Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
Studying a map, Peter travels the road from Jerusalem northwest through Emmaus until he reaches the village of Lydda. This is the Lod of the Old Testament, part of the southern kingdom mentioned in 1 Chronicles 8:12, Ezra 2:33, and a few times in Nehemiah. The only time it occurs in the New Testament is in this paragraph. We can assume that the church was established by those present to hear Peter and the apostles preach on Pentecost. Or, perhaps, it was the efforts of those who were scattered from Jerusalem who went everywhere preaching the word (8:4). The route Peter takes to Joppa crisscrosses the road Philip took from Gaza to Caesarea Maritime (Azotus is a couple of towns south of Lydda). Whichever the case, there were already saints when Peter reaches Lydda. This includes a paralytic man named Aeneas, who Peter heals. This causes all who lived at Lydda and Sharon (Song of Sol. 2:1) to turn to the Lord (35). Faith is flourishing and the church is growing.
Peter continues his travels northwest until he reaches the seacoast city of Joppa (today, it is one of the most important cities in Israel, known today as Haifa). When Peter arrives, he’s also there to visit the church (36ff). About the time of his visit, one of the Christian women “fell sick and died” (37). We learn several things about her:
- She was a disciple (36). This means she is a learner associated with Jesus’ views (BDAG 609).
- She “was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did” (36). This should not surprise us, as it seems to further define and defend the fact that she is a disciple. Jesus went “about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (10:38). She was simply doing as He had done.
- She was loved and missed by the local church (38-39). Her death was an urgent matter. They plead with Peter to come quickly. When he arrives at the upper room where she’s laid, the Christian widows are “weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them” (39).
- She was raised (40-42). Peter brings her back and presents her alive to the church. We can only imagine what joy this brought the church, but we know that this act caused many to believe in the Lord (42).
The miracles and signs performed in the early church all served the same purpose. They were to create faith in Jesus, the Man, His message, and His mission. Peter remains in Joppa many days, staying with a tanner named Simon (43). It is here that he will be a part of a dramatic turn of events that takes him north along the seacoast (Acts 10).
When Peter was invited to follow Jesus, he was told, “…I will make you fishers of men” (Mat. 4:19). Did he take any opportunities to go down to the seacoast and fish the Mediterranean while at Simon’s house? I don’t know. I do know that his primary focus now was on fishing for men. God used him mightily in that effort, both to encourage the saints and reach the lost. Likewise, whatever we were and whatever we did before becoming a disciple of Jesus, He can use us in those ways (as He did Dorcas) and leverage our experience to bring about great results to His glory!