"Now it came to pass, as Peter went through all parts of the country, that he also came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda. There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, 'Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.' Then he arose immediately. So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord" (Acts 9:32-35).
For the next several chapters, Luke focuses on some activities of the apostle Peter. Why were these particular healings recorded at the end of Acts 9? Ultimately, Luke is setting the stage for what Peter would accomplish in Acts 10 (and the narrative recorded here sets the scene nicely by taking us from Lydda to Joppa, where Cornelius would ultimate call Peter from). Saul of Tarsus, as a Christian, had just been rejected at Jerusalem and was being sent out to the Gentiles (cf. 22:21). However, up to this point there was no record of any uncircumcised Gentile being accepted as a worthy recipient of the gospel message. Thus, there is an important need for what would soon take place in chapter 10, as well as Luke's record of it.
The two miracles recorded here should not be understood as the only miracles Peter was performing. Rather, they should be considered as typical examples of the great deeds the Lord was working through him (cf. 5:12). Peter was, at that time, traveling to various cities nearby to Jerusalem to do what Jesus commanded him (cf. John 21:15-17). In this case, Aeneas had been bedridden and paralyzed for eight years. Those living in that community were well acquainted with his condition. When Peter healed him, the apostle gave all the glory to Jesus Christ (e.g., Acts 3:6). Aeneas was immediately able to walk (it didn't take him weeks or months to improve gradually). He was healed completely and instantaneously! It made a strong impact upon the people. A large number of souls saw the healed man and were so convinced by the wonderful miracle that they "turned to the Lord." How did they turn to the Lord? Miracles were never performed just for the sake of show. They were done in order to substantiate that the message being proclaimed was of divine origin (cf. Mark 16:20). Those with good and honest hearts were willing to openly consider the gospel message, including the evidence that substantiated it (from prophecy, recent history, and the miracles they witnessed). After developing faith, these individuals "turned to the Lord" which implies they repented and were baptized for the remission of their sins (cf. Acts 2:38; 3:19).
It should be observed that the text here describes the disciples who dwelt in Lydda as "saints." This term is simply another synonym for an obedient believer in Jesus Christ. The term "saints" is never used in the Bible in any sort of special or exclusive way only for certain Christians, as a certain segment of the religious world today is fond of doing.
"At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did. But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them. 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. But Peter put them all out, 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. Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord. So it was that he stayed many days in Joppa with Simon, a tanner" (Acts 9:36-43).
In a nearby town, a godly woman named Tabitha (also known as Dorcas) died due to an illness. Peter was summoned to come quickly, even though she was deceased. The faith of the disciples is great (as well as their love for this godly woman), and they will not be disappointed! Were they aware that Peter had raised someone from the dead before? Such seems likely though it cannot be proven. Tabitha was known for her good works and generosity toward others. Her life overflowed with good works and charitable deeds! She is a fine example of how a Christian woman should behave. Thus, she was already missed greatly, especially by the widows whom she had made many tunics and garments for. Though she was dead, she was still living on favorably in the hearts of the people. "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord...that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them" (Rev. 14:13).
In many congregations there are thoughtful women who, like Tabitha, have a skill for doing thoughtful things for people at the right moment. Such women are a tremendous asset to a local congregation and their loss is felt by all when they are gone. What about you and me, friends? Will we be missed after we are gone (regardless of our gender)? Will people weep over our passing, reflecting upon the many good things we have done? Or, will they think: "He got what he deserved; good riddance!" It will all depend upon how we live now and how we treat others. Are we zealous for good works like Tabitha (cf. Titus 2:14)? May we all strive to "maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that [we] may not be unfruitful" (Titus 3:14).
Peter, perhaps due to humility, respect, or the Lord's example (cf. Mark 5:40), asked everyone to leave while he prayed privately in the same room with Tabitha. After completing his prayer (presumably for the power to restore her life), he turned to the deceased woman and commanded her to rise--and she did! The prayer of faith is heard and answered! Peter, by the power of God, was able to cause her spirit to reenter her body, restoring her life (cf. James 2:26). Since her death was well established, her resurrection had a significant impact upon the people there. Many believed on the Lord! Can you imagine the wonderful restoration Peter made possible on that day between Tabitha and the Christians who loved her so much?
With the restoration of Tabitha's life came a wonderful opportunity in that area for evangelism. Peter will take advantage of such, choosing to remain in Joppa many days with a tanner. This is a fascinating detail for Luke to include for us. Tanners were those who tanned skins. They were regularly unclean according to the law. The fact that Peter is willing to stay with such a one is quite telling. It appears his attitude toward the Law of Moses is already starting to change some. Peter is an ideal candidate with which to approach the Gentiles with the gospel.
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.