Dorcas is Dead
Dorcas is dead, and Peter has a chance to bring her back to life. Only one problem...Peter is 12 miles away and Dorcas will be buried at sundown. The race is on!
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor at Renovation Church.
There are a lot of things going on now that kind of make it feel like summer has officially began.
We started our summer programming on Wednesday with a whole LOT of people coming out for The Link.
There’s father’s day coming up next week already…which may be a surprise to some of you.
It’s my wife and I’s anniversary today, which always reminds me of summer as it was 90 some degrees out at our OUTDOOR wedding we had. 7 years ago today.
And of course, school is now out for the summer. That’s always fun news for us at Renovation Church because it means we get to leave our stuff up for the summer.
But as we hit the summer, we are making a transition in what we are teaching on here at Renovation Church as well.
Starting today, we are going to be resuming our series on the Book of Acts.
We started this series last Fall, and did 7 weeks on it. We then did 8 more this winter/spring.
So, we are now, 15 messages in, and through about 9 chapters of the Book of Acts…which is 28 chapters long. J
So, you might be thinking, especially if you’re new here.. Why do this? Why do we go back and forth between studying verse by verse of books of the Bible and then series that are more based around certain themes or topics?
And, I honestly think this is worth explaining every time we switch to this.
Sometimes there are practices that are worth covering as a series.
Spiritual disciplines, God’s gym
Sometimes there are topics that are worth addressing
An unbalanced church: Church Teeter Totters
Those are important to do, But often, when you ONLY do those things, the danger is you can tend to sort of edit your own Bible. Pick out what you like, and leave out the hard stuff.
And sometimes, not always, it can be hard to really understand the context of what’s going on in the Bible.
And that’s what’s really powerful about going through verse by verse through a book.
So yeah, we’re really a fan of both here at Renovation. Which is kind of unique, but I’m okay with that. J
So, we are 9 chapters into the book of Acts, and it’s been a while since we’ve covered it, so I want to do some quick review for you.
I came across this on YouTube, and I thought it was the best way to review the first 9 chapters of Acts
(Play “ACTS in 3 Minutes” Video)
So, when we last left the book of Acts, the believers had scattered as persecution broke out, Saul was shipped out OF Jerusalem to his hometown of Tarsus, so he could be safe, and many of the rest of disciples were scattered about the countryside bringing the good news.
And that’s where we rejoin the book today. Were going to join Peter as he is about 25 miles Northwest of Jerusalem in Lydda.
(Acts 9:32-35) – NIV
32 As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. 34“Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. 35 All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
So, who is Peter?
Peter is one of the original 12 disciples of Jesus when Jesus walked the earth. And he was also consistent leader of the disciples as well.
And now, in the early days of Christianity God is using Peter to do amazing things.
But how much of it is Peter? How much credit does Peter deserve?
It’s always an interesting question right?
Like, what about when God works through you in your life? Like, say He really works through you to speak to a friend, or maybe He even helps you bring a friend to Jesus.
How much of that is you?
How much credit should you take for it?
As the Bible says,
(1 Corinthians 1:31) – NIV
31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
But Peter did do something right?
And so did you when God’s worked through you in the past.
Like, say you went on a missions trip and told people about God and helped serve the poor.
God probably worked through you on that trip. Yet, you could have chosen to stay home. You could have chosen not to raise the money.
We’re kind of caught in the interplay here that is humanity working with God. It’s a Biblical paradox that isn’t easy to understand.
Let’s take the missions trip for example again.
Yes, you made the choice to go. But who gave you the resources to go? Who supplied the money to go? Who connected you with the group to go? When you were down there, who gave you the spiritual gifts to reach out to people? And so on and so forth…
And I bring all of this up…because it’s easy to go…wow, Peter…what a miracle worker. He’s the guy!
We should start a Peter fan club! We should have Peter come in and do a conference! We should write a blog all about Peter and his travels! We should sell shirts with Peter’s face on it!
Yet, who gave Peter everything he had? God.
And who could end Peter’s life, whenever he felt like it? God.
And look at Peter’s words even,
(Acts 9:34) – NIV
34“Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up.
Who heals him? Jesus Christ heals him.
So, on one extreme, we have the danger of going…Peter…he’s a rockstar!
But there’s another extreme that we rarely see as well.
We sometimes look at this and come to the conclusion, and we all have access to that same God, SO “We can all do this!”
And that’s sort of true, and sort of not true.
Because the Bible tells us in many different places (Eph 4, 1 cor 12, rom 12), that God gives different spiritual gifts to different people.
Let me give you an example (walk off stage)
(Grab 2 random volunteers). Need you to lead worship music and you to speak.
“Is that okay”
You’d probably say, “NO. That’s ridiculous…“I’m not GIFTED for that.”
And what if I said…”We all have access to the same God!”
We do…and God can do those sort of things…and sometimes he does, but there’s something to spiritual gifts too
And it seems to me…that Peter…probably has an actual spiritual gift for healing.
Not that God couldn’t use each one of us to do that as well. I’m not saying he can’t. We worship a huge God!
BUT, He probably uses Peter much more often for it, because He’s given him an actual gift for it.
And we see that the other believers RECOGNIZE THAT as our passage continues
(Acts 9:36-43) – NIV
36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!” 39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. 40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.
PRAYING/ACTING FOR OUR CHRISTIAN FRIENDS
As I read this passage over and over again as I was studying it this week, there’s one thing that really stuck out to me, and I think I’ve always missed it when I’ve read this passage in the past.
It’s the fact that when Dorcas dies, her friends take action.
See, this is a very different story than when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead in John chapter 11
IN that story, Jesus is already well aware Lazarus is dead, and HE decides to go heal him.
In this story, it’s not like Peter stumbles across Dorcas and decides to pray for her.
No, her friends, who loved her so much because she had done so much for them, sent for Peter.
I’m struck by the scene where Peter arrives and the inconsolable widows just start showing him the stuff Dorcas had made for them before she died.
I’ve been to too many funerals for my age, and I can tell you, people do this kind of stuff.
It’s part of the grieving process. We tell stories about the person who just died. We sometimes even show the things they gave to us. Or maybe some of their accomplishments.
BUT, some of Dorcas’ friends, and maybe it was some of the same people, I guess we can’t be sure, but some of her friends, don’t just stick to remembering the nice deeds of the dead, they say, let’s start praying that God would bring her back to LIFE!
And they were apparently aware that Peter was nearby in Lydda.
And this is where I come back to what I said earlier about Peter’s healing gift.
It’s not like these believers in Joppa didn’t have access to the same God or the same faith. But, apparently there just are some people who have this gift more than others.
Which is true of every other gift as well.
So they send for Peter…and when they do so…the race is on by the way.
See, in the Jewish tradition, a body was usually buried (there were few exceptions) before sundown on the day of your death.
So the race to save Dorcas is on. You can feel the tension.
And somebody must have said, “There’s still hope. God can do anything! Our God can do the impossible! Let’s send for Peter in Lydda!”
And let’s stop for a moment and realize, that whoever had the guts to say that probably got ridiculed by everyone else in the room.
I’m pretty sure if Iwould have been in the room, I might have snickered out loud.
I mean, we just don’t talk about this stuff, do we?
When was the last time you prayed for someone who was dead?
Yet, can God raise people from the dead?
It would be the single most ironic thing in the world if he couldn’t…since our entire faith is based upon him raising Jesus from the dead.
Of course He can.
And some of Dorcas’ friends had the beautiful audacity to believe that.
So they send two men to Lydda to get Peter.
Now, do we have any runner’s in the room? Anyone dumb enough to enjoy running?? (raise your hand)
Now, you’ve probably never thought of running as a spiritual gift, but turns out it is.
Check this out…Dorcas is dead. The family is going to bury her at sundown. You want Peter to come ask Jesus to heal her, but Peter is in Lydda.
Yet here’s the problem. Lydda is 12 miles away from Joppa where you live.
You’ve got run 12 miles there, and 12 miles back…almost a marathon…in order to save your friend.
Because this is 1st century Israel. They don’t have horses everywhere. They have donkeys.
The race is on. Get running.
And I gotta tell you, I love this picture! I love it.
What great lengths these people were willing to go through for God to work in NOT THEIR life, but their friend’s life.
And I also love it because it’s a perfect marriage of human will and God’s sovereign will.
I mean for goodness sakes, they ran 24 miles to save their friend. Yet, not knowing what God would do. In the end, it was still up to God. But you still gotta run.
And it doesn’t take much time in Christianity to find out that Christians are hurting too.
Spend some time in any of our House Groups during the year, and when the small groups get to prayer time, there isn’t a shortage of prayer requests of people who are hurting.
And I want to ask you…are you running for your friends?
When it looks like hope is lost in your friends life…they’ve lost a job, maybe even a relative, or a spouse…they feel alone…what kind of person are you?
Would you get up and run? Would you do whatever it takes to beg God to move in their lives?
Cuz many of us aren’t. We’re the type of people that just throw out, “Sure I’ll pray for you.” But we certainly don’t mean it…well, cuz we never really pray…and if we do pray it’s often about us.
But let me ask you a question…what if you were Dorcas?
And I’m guessing Dorcas isn’t 95 and ready to be with Jesus either by their actions.
What if you were Dorcas, and you died “early?”
What would you want your friends to do?
And same thing for your life…when life really hurts for you…which it will. That’s life…when life really hurts for you? What do you want your friends to do?
Sit around and talk about the memories or get up and run?
And I want to challenge you to take your level of community…your level of Christian friendships to the next level.
Move beyond weekly hellos and obligatory prayer requests, and start banging on the door of heaven for some of your friends.
If I were Dorcas, I’d want someone to run for me.
And when my life hits roadblocks, I want someone to run to God for me.
PRAYING/ACTING FOR OUR UNSAVED FRIENDS
Now, Dorcas is clearly a Christian. The text says she’s a disciple. A believer.
But there’s something about her condition that reminds me of different kind of friends we have.
See, Dorcas isn’t just sick. She’s not just hurting. Dorcas is Dead.
And when you’re dead…there’s nothing you can do to help yourself.
But when you’re sick…. Totally different story.
I hate being sick. I could be wrong, but I gotta think I’m in the 90th percentile when it comes to those who hate being sick. I just hate it.
If sickness was a person, I’d punch it in the throat.
And when I’m sick, I’ll do everything possible to not be sick.
And sometimes it’s just stupid because there really isn’t all that much you can do.
But often when I’m sick, I lose my voice…Which, I don’t know if you know, but I speak for a living, so that’s not a good thing.
But I’ll do everything I can do to get healthy again.
I’ll stick my head in the shower when it’s full steaming, I’ll take drugs as often as my pharmacist wife tells me I possibly can, I’ll gargle with salt water
I’ll use a neti pot (anyone ever used one), I’ll go as far as not talking to people for days…
I’ve even gone as far as typing conversations on the computer to my wife and having the computer speak it, “HELLO LINDSEY”
But here’s the thing…when you’re dead…there’s nothing YOU can do. You’re dead.
And it makes me think of our friends and family that don’t know Jesus.
Cuz technically right now, they’re dead.
The Bible, in Colossians & Ephesian, calls it “Dead in their sins”
Because without the forgiveness of Jesus…without Jesus REMOVING their sins…they’re dead…not alive…and their eternal destination is hell.
And the crazy thing is…many of them…most of them…have no idea.
I know what it’s like to be there…I had NO idea.
It’s a lot more like being dead than being sick.
Because when you’re sick…you know you’re sick…you’re trying to get better…
But our friends and family that don’t know Jesus…right now…they are dead…dead in their sins…and they’re not going to do anything about it…because they don’t KNOW to do anything about it.
So right now…the mission falls to us.
And I ask you…will you run? Will you run?
Time is of the essence.
Eternal permanence is coming for all of us.
Just like Dorcas was eventually going to be buried in the ground….the opportunity buried.
Will you run?
Will you run for the people you know that haven’t yet experienced the incredible love and forgiveness you have?
Will you run? WHO IS GOD calling YOU to run for?
We gotta run. We gotta run. And we gotta bang on the door of heaven as loud as we can…AND…AND…reach out to our friends as much as we possibly can…and then trust that God will move when we get there.
And when God moves, He will move by the way.
I don’t know if you caught it, but both of these miracle stories today ended with more miracles.
After Aeneas was healed, it said, “ALL those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord”
And after Dorcas was brought back to life, it said, “This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord!”
When you run, and God moves, and your friend whom you never thought possible, meets Jesus, people will notice…and when people notice…God will move in them too.
So will you run?
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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