You know how it feels to be stuck? You can’t see any way out, and you sure wish you could get out. This onramp at the end of Acts chapter 9, leading to Acts chapter 10, is all about breakthroughs, getting unstuck. Peter consented to cooperate with God as God began to expand the church and take it in new directions.
Two events at the end of Acts 9 showed real spiritual power in Peter, and his willingness to color outside the lines. Where God pointed, that’s where Peter would go, and no matter the size of the box, Peter was willing to break through, and break out.
It was a time of real peace, strengthening, encouragement and growth as the Holy Spirit worked throughout the church at large. Peter was traveling around in Judea when he came to visit the saints in Lydda, which is about ten miles northwest of Jerusalem on the way to Joppa, located in the Sharon plain.
Aeneas was probably one of those saints, suffering from a form of paralysis. Bedridden as he was, it would have been easy for him to feel like a burden, with no hope for his future. He needed a breakthrough, and he got one.
Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!” And immediately he got up.Acts 9:34 (NRSV)
Jesus freed Aeneas from the prison of his bed, and the people around him put their faith in Jesus based on what they saw in Aeneas‘ transformed life.
Meanwhile, someone significant to the church in Joppa had recently died. Joppa was a seaport town, only about 12 miles away from Lydda, with the only natural harbor between Egypt and Akko (what is now Syria). This is where Jonah tried to escape God’s call to go to Ninevah, centuries before.
In Jerusalem a person had to be buried the day they died, but in the countryside people could wait up to three days before having to bury someone, so the body of Dorcas had been prepared for burial and laid out in an upper room. Peter was sent for, and he had to hurry to get there before the funeral.
After hearing about her love for the Lord and God’s people, and all her service, Peter, who had been an eyewitness to the three times Jesus had raised someone from the dead, followed what he remembered the Lord had done in a similar instances.
Now, having literally been raised back to life, Dorcas was a powerful and convincing testimony to Jesus. Many people in the surrounding area put their faith in Jesus as a result. Peter stayed with the people and taught this growing church.
Peter’s sense of God’s reality and presence, of God’s power to break through, and of God’s compassion for every person was at an all-time high, and we can see it in the details:
- Without hesitation, Peter absolutely believed Aeneas could and would walk, even after 8 years of paralysis
- There seemed to be no question in his mind Jesus would raise Dorcas—he used her Aramaic name, Tabitha, just as Jesus had once spoken to the little girl in Aramaic, “talitha,” and raised her up.
- Peter staid on in Joppa at a tanner’s house. This may not seem like that big a deal, but a tanner dealt with dead bodies, making him perpetually unclean. But, Peter didn’t seem to mind. That’s big. Hold onto that for next week.
Through these two healings, Peter was demonstrating some blockbuster truths about God’s rescue from the penalty, power, and (someday) even the presence of sin:
The first truth is a one-time act of being saved from the penalty of sin. One thing the Bible does a great job of making plain is what sin will do to a person. James, Jesus’ brother, put it like this:
One is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.James 1:14-15 (NRSV)
Sin is awful. It’s insidious, it’s just evil. It’s like ink leaking from a pen that gets all over you before you even know it. It’s worse than Ebola, it’s a miasma, like smog, that all of us over the entire planet, breathe in and exhale.
We can’t get away from it.
It traumatizes us, scarring and maiming everywhere. No on is immune. And it starts deep within us, that’s the worst part. Whether we’re born with it, like those beautiful sweet skunk pups, or we’re infected with it when all those around us exhale onto our little baby bodies…either way. We’re sunk as skunks.
We need rescue! There’s no way to break out of this on our own.
Thank You, Thank You Jesus.
Incredibly, people who put their faith in Jesus, and even more importantly, receive Jesus’ healing, restoration, forgiveness, and Spirit, that penalty of death has now been covered. He took the penalty within Himself and destroyed it with His purity. He had to die to do it. But, death no more than sin could hold Him down. Now He offers the mind-boggling power of His purity to us. To you, and to me.
Dorcas became a living illustration of God’s power over death and God’s desire to give life to those who believe.
The second way God rescues us is in the present tense, from the power of sin. Aeneas’ paralyzed body was like an illustration of what sin does in your life and mine—we are prisoners of it. Once we’re in its clutches, we’re enslaved people. Incredibly, when freed by Jesus, you and I are literally free. We are given the freedom, the power, to choose something else besides remaining in the grip sin had on us before.
The third way God rescues us has a future tense, when all creation will finally be made entirely rid of the presence of sin. The apostle John just couldn’t get over that beautiful truth. He loved to talk about it, it made his joy complete. He said we will one day see Jesus as He is because we will be just like Him, glorified, pure—sin‑free.
Here’s how Jesus put it,
“I assure you that everyone who sins is a slave to sin. A slave isn’t a permanent member of the household, but a son or daughter is. Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you really will be free.”Jesus, as quoted in John 8:34-36 (CEB)
[ Dorcas, Saint Tabitha in Eastern tradition | Wolfymoza [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]