Acts 9.36-43

Whilst in the area, Peter is called upon to come to Joppa in which lives a disciple named Tabitha. A valued member of the Christian community there, she was full of good works and acts of charity. Tabitha, whose name in the common language of the day was Dorcas, became ill and died and Peter arrives to find her body prepared for burial (v.37). 

The words of Jesus ringing in his ears (Mark 5.38-43) Peter put [everybody] outside, and knelt down and prayed. Using Jesus as his guide he said simply

“Tabitha, get up.”

(Acts 9.40, NET)

She is miraculously resuscitated and is presented to everyone as alive. There is always a method and a meaning to the miracle and the resuscitation of Tabitha (she was not resurrected to new life, simply resuscitated to her old life) drew people to the true miracle worker and many believed in the Lord.

Peter then stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner. Ritually and ceremonially unclean from their work, a tanner was forced to live at least 25 metres outside of a village or town. We see that Peter is becoming less and less concerned with ritual and ceremonial customs and traditions and more concerned with the purity that comes from a vibrant faith in the risen Lord Jesus.

If we are considering Acts as prescriptive or descriptive, is this something we should all be doing on a regular basis, resuscitating people by command? But then why wasn’t Stephen miraculously brought back to life in Acts 8.60? Contrary to what some false teachers might have you believe, miraculous resuscitation is not the mandate of all believers. If it were, nobody would ever die and nobody would ever go to be with the Lord (Philippians 1.22, 1 Thessalonians 4.16b). The Apostolic miracles recorded in Acts are just that, Apostolic. They established the new movement, they brought many to faith, they evidenced what was being presented for the very first time, they were the firework exploding to give others light by which to see and understand. Friend, it is not your role to miraculously resuscitate others by command and you’re not falling short as a believer in Jesus if you don’t.

For more on Acts as prescriptive or descriptive, check out our intro to this series here:

Acts – Prescriptive or Descriptive

Acts 9.32-35

In a new move for his ministry, Peter now starts to go here and there among them all. Whereas before people travelled to the apostles (5.16) now Peter is on the road. He came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda, a journey of around 35 miles. 

Whilst there he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralysed. We then read:

Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Get up and make your own bed!” And immediately he got up. All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord”.

(Acts 9.34-35, NET)

Very much like Jesus’ own healing in Mark 2.10-12, we see someone physically healed of a long-term ailment through a simple command and a word. Peter, however, doesn’t presume to think he has done the healing:

“Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Get up and make your own bed!”

It is Jesus, the Christ, the chosen and anointed One of God sent to heal the world who has the miraculous and supernatural power to heal physically.

As so often is the case there is a method and a meaning to the miracle. This is not a random healing done to stir up a crowd, but to point to the offer of healing from sin available through Jesus (John 1.29).

As proof of this we read that all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw the healed man and they turned to the Lord. Peter, no doubt, also preached the Gospel to them (Romans 10.14) and the power to save eternally he will have spoken about was demonstrated in the power to save physically. 

The same is true for you and for me. The miraculous and spectacular miracles we see in Scripture are not there as a guarantee that we will experience the same, but to point us towards the miracle worker, to Jesusthe Christ who heals and saves. 

Acts 9.26-31

Having escaped Damascus (9.23-25) Saul arrived in Jerusalem to a somewhat frosty reception (v.26). It seems that even after three years the believers in Jerusalem were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. In the same way that Jesus  advocates for us (1 John 2.1) Barnabas goes out of his way to take Saul to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord. Barnabas vouches for Saul, who adds his own testimony, and he is finally accepted by the community of believers (v.28).

Getting straight to work, Saul spoke and disputed again the Hellenists (Greek speaking Jews). As happened in Damascus, the truth produces a visceral reaction in those who are contradicting it with their lives and they were seeking to kill him. Saul escapes, again, and was sent off to Tarsus from Caesarea. The church continued to walk in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and as a result it multiplied and was edified (v.31).

After his spectacular conversion experience and his time in Arabia and Damascus Saul now spends a period of time in his birthplace of Tarsus (Acts 22.3). From the exciting and action-packed, Saul now has a period about which we don’t know much. Perhaps there were old connections he had to re-establish. Perhaps there were synagogues to be taught in. Perhaps there were distant family members to be stayed with and to share the truth with. Either way, Saul’s high profile conversion and start into the Christian life now reaches a point of obscurity (at least for us).

We can often experience seasons like this, too. We make great strides forward in our faith life and then reach a period where were feel like we are living in obscurity, away from the gaze and grace of the Lord. However, this is not the case. There are large parts of Saul’s life that we don’t read about in detail in the Bible. There are large parts of Jesus’ earthly life that we don’t read about in detail in the Bible. Just because this is the case, and just because you and I can often feel like we are in a period that would not be documented in our own lives, we are never far from the gaze or grace of the Lord (Psalm 139.7-12).

If you feel that you are in a period of obscurity at the moment, keep going. Know that you are never far from the gaze or grace of the Lord. As Paul no doubt used his time in Tarsus to prepare for what was coming next away from the pressures and particulars that were found in Jerusalem, we can use periods of apparent inactivity to prepare for what is coming next for us. Read Scripture more, pray more, see the connections throughout that point to Jesus more, so when called upon as Saul eventually was (Acts 11.25-26) you are ready. Use the quiet time to prepare for the busy time!

Acts 9.23-25

Having returned to Damascus from Arabia, Paul no doubt picked up where he left off in proving that Jesus was the Christ through his wonderful knowledge of Scripture. Doing this for an extended period of time, most probably three years (v.23, cf. Galatians 1.18) seems to have upset the local Jewish population. We read:

Now after some days had passed, the Jews plotted together to kill him, but Saul learned of their plot against him. They were also watching the city gates day and night so that they could kill him. But his disciples took him at night and let him down through an opening in the wall by lowering him in a basket”.

(Acts 9.23-25, NET)

Under serious threat of death but with much still to do in his ministry (9.15-16) Saul escaped. His escape was hardly swashbuckling and movie-worthy, he escaped through an opening in the wall by [being lowered] in a basket. He knew that he still had much to do for the Lord and took action to make sure that he was still alive to do it. 

So often we look down on those who flee during persecution and have a misguided idea that martyrdom is the only course for a believer. But is that the case here with Saul? Was that the case for Jesus in Matthew 2? Was that the case for David in 1 Samuel 21?

Rather than narrowly saying that martyrdom is the only course of action a believer should take,

we ought to see obedience as the only course of action a believer should take. 

God’s deliverance is sometimes miraculous and it is sometimes humble. Either way, God’s will will prevail and God’s plans will prosper. Just think, if Saul had been too proud to be smuggled out of the city in a basket and had stood to face certain death (v.24b) our Bibles would be a whole lot thinner. Paul would not have been around to fulfil the words of Jesus in 9.15. As James Montgomery Boice wrote:

“It was the beginning of many escapes for Paul…”

(Enduring Word)

We need not look down on those who flee during persecution, and the same principle is true for you and for me. In the face of difficulties, hardship, or persecution, sometimes walking away is by far the best option. Not all are called to be martyrs, and not all are called to flee. The key is to be obedient to the will of God for you in any given situation. There is no pre-defined response for the believer in any situation aside from obedience. 



For more about how to find God’s will for you, read our series here:

Finding God's will

Acts 9.19-22

After Saul’s spectacular experience on the road to Damascus where he encountered the risen Jesus (9.3-6) and his being born again (9.17-18) it seems that he departed and went away into Arabia (Galatians 1.15-17, read about it here). Returning to Damascus, he then stayed for a period of around three years (9.19b, cf. Galatians 1.18) where he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues saying, “He is the Son of God”.

Understandably this brought confusion among those who knew Saul’s prior interaction with, and intent for, those following the Way and they even doubted his motivation for being there (v.21). Then, we start to see a little of the Divine wisdom behind choosing this well-travelled, Scripture-literate, zeal-hungry man as the chosen instrument of [the Lord’s] to carry [His] name before Gentiles and kinds and the children of Israel:

“…Saul became more and more capable, and was causing consternation among the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ“.

(Acts 9.22, NET, emphasis added)

Being the super student of Scripture that he was (Acts 22.3, Galatians 1.14) Paul could prove that there was going to be a Messiah, an anointed One, a Christ, sent from God to a certain place, at a certain time, to do certain things, and to die in a certain way through presenting Jews with their own literature. No doubt Paul used things like the prophecies in Daniel, the Psalms (Psalm 22, for example), the proto-evangelium of Genesis 3, the foreshadowing of the tabernacle as the place where God and man commune, and many more to prove that this long predicted person was Jesus.

For you and for me, when we come to see our Bibles as containing the very words of God, we see that each and every book has a purpose, a plan, and some kind of prediction or prophecy about Jesus, His person or His work.

We would do well to read Scripture with a Jesus-shaped lens: what is this telling me about Him, how is this glorifying Him, how is this urging me towards His finished work on the cross all the more? We know that He said it all points to Him (John 5.39, Luke 24.27) and when we see this we are able, as Paul was, to prove that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed One of God sent to save the world from sin and death.