George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
Aeneas and Dorcas
And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints who dwelt at Lydda--Act 9:32
In the City, Peter Found One Who Needed Healing
When the fierce fires of persecution had died out, Peter set forth on a tour of visitation. He was eager to find how the churches had been faring Jesus was whispering to him, "Feed my lambs." He went from town to town and village to village, comforting, cheering and inspiring and it was in this tour that Jesus led him to the bedside of the palsied disciple in Lydda. Lydda was some thirty miles from Jerusalem on the high road from the capital to the coast. It is a little town that has had a strange and chequered history; its story is full of sieges and assault. Tradition tells us that St. George was born there--St. George, who fought with the dragon; but it is not through St. George, it is through St. Peter, that the name is so familiar to our ears. Aeneas, then, lived in Lydda, and Peter found him there (Act 9:33)--found him, I take it, because he was looking for him. It is the things we look for that we are quick to see, and Peter had won the eyes of Jesus now. If a Jewish merchant had come down to Lydda, he would have discovered much, but never Aeneas. It took a Christian missionary, filled with love, to find this sickbed and show it to the world. What do you find when you go to a strange place? What do you see when you travel in foreign countries? Is it only the mountains and the waterfalls and castles and the dresses so different from those at home? A Christ-touched spirit will see far more than that--it will see the need of saving and of healing The man of science finds new species of plants; the explorer finds strange customs and observances; but the apostle finds a certain man who has been eight years bedridden with the palsy. The boys who read Homer or Virgil have heard of another Aeneas. He was the hero and the champion of Troy. And once, when that Aeneas had been wounded, he was healed by the intervention of the gods. All that is fable; but this story is no fable. Peter said to Aeneas, "Jesus Christ maketh thee whole." And his palsy left him that very hour, and he arose immediately.
Peter in Joppa Raises Dorcas and Stays with Simon the Tanner
A few miles from Lydda lay the town of Joppa, and Joppa was the seaport of Jerusalem. Those who have read Charles Kingsley's Heroes, and who remember how Perseus rescued Andromeda, will be interested in knowing that the old world believed that it was at Joppa that Andromeda was chained. It was here that the materials were landed which were used in the building of the Temple. And it was from the port of Joppa that Jonah sailed when he thought to fly from the presence of the Lord. Here, then, lived Tabitha called Dorcas, and Tabitha means gazelle. The gazelle was one type of beauty for the Jew. And whether Tabitha was beautiful in face or not, we all know that she was beautiful in character. Probably she had been a fine sewer as a girl; but in her girlish days it would be fancy work. The fancy work never became real work till the pity of Jesus touched her womanly heart. She was not a speaker; she never addressed meetings. I dare say she envied the ladies who could speak. But she learned that there was a service quite as good as that, and that was the service of a consecrated needle. In the glimpse which our verses give of Tabitha, we see how deeply and sincerely she was mourned. And we can picture the joy of many a home in Joppa when the news came that Tabitha lived again. The tidings traveled through all the town, we read, and many believed in the Lord. And then our passage closes with telling us that Peter lived for a long time with the tanner Simon. Do you know why the Bible tells us Simon's occupation? It is because the Jews thought tanning disgraceful work. No rigid and formal and self-respecting Jew would ever have demeaned himself by lodging there. And the narrative wishes to show us Peter's mind and how he was rising above Jewish prejudice, and how he was getting ready for the vision that we shall have to consider in our next lesson.
Peter in Raising Tabitha Imitates His Lord in the Raising of Jairus' Daughter
Now let us note the close resemblances between the raising of Tabitha and the raising of Jairus' daughter. Peter had never forgotten that memorable hour, and now he could not follow his Lord too closely. Peter had been boastful and self-willed and impetuous once; he had loved to suggest and dictate and take the lead. But now, with all the past graven on his heart his passion is to follow in Jesus' steps. Had Jesus put all the mourners from the room? Then Peter must be alone with Tabitha. Had Jesus said Talitha cumi? Then Peter will say Tabitha cumi. Had Jesus taken the maiden by the hand, and given her back again to her rejoicing friends? Then Peter will present Tabitha alive. The one point of difference that I find is this: our verses tell us that Peter knelt down and prayed. In that one clause there lies the difference between the work of Jesus and that of His disciple. For the power of Peter was delegated power. It was Christ who was working and to Christ he must cry. But Jesus was acting in His inherent sovereignty. In His own right He was Lord of life and death.
Three Little Lessons
Three minor lessons shine out from these incidents.
(1) We may witness for Christ even in making a bed The first sign of power demanded of Aeneas was that he should arise and make his bed. Now the words may not quite mean what we understand by them. His bed was a carpet and had to be stowed away. But they do mean that in a little act like that--the rolling up and disposing of a rug--a man may show that Christ has dealt with him. You remember the servant girl who was asked by Mr. Spurgeon what evidence she had to show that she was a Christian, and she replied that she always swept under the mats now. I dare say she never thought about Aeneas, but the two arguments for Christ are close akin.
(2) The sight of a man may be better than a sermon. "All that dwelt in Lydda saw him, and turned to the Lord." And
(3) We must help with our hand as well as with our prayer. When Peter was left alone beside dead Tabitha, we read that he kneeled down and prayed. Had he not prayed, he had not wrought the miracle. But when Tabitha sat up, wrapped in her strange garments that hampered her limbs and made it hard to move, then Peter gave her his hand and lifted her up. I wonder if he remembered how Jesus had said, "Simon, Simon, I have prayed for thee," and then, on that wild night upon the lake, had put forth His hand and held him up? The heart and hand of Jesus had saved Peter. The heart and hand of Peter won back Dorcas. And it takes both the he art that prays and the hand that helps to bring the kingdom even a little nearer.
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