9:36 "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. 37 But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 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. 39 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. 40 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. 41 Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord. 43 So it was that he stayed many days in Joppa with Simon, a tanner."
When I was a kid our church had a ministry called "The Dorcas Society". That ministry has morphed into a more general term called "Community Services". Generally speaking it is what it sounds like. A ministry dedicated to helping those in need both in the church and in the community at large. It struck me this morning as I read this how amazing it is to have a ministry on another continent named after a woman who died nearly 2000 years ago.
As humans we tend to be very self-focused. We ask questions like "Does my life matter? Am I making a difference? Would anyone notice if I was gone?" We tend to be the center of our own universe. Then every once in a while someone comes along who lives in a dramatically different way. They don't concern themselves with themselves. They live for others. They worry about the wellbeing of others. These people end up living lives that matter, making a difference, and are noticed by their absence after they are gone. A void is left that can't be filled.
Tabitha was exactly that kind of person. She lived for others and when she died it affected the people so much that they essentially refused to let her go. They heard Peter was in Lydda, 11 miles (17.5km) away and they sent for him. When he arrived they took him to her and showed him examples of the clothing she had made for people. I'm not certain what they expected him to do but it seems they were hopeful that if anyone could bring her back it was Peter. He sent everyone from the room just as Jesus had done when He raised the young girl from death. He prayed for her, called her by name, and she woke up from the temporary sleep of death. It was not a permanent cure. Like Lazarus before her she would die again.
It is an amazing story and her legacy lives on but I must ask the question why? Why did Jesus answer Peter's prayer? Why was she brought back to life when the vast majority are not? Was it because she was such a good person? I doubt it. If being good was the reason others who also lived for others like Tabitha did would have been raised also. In fact if her being alive was so important why was she permitted to die in the first place? We have no record that Lazarus was an amazing person but Jesus raised him. He also raised a little girl too young to have even made a mark on the world for good or evil. Clearly merit or goodness is not the criteria. So why then? The answer is at the end of the story.
What happened became known throughout Joppa and many believed in the Lord.
Being a good person is amazing but it doesn't change the fact this world is a mess. Our goodness, our charities, our attempts to make the world a better place are all wonderful but ultimately not a solution. Even Tabitha's return from the sleep of death was only temporary. Everything in this world is temporary. The solution is not miracles but the Man behind them. The miracles only serve to shift our gaze upward. They are performed to remind us that there is a solution. Tabitha left a legacy of service to others. She learned from her Teacher and her Teacher used her life to underscore two realities. The first is that service is root of significance and the second is that there is life after death, permanent life, never ending life, and it is found not in our goodness but in His. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life."
The raising of Tabitha was just a tangible reminder that He has the power to keep His promises.