Tuesday, February 19

There are no small parts

9:32As Peter was traveling from place to place, he also came down to the saints who lived in Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. 34 Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed,” and immediately he got up. 35 So all who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.

36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which is translated Dorcas). She was always doing good works and acts of charity. 37 About that time she became sick and died. After washing her, they placed her in a room upstairs. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples heard that Peter was there and sent two men to him who urged him, “Don’t delay in coming with us.” 39 Peter got up and went with them. When he arrived, they led him to the room upstairs. And all the widows approached him, weeping and showing him the robes and clothes that Dorcas had made while she was with them. 40 Peter sent them all out of the room. He knelt down, prayed, and turning toward the body said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. 41 He gave her his hand and helped her stand up. He called the saints and widows and presented her alive. 42 This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed for some time in Joppa with Simon, a leather tanner.

(Act 9:32-42 CSB)

In this section, Luke briefly sets Saul/Paul aside and returns to Peter’s ministry. With the momentum built by the last few chapters—the conversion of Samaritans, the African eunuch, and Saul—we expect a dramatic Gentile scene right away, but instead we first read two short stories: the healing of Aeneas and raising of Dorcas.  We know Peter performed countless miracles, so why Luke included these two stories as an interlude between the expansion to the Gentiles is worth pondering.

First, these miracles occur in Lydda and Joppa, and you don’t need to know Israeli geography to know that these locales are not Jerusalem. The Jesus-movement has spread, and not as isolated pockets of believers but as thriving faith communities. Second, sandwiching two stories about two ordinary people in between grand tales of two early Church giants highlights what the Gospel is really all about—it’s not about the great evangelists, but about the people called out to be God’s people and “the fact that the apparently ordinary people are not ordinary to God, and that when we tell the story of the great sweep of God’s purposes in history there are, at every point, the Aeneases and the Dorcases.” 

Third, Luke is doing something we’ve seen before, something that sounds familiar. Earlier when we studied Peter’s trial and Stephen’s death, we noted how Luke parallels the disciples’ experiences with Jesus’ life, and he does it again with Peter healing a paralyzed man and raising the dead. In Luke 5, Jesus healed a paralyzed man, the second miracle recorded after He had called Peter to be a disciple. In Luke 8, Jesus responds to a summons, enters a room with a select few (including Peter), and raises a girl from the dead. If those parallels aren’t enough, even the language is nearly identical. Luke wrote Acts in Greek, so we don’t catch that Peter spoke to Dorcas in Aramaic when he raised her from the dead, because when he uses her Greek name, saying “Tabitha, get up,” or, in Aramaic, “Tabitha, koum.” This imperative differs by only one letter from what Jesus said to Jairus’ daughter in Luke 8/Mark 5: Talitha, koum (little girl, get up). 

Peter is performing miracles identical to Jesus, firmly establishing Peter’s authority, and that authority influences what’s coming next. The dramatic Gentile showdown that the previous chapters have been setting up is coming, and Peter is going to take the brunt of the opposition. Like with Paul, the leader at the forefront of the controversy needs solid credentials. Making the lame walk and raising the dead are pretty good credentials.



Reflection

We are the ordinary people in God’s story. Very, very few are called to be the Peters and Pauls and Billy Grahams and Beth Moores. While the people called by God to that type of ministry are prominent in the grand sweep of God’s story, it is the ordinary people—Aeneas and Dorcas and you—who form the bulk of the body. Peter preached salvation to the people of Joppa, and Dorcas clothed them. The Church may exist because of evangelists, but it survives because of the people. You are not ordinary to God, and your contribution to your community—your family, Church, school, city—is not ordinary. How has God made you extraordinary for His purposes? 

Prayer

Father, sometimes I feel small and insignificant. Sometimes I feel like I have nothing to contribute to Your Church and Your work because I’m just a regular person and my life is ordinary. Shatter that lie. Help me see how you have extraordinarily gifted me and how you sovereignly orchestrate seemingly small events as part of Your grander plan. Help me and all of my brothers and sisters see how extraordinary they are to You, how essential they are to the body, and how great Your plan is. Amen. 

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Megan NessonComment