 1--5, and then we do not hear about him again until Acts 9:32, where we are told that Peter was visiting the churches of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria (cf. 8:1, 4; 9:31).
- "Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda" (9:32).
- What a blessing to see there were saints dwelling in Lydda.
- And Acts 9:41 refers to the saints in Joppa.
- By this time, there were saints all over Judea and Samaria. Soon there would be saints all over the world.
- Philippians 4:22 refers to the saints "that are of Caesar's household."
- In Acts 1:8, our Lord said to His disciples, "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
- And as we study the book of Acts, and then the epistles we see our Lord's disciples going forth and winning souls all over the Roman Empire.
- And sinners were being transformed into saints.
- Lydda was a town about nine miles from Joppa, and was on the road from the sea-port to Jerusalem (cf. verse 38).
- Lydda was situated in the plain of Sharon in the territory of Benjamin -- note "Saron" (Sharon) in Acts 9:35.
- Tonight we will look at the healing of Aeneas, and the raising of Tabitha (Dorcas) from the dead.
THE HEALING OF AENEAS (9:33-35)
- Aeneas was a popular name among the Greeks and Romans. In Greek and Roman mythology, Aeneas was a Trojan hero, the principal lieutenant of Hector, and the son of the prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite. In addition to Greek mythology, Aeneas is mentioned in Homer's Iliad.
- Our Aeneas here in Lydda was a man that had been paralyzed for eight years -- a long time to be stuck in bed (9:33). Doctors probably told him there was no hope he would ever walk again.
- Verse 33 says Aeneas "was sick of the palsy." In Scripture, palsy sets forth the utter helplessness and hopelessness of the sinner. Those without Christ are just as helpless as this man Aeneas, "which had kept his bed eight years" (9:33).
- In Mark 2, the Lord Jesus healed a man that was “sick of the palsy” (Mark 2:3-5).
- In other words, just like Aeneas, the man was paralyzed. He could not come to Jesus on his own. He was totally helpless and hopeless.
- A man “sick of the palsy” is a picture of a hopeless sinner. Ephesians 2:1 says unregenerate sinners are “dead in trespasses and sins.”
- Ephesians 2:11 says they are “without Christ” and without hope, “and without God in the world.”
- The man with the palsy in Mark 2 had to be carried by four other men (Mark 2:3). There are lost sinners everywhere, and they are paralyzed by sin, paralyzed by false doctrine, paralyzed by worldly pleasures, paralyzed by indifference and prejudice, and many other things that are keeping them from getting right with God.
- There are paralyzed sinners all about us and they cannot get to Jesus. We must go and get them and bring them to Jesus.
- If we only could see sinners the way Jesus sees them. Jesus sees them as hopeless and helpless - just like these men sick of the palsy.
- Let’s see sinners the way God sees them (cf. Isa. 1:4-9, 18; Rom. 3:10-18, 23).
- The men in Mark 2 were willing to tear off a roof in order to bring their friend to Jesus. The man who owned the house (perhaps it was Peter) was willing to let his roof be torn off.
- But many Christians today will not even cross the street to try and help a lost sinner. And many Christians would never allow four men to tear open their roof!
- What is a roof compared to a sinner getting saved?
- What is a little inconvenience if it means seeing someone saved? Remember these men were “sick of the palsy.” They were paralyzed by sin. And there are multitudes just like him all around us.
- The men in Mark 2 did what they had to do to get their friend to Jesus. It would have been wrong to give up. It would have been wrong to wait for another opportunity. Perhaps there would never be another opportunity.
- Thank God for their determination to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus. Let us be just as determined!
- There will be a great reward in heaven for these four men who carried the man sick with the palsy to Jesus. We do not know their names but God certainly does.
- Getting back to Aeneas, there is no indication that Aeneas was a believer before he was healed. However, he had probably heard about Jesus from others. Spurgeon said, "Aeneas knew something about Jesus because, otherwise, when Peter said, 'Jesus Christ makes you whole,' Aeneas might have earnestly enquired what he meant, and could not intelligently have acted upon what he could not comprehend. He could not have believed what Peter said because he would not have understood his meaning" ("Aeneas," July 16, 1876).
- Aeneas was miraculously healed -- not by Peter -- but by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Great Physician. Peter said in Acts 9:34, "Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed."
- Since Aeneas' condition was well-known in the area of Lydda and Sharon, his miraculous healing became the means of causing all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron to turn to the Lord (9:35).
- This is the primary purpose for his healing -- the furtherance of the Gospel.
TABITHA RAISED FROM THE DEAD (9:36-43)
- Acts 9:36 says, "Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas..."
- Tabitha lived in Joppa, a well-known seaport. You will recall the LORD told Jonah, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me" (Jonah 1:2).
- "But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa..." (Jonah 1:3).
- Tabitha "was full of good works and almsdeeds (giving alms; she was charitable)" (9:36). She was good at sewing clothes.
- Most of the ladies' outfits sold in stores today are cheap and immodest. We need women today like Tabitha!
- Her name means "gazelle" (Scofield margin).
- John Phillips said, "Her name Tabitha in the Hebrew (Dorcas in Greek), meant 'gazelle.' The gazelle is a graceful creature. Dorcas certainly lived up to her name. She was a gracious woman filled with love and compassion for the poor" (Exploring Acts).
- Tabitha lived in Joppa, and Tabitha died in Joppa (9:37). When the disciples in Joppa heard that Peter was in Lydda, only about nine miles away, they sent for him (9:38, 39).
- They probably wanted Peter to preach her funeral, but God had something much better planned.
- When Peter arrived in Joppa he found the widows weeping, and they showed Peter "the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them" (9:39).
- There are a few contrasts here. Aeneas was a man. Tabitha was a woman.
- Apparently Aeneas was not saved, and Tabitha was a Christian (9:36).
- Aeneas was healed; Tabitha was raised from the dead (9:39-43).
- Interestingly the Bible mentions nine persons that were raised from the dead, but not one of them has told us of his or her experience in the world beyond the grave.
- I say this to warn you not to listen to men or women who claim they died and came back from the other side. Their testimony is unscriptural. They are deceivers.
- Those raised from the dead in Scripture: Elijah the prophet resurrected the son of the widow in Zarephath (I Kings 17:22).
- The prophet Elisha raised the son of the Shunammite woman from the dead (II Kings 4:35).
- In II Kings 13:21, as they were burying a man, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of the prophet Elisha. "And when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet."
- Those are the three resurrections from the Old Testament. In Luke 7:13-15, our Lord resurrected the widow's son at Nain.
- In Luke 8, our Lord raised Jairus' daughter from the dead (8:55).
- In John 11, our Lord raised Lazarus from the dead (cf. John 11:43, 44).
- Many saints were resurrected when our Lord was crucified (Matthew 27:52, 53). This means there were actually more than nine raised from the dead, since Matthew 27:52 says, "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose."
- The most famous resurrection of all took place on that first Resurrection Sunday 2,000 years ago. It is recorded in all four Gospels and is referred to many times throughout the rest of the New Testament (cf. Acts 1:3).
- In Acts 20, the apostle Paul raised Eutychus from the dead (20:1-12).
- And here in Acts 9:40 and 41, Peter raised Tabitha from the dead. She was far better off in heaven than in Joppa, but for the benefit of all her many friends and loved ones, especially the weeping widows for whom she made coats and garments (9:39), and for the furtherance of the Gospel (9:42), God raised Tabitha from the dead.
- Like the healing in Lydda, this miracle became "known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord" (9:42).
- We sometimes wonder why God heals some people, and lets others die. We wonder why some godly Christians die young, while some wicked rascals live to be 100 years old.
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye
so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling
His purposes will ripen fast,
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it
plain. -- William
- Peter stayed in Joppa for many days "with one Simon a tanner" (9:43).
- The book of Acts teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ is alive today working in Christians through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- It was the Lord Jesus Christ that healed Aeneas and raised Dorcas from the dead. That is why Peter said to Aeneas, "Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed" (9:34).
- Today the Lord Jesus Christ is alive and still working in Christians through the power of the Holy Spirit.