In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became ill and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda 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!” Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood round him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning towards the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.
I wonder why Peter sent all those women out of the room. There’s something about the way this story is told – “Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed” – that causes me to suspect Peter wasn’t 100 percent sure this was going to work, but he thought he’d give it his best shot. The ministry of signs and wonders is exciting and faith-building – but it has nothing certain or predictable about it. It always means going out on a limb.
Can you imagine Dorcas? She sounds like a practical, capable, peaceable, gentle woman; a seamstress, sitting quietly in her Mediterranean seaside home sewing tunics and robes. A loving, kindly woman who cared about other people and would always help when she could. We don’t know much about Dorcas, but enough to find a role model for our imagination.
What a strange thing, for her to be called back into this life by a miracle, after she had found her way out through the great doorway of death into the world of light. This is a story that, if we look deeply into it, probably leaves us with more questions than answers. We would expect a believer to leave this life when her work is done and God calls her home, but God had one more blessing-task for Dorcas – to turn back to her sisters in this world and show them what power and glory can be. Without arrogance, without a single word, just by being alive, Dorcas witnesses to the power of God.
Wonder-working God, we stand amazed when we come close to the signs of your power, the lives your glory has touched and healed. May we be filled with faith and trust in you, as Peter was, to act in your name for healing and fullness of life. May our lives radiate the sweet fragrance of kindness that Dorcas showed, to care for the poor and needy and work quietly and faithfully in the everyday calling of our lives. In Jesus’ holy name; Amen.