This was the text from which the sermon was preached today. I wish I could just import the document I created on this page…
This passage is worth every ounce of squinting. There is so much more here than a mere recounting of certain historical acts. In the first section we are told the paralytic was such for 8 years. If you do not know the import of this pattern in the Bible it is the 8-day pattern: 7 days in a week + the first day of the new week= 8 days a week (Who knew the Beatles were such fans!!)
Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. There he found a man named Aineas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, “Aineas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.
Not only that but there is a lot of humour in the Bible if you look for it. Now we are introduced to a woman with two names, but we don’t end up knowing more about her because of our English translations. Let me put it this way. Say we didn’t speak German or Spanish, but English and our text said this: “Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Schon, which, translated means Bonita….” Uh, we still don’t know what her name means when translated. We have that here. For us, neither Tabitha nor Dorcas tells us any thing. Learning to squint at times means looking into the meaning of words both of which mean Gazelle. The question for us is whether or not Luke wants us to translate the term to help us interpret the passage. I think he does. More humour below that too. See if you can find it before I edit…
Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner.
This story finds its way into the Acts not by happenstance. Every word is chosen for the express purpose of the author to communicate what it is he desires. This account of two resurrections (we can say that there are two resurrections because the first one happened in the 8th year and the second one was of a dead woman AND both persons–paralyzed and dead–are told to “stand up again” which is the Greek word (anastas) related to the English word resurrection.) precedes the story of Peter’s vision to kill and eat all animals. Now, indeed, this is indeed a humourous account indeedy. Peter is a good Jew; well, actually he is not b/c he espouses the Judaistic heresy that Jews must keep separate from Gentiles. Let’s see if I can make up a joke that would highlight the humour that is most definitely here…
A man walks up to a hooker and says, How’s about 10 bucks? The hooker looks at him and says, What kind of woman do you think I am?
Get it? So, here we have Peter who has a vision the Lord sends to him in order for him to go and bring the good message to a God-fearing Gentile and Peter says to God, What kind of man do you think I am? And, in fact, Luke has just told us what kind of man Peter is. The very last sentence in Acts 9 segues as the punchline before the joke. There’s no other way to see it. Why else does Luke tell us with whom Peter stays? Who cares who Peter holes up with? But we are told and I think it matters, so here’s my take on it.
Peter walks into the house of a man who tans dead animals skins for a living, thereby defiling himself. And so he has this vision where God wants him to visit a Gentile beast named Cornelius (whom Jews wrongly think will defile them) and he says, “Lord, I never do anything that defiles me!” We’re supposed to chortle at that one.