Acts 9:39

Some crazy mormon ideal set in stone at capitol building, Salt Lake City.

Tuesday, 23 August 2022

Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. Acts 9:39

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen).

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

In the previous verse, the saints in Joppa sent two men to Peter in Lydda imploring him to come with them to Joppa. Now, that continues with, “Then Peter arose.” It is a present participle. The Greek reads, “Then Peter, having arisen.”

The narrative Luke presents brings the reader into it, carefully allowing it to unfold as it is being read. Peter was willing to go with them. Therefore, in having arisen, he “went with them.” His willingness to go with them would have alleviated any unnecessary delays as they could take him directly to the location without the possibility of him getting lost on the way or in the city.

As for the journey, it would not have been too long because the cities were near one another. The current driving distance is 16 miles. Assuming they had animals, it would be a few hours of riding at most. Even walking at a normal pace takes about 4 hours to go that distance. Luke next records, “When he had come, they brought him to the upper room.”

There is a sense of urgency here. Nothing is said about stopping to have a meal, wash their feet, or any of the other things that normally would occur after traveling 15+ miles. Instead, Luke notes that he is immediately brought to where Tabitha had been laid. Next, whether they were already in the room or whether they came up with him, it notes, “And all the widows stood by him weeping.”

Tabitha had been a faithful soul and a caring provider to many. That alone would have endeared her to others. Her death would have been a source of loss to anyone who was close and shared in her life. But these women were also the recipients of her good deeds. This is seen in the next words. They were “showing the tunics and garments.”

It is improbable that they carried up a display of the things she had made. Rather, it appears that they were showing her works as they wore them. In essence, “She made these just for me.” This is implied in the Greek which is in the middle voice. The middle voice is used to denote that the subject is both an agent of the action and somehow concerned with it. In other words, these ladies were most probably modeling the garments for Peter to understand the greatness of the efforts put forth by Tabitha.

The types of clothing noted by Luke include the chitón, which is a garment worn close to the skin. It could be an undergarment, a shirt, a coat, and so on. The second is the himation. This is a garment worn over the chitón, such as a robe. It would often be made of wool, having openings for the head and arms. It would be a more loosely fitting garment. Of these, Luke notes that they were clothes “which Dorcas had made while she was with them.”

The word translated as “which” means “as many as,” and the verb is imperfect. It gives the sense of it being a continuous habit of making. It’s not just that she made them for these ladies, but she went out of her way to make them anytime a need arose. A literal translation of this last clause would be “as many as Dorcas was making while she was with them” (YLT).

The care she had for those she tended to is evident in all that is documented about her by Luke.

Life application: Paul was torn between departing and being with the Lord and staying to minister to others –

“But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.”  Philippians 1:22-24

Tabitha (Dorcas) obviously was one of the saints and was therefore free from this body of death. However, those behind certainly wanted her back. Paul notes that her state with Christ would have been “far better” if she did not come back. And yet, that was the desire of those who had lost her.

Elsewhere, Paul says, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.” Death is a part of the human existence. Until the rapture people will continue to die. The mourning we experience as believers is one of personal loss, not one of permanent loss.

If we can remember this, our times of loss should at the same time include a sense of joy for the one who has departed. Jesus Christ came to provide us with hope. To understand this more fully, take time today to read the account of the death of Lazarus in John 11. There, we see the surety of our hope because of who Jesus is.

In Christ is victory over death. If we can remember this and keep it with us at all times, it should help us in two major ways. The first is to spur us on to a more perfect desire to tell the unsaved about Jesus and to keep them in prayer for their hearts and eyes to be opened. The second is that when death enters into our sphere of life, if it is a believer who has died, we can have confidence that they are now in a “far better” state than remaining with us.

Heavenly Father, help us to be attentive to the terminal state of existence that we as humans live in. May we carefully remember that our days are short and that without Jesus, there is no hope for those who depart this life. Give us hearts that are caring about this so that we will not be negligent in our responsibilities concerning proclaiming the good news of Jesus. Amen.