1217 L12-Faithful Disciples

Words You Should Know
A. Almsdeed (Acts 9:36) eleos (Gk.)—Mercy, pity, spiritual alms.
B. Chamber (v. 39) hyperoon (Gk.)—Highest part of the house; the upper room or story where women usually resided.

Teacher Preparation

Unifying Principle—Looking for Help. In times of crisis, people look for help. What qualities do they look for in someone who can help? When Tabitha died, faithful followers of Christ sent for the apostle Peter for help.
A. Pray that you and your students will be faithful followers who are able to help others.
B. Read the passage in various translations.
C. Meditate on the devotional reading: 1 Peter 1:3–9, 4:7–11.

O—Open the Lesson

A. Open with prayer and pray for students who may have recently lost loved ones.
B. Introduce the subject of today’s lesson and have the students read the Aim for Change.
C. Read the In Focus story and discuss ways of helping others, particularly in times of grief.
D. Ask students to share experiences of ways they have encountered miracles.

P—Present the Scriptures
A. Ask for volunteers to read the Focal Verses.
B. Read and discuss The People, Places, and Times; Background; and In Depth sections.
C. Use a map of ancient Palestine to explain Peter’s route during his mission of preaching and healing.

E—Explore the Meaning
A. Answer questions from the Search the Scriptures and Discuss the Meaning sections.
B. Have the students read and discuss ways 1 Peter 1:3–9 supports the lesson theme of faith and prayer.
C. Ask for a volunteer to read the Lesson in Our Society section.

N—Next Steps for Application
A. Encourage the students to apply the Make It Happen section.
B. Close with prayer that the participants would adopt the faith of those who sent for Peter.

 

Worship Guide

For the Superintendent or Teacher
Theme: Faithful Disciples
Song: “The Solid Rock”
Devotional Reading: 1 Peter 1:3–9, 4:7–11

Daily Bible Readings

MONDAY
Widow’s Son Restored to Life
(1 Kings 17:17–24)

TUESDAY
Jesus Raises Widow’s Son
(Luke 7:11–17)

WEDNESDAY
Care for Widows and Orphans
(James 1:22–27)

THURSDAY
Peter’s Healing Ministry
(Acts 5:12–16)

FRIDAY
Philip’s Preaching Ministry
(Acts 8:4–8)

SATURDAY
Aeneas Healed, Residents Turn to God
(Acts 9:32–35)

SUNDAY
Calling the Church to Active Service
(Acts 9:36–43)

KJV

Acts 9:36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.
37 And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.
38 And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.
39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.
40 But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.
41 And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.
42 And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.
43 And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.

NLT

Acts 9:36 There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor.
37 About this time she became ill and died. Her body was washed for burial and laid in an upstairs room.
38 But the believers had heard that Peter was nearby at Lydda, so they sent two men to beg him, “Please come as soon as possible!”
39 So Peter returned with them; and as soon as he arrived, they took him to the upstairs room. The room was filled with widows who were weeping and showing him the coats and other clothes Dorcas had made for them.
40 But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body he said, “Get up, Tabitha.” And she opened her eyes! When she saw Peter, she sat up!
41 He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then he called in the widows and all the believers, and he presented her to them alive.
42 The news spread through the whole town, and many believed in the Lord.
43 And Peter stayed a long time in Joppa, living with Simon, a tanner of hides.

The People, Places, and Times

Simon Peter. One of Jesus’ initial twelve disciples, Simon Peter was positioned by Jesus as a leader among them. Jesus included him in His “inner circle” along with John and James. Jesus characterized him as a rock (thus the name Peter), yet he denied Christ three times during Jesus’ trial. After the Resurrection, Jesus countered Peter’s denial when He asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” Peter experienced tremendous persecution and understood loss and suffering firsthand.
Tabitha (Dorcas). An important person in Joppa, she is identified as a disciple (Acts 9:36). Her value in the community comes from her “almsdeeds” (good works and acts of charity). The widows who gathered to mourn her were among the first to see her restored to life.
Joppa. An important port city in Palestine, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Solomon used cedars from Lebanon, which had been floated into Joppa’s harbor, for use in the construction of the Temple (2 Chronicles 2:16). The prophet Jonah commenced his ill-fated trip from the port of Joppa (Jonah 1:3).
Whom can you point out in your community that is making an impact on the lives of others because of their good works?
Background
The book of Acts shows how the church fulfills Christ’s mandate to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. Through persecution, the church spirals from Judea, Jerusalem, and Samaria to all of the earth. As the church grows, Gentile believers are welcomed into the faith. Peter, one of the apostles, plays a leading role in spreading the Gospel.
While preaching and healing, Peter traveled to the town of Lydda (near Joppa) and meets Aeneas, a bedridden paralytic man. Peter tells him that the power of the Lord has healed him, and to get up and make his bed (Acts 9:32–34). When Tabitha dies, disciples send two men to bring Peter immediately to the bedside of the woman described as “full of good works and almsdeeds” (Acts 9:36).
How did the Holy Spirit change Peter’s life and ministry?

At-A-Glance

1. A Miracle is Needed (Acts 9:36–38)
2. Expect a Miracle (vv. 39–40)
3. A Miracle Occurs (vv. 41–43)

In Depth

1. A Miracle is Needed (Acts 9:36–38)
Tabitha was an important woman in the community at Joppa. The fact that she was known by both Hebrew and Greek names suggests that she made a significant impact on a number of cultural and societal levels in the Judeo-Christian community, as well as in the Greco-Roman world. When she becomes ill and dies, the disciples in Joppa recognize that a miracle is needed, and send for the miracle worker—Peter, the man who had called on the power of the Lord to heal a paralytic, and it was done. Peter was at the town of Lydda; Tabitha was approximately fourteen miles away from a miracle.
Why did the believers in Joppa decide to seek Peter instead of praying for her themselves?

2. Expect a Miracle (vv. 39–40)
When Tabitha died, her body was washed, prepared, and displayed in accordance with the standard traditions practiced by both Jews and Gentiles. When Peter arrived, the widows were deeply mourning the loss of their sister. They made sure Peter understood her kindness and usefulness by showing him their clothing, since Tabitha was known for making robes and other clothing for the poor. They likely expected Peter to perform a miracle for the life of this good and generous woman.
This expectation is evidenced by the disciples sending for Peter to come immediately. The text doesn’t say, but perhaps that urgency was based on the fact that Jews at the time believed the soul passed into the realm of the dead (Sheol) on the third day after death. Peter had performed a miracle in Lydda; they had reason to hope for a miracle in Joppa.
When we pray, can we predict whether or not God will respond to our prayers of faith the same way as before?

3. A Miracle Occurs (vv. 41–43)
When the residents of Joppa saw that Tabitha had been restored to life, many believed in the Lord. Miracles occur for this purpose. The residents of Joppa may have grieved the initial loss of their beloved Tabitha, but God’s actions through Peter not only returned earthy life, but also secured eternal life for those who believed as a result.
What miraculous act of power did God perform through Jesus that should cause everyone to decide to believe in Him?

Search the Scriptures
1. What does Peter do when he arrives at the place Tabitha had been laid (Acts 9:40)?
2. What happens after Tabitha is restored to life (v. 42)?

Discuss the Meaning
Mourning the loss of loved ones is an important and natural part of the healing process. Believers must have faith in God, even in times of great sorrow and suffering. Peter’s prayers restored Tabitha’s life. How do prayers to a faithful God bring life and renewal, even in the midst of death and grieving?

Lesson in Our Society
When well-known philanthropists die, much of the grieving and remembrances focus on the void that will follow. It is no wonder that people weep and mourn when someone with values and commitment to others dies—it impacts every life that they touched.
We all know someone who has passed away yet their impact still lives on. Notable figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela come to mind. Even those in our family and local communities have a similar impact.
Death and grief can often leave the spirit bitter and empty, but the power of faith in God will result in hope for all who believe. There is life after death. Through faithful works, our impact continues after death, and we are also assured of eternal life. Jesus embodied this assurance—the miracle that believers can expect.
When someone dies, how does our faith provide encouragement and hope to others?

Make It Happen
• Call, visit, or send cards to those who have lost loved ones.
• Build up your faith through prayer and reading the stories of healing in the Bible.
• Honor those who have had a great impact in the community even after they’ve passed away.

Follow the Spirit
What God wants me to do:
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Remember Your Thoughts

Special insights I have learned:
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More Light on the Text

Acts 9:36–43
36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.
In this Scripture, the power of Christ is again demonstrated through the apostle Peter. Joppa was not far from Lydda, about fourteen miles away on the Mediterranean coast. Luke, the author of Acts, introduces us at great length to this woman Tabitha, or Dorcas (the Aramaic and Greek words, respectively, for “gazelle”).
Luke is drawing on a rich Jewish tradition, one in which a life characterized by these virtues was highly valued when he refers to Tabitha’s “good works” and “almsdeeds.” The Greek word for “almsdeeds” (eleemosune, eh-lee-ah-mo-SOO-nay, usually translated simply “alms”) is related to the word for mercy or pity. Christianity, a religion that arose out of Judaism, does not disown this value but keeps it, provided that such works and almsdeeds are not seen as gaining salvation for the person who performs them.
In the New Testament, this sort of person has typically demonstrated by his or her good works how much he or she is waiting for the kingdom of God to come (see also the centurion, Matthew 8:1–12). Luke’s point is not to show that Tabitha somehow deserved to be raised from the dead because of her good life; rather, he is showing that wherever the kingdom of God spreads, it brings not only power for miracles, but also power for changed lives. We can assume that Tabitha had already been favored by God, as demonstrated by her life of works done in worship of Him.

37 And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.
Tabitha’s death came at just the time God intended—that He might display His power through it. We are told that “they” (probably Tabitha’s family and friends) washed her body, but rather than burying it, they laid it in the upper chamber. By mentioning this, Luke intends his readers to recall the Old Testament accounts in which the dead were placed in upper rooms, with the specific hope of their being healed by the prophet Elijah or Elisha (1 Kings 17:19; 2 Kings 4:10, 21). These disciples were full of hope, even in the midst of their mourning. In the arrival of the apostle Peter, their hope will find joyful realization.

38 And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.
No doubt the disciples had heard of the miracle that occurred not far away, in the life of Aeneas. Such an event would have rippled throughout the surrounding countryside. This delegation of disciples did not seek Peter because he was some kind of unique faith healer, but because he was an apostle—an eyewitness to the majesty of Christ. So greatly did they care about Tabitha, that they insisted Peter come without delay (Gk. okneo, oak-NEH-oh, to hesitate or be slow).

39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.
Peter’s quick response showed the disciples’ faithfulness and rightness in seeking him. Here the story begins to resemble the account in which Jesus was called upon to heal a sick girl, who died while He was on the way (Mark 5:35–43). This similarity is no accident. Luke is showing that Jesus had given His authority to the apostles to carry out His mission. Where the apostles are, there the power of Jesus is also.
Although we cannot be sure, it seems likely that the widows, who were present at Tabitha’s side, were actually wearing the coats and garments they showed Peter. The Greek words here for coats (chiton, khite-ON) and garments (himation, he-MA-tee-on) usually refer to different articles of clothing. The chiton is a simple tunic worn next to the skin, either as an undergarment or a simple dress. The himation was a larger outer garment, worn as a cloak often for warmth.
Tabitha was skilled and caring enough to provide both kinds of garments for the needy. The point of showing these to Peter would be to show that Tabitha had followed the Jewish tradition of kindness to widows (Exodus 22:21–22; Deuteronomy 24:17–21). Whether or not they were wearing the garments, the presence of these widows and their great grief at Tabitha’s death show us for certain how kind Tabitha had been to those in need.

40 But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.
Like his master, Jesus (Mark 5:40), Peter told all the people to leave the room. He then accessed the two sources of power that Jesus had given to His apostles and His church: prayer and His words. Again, Peter did not possess it in his own strength or by some sort of magic. His prayer would have been an expression of absolute dependence upon Jesus for any power.
Speakers of Aramaic would have recognized that Peter’s words to Tabitha—“Get up, Tabitha”—were almost identical to the words Jesus spoke: Talitha, koumi (“little girl, get up”; Mark 5:41, NLT). Luke shows us, by means of this similarity, that Jesus’ words will be powerful and effective in the life of His disciples. As a result of prayer and Jesus’ words, the disciples’ hopes are realized, the power of God is once again shown forth, and Peter’s identity—as a vessel of Christ’s glory—is confirmed anew.

41 And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.
The main new piece of information given to us in this verse is the detail of Peter presenting Tabitha alive to the saints and widows. Once again, Peter reflected Jesus in the way he carried out this miracle. Like Jesus, when He raised the widow’s son (Luke 7:15), Peter gave attention to those grieving, not just to the one raised from the dead. Like Jesus, Peter presented the dead-and-now-living person to those who loved her.
By this, Luke shows us again that the purpose of miracles extends well beyond those immediately healed or raised. The disciples had been faithful in seeking the true Source of power and grace in their grief, and their faithfulness was honored by God.

42 And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.
Just as Aeneas in Lydda, this miracle brought about the conversion of many in the surrounding area. The miracle had once again reached its fullest purpose: producing faith. Unlike the religious leaders and others who resisted Jesus despite seeing His miracles (John 12:37), those favored by God see His miracles and believe.
This verse focuses on their faith, which was an equally important part of conversion. In this pairing, we see the biblical truth that faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin. When the Holy Spirit enlightens a person to see the glory of God in Christ, that person turns from sin to believing on Christ, trusting in His person and work for salvation.

43 And it came to pass,that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.
The apostles were not just itinerant miracle workers; they were pastors at heart. Like Paul, who stayed and suffered long with those to whom he ministered, Peter now stayed in the region in which the healings had taken place in order to ground these disciples, both new and old, in the realities of the Gospel of Christ.
Finally, Luke adds a seemingly insignificant but ultimately powerful detail: that Peter stayed with a tanner. Since tanning was ceremonially defiling (because of constant contact with dead animals) in the Jewish mindset, tanning was an unclean occupation. How could a good Jew like Peter stay in the house of a ceremonially unclean man? Luke is setting the stage for the vision that Peter will experience in chapter 10—a vision that will show him beyond a doubt that God intends for the Gentiles to be included in the body of Christ. Peter’s lodging with a tanner foreshadowed this world-changing event and the coming of the Gentiles full-force into the church. In these accounts, Luke has shown that (1) Peter is indeed an apostle blessed with the power of Christ, and that (2) Jesus calls Gentiles and Jews alike to Himself.

Say It Correctly

Joppa. JAH-puh.
Dorcas. DOOR-kuss.

Faithful Disciples

February 18 • Bible Study Guide 12

Bible Background • ACTS 9:36–43
Printed Text • ACTS 9:36–43 | Devotional Reading • 1 PETER 1:3–9, 4:7–11

Aim for Change

By the end of this lesson, we will: AGREE on key elements of active faith in the account of Tabitha’s resurrection; RELATE to the feelings of loss and the faith of those who sent for Peter after Tabitha died; and ADOPT the faith of those who sent for Peter.

In Focus

Darrell and Kisha had been excited about the birth of their new baby girl. When the day arrived, Darrell was in the delivery room to witness the birth of his daughter. Kisha’s parents were also on hand to welcome their new grandbaby.
Tragedy struck one month later as baby Aiesha died of congenital heart failure. A few days later, Darrell’s parents came from out of town to console the bereaved couple, accompanied by the Williamses, a couple whom neither Kisha nor Darrell knew.
Darrell’s parents said that when the Williamses found out about baby Aiesha, they wanted to come. The Williamses explained, “We, too, lost our baby when she was only three months old. We thought it would help you to know that others understand the pain you are feeling. It helped us with our healing, and we pray that our being here will help you.” Darrell and Kisha thanked them both for coming and said they appreciated their help and support.
During times of crisis, it might be difficult to help others see how God’s grace works in even the most difficult circumstances. How will you make a difference for someone who is suffering from loss?

Keep in Mind

“But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up” 
(Acts 9:40).

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