In the gospels, Jesus brings three people back to life – a widow’s son, Jairus’s daughter and then Lazarus. Another restoration happens via Peter in Acts 9, when he raises Tabitha (aka Dorcas). In none of these cases does the person who has been raised, speak or say anything about what they had experienced. Neither do we hear what happened next. All we know about them is that one of the most staggering and mind-blowing things happened to them: they were, apparently, deceased and gone forever, and then they were suddenly and dramatically brought back from the dead.
Why these particular people? And why not anyone else? It’s a bit of a mystery, isn’t it – but there are some small clues within the stories. We don’t know much about any of them other than the fact that they were very much loved: in three of the cases someone else – a friend or a relative, is convinced it isn’t their time to die just yet and runs to get Christ (or in Tabitha’s case, Peter). These people believe absolutely that Christ can save their friend or relative.
I thought it would be interesting to look at these people in more detail, starting with Tabitha (Dorcas).
For those of you who don’t know the story, Peter is in a town called Lydda and is abruptly asked by two men to go with them to Joppa where Tabitha (aka Dorcas) has recently died. Peter goes with them immediately. The writer of Acts, (Luke) gives us some extra details – apparently, Tabitha was ‘full of good works and charity’, she was also an accomplished seamstress and had made lovely clothes for her friends and neighbours which they are at pains to show Peter.
After the miracle, we are informed that this extraordinary happening has convinced many in the vicinity that Christ is Lord. But what happened to Tabitha? We never find out.
One thing that struck me was the fact that Tabitha was clearly a kind and righteous woman, we are told that she did ‘charitable works’ and was known for her good deeds. She applied her talents in order to help others. Tabitha was the kind of person that non-believers think Christians should all be imitating – selflessly thinking of others rather than herself. And absolutely, on one level, this is very true, isn’t it?
Tabitha’s heart was in the right place, and she had shown her love for others by being giving, generous and compassionate. But I wonder, did the Lord have a commission for her that was greater than this? When she was given this ‘second chance’, did she begin to use her time a bit more wisely? Did she begin to speak more about what the Lord had done for her rather than just being known as a generous, virtuous type of person?
In other words, was her reputation as a charitable woman somehow hampering her spiritual progress? Had she been so caught up in helping others that Christ had become second in her life? Of course, we don’t actually know, and this is all just me speculating, but it is an easy trap to fall into isn’t it? Many times we might get caught up in ideas that sound ‘right’ but may in fact be all wrong. Setting up a soup kitchen, a hub for homeless people, or a mission to save refugees all sound like worthy and noble enterprises don’t they? But in fact, if it is you doing it; your idea and your effort, and not Christ – then you may be going against what He wants for you in your life – He may have other plans for you that you are impeding and preventing.
So Tabitha was indeed a lovely woman who utilized her flair for making clothes to great effect, and in order to help others, rather than for personal gain or status. But now something has changed; she has been restored to life and it’s imperative she not only makes clothes for others in need but also tells them about this incredible experience she has undergone. In this way, the recipients will not only receive a garment which will help provide for their immediate physical needs, but they could also receive another gift, and that is eternal life.
Next Blog: Jairus’s daughter