Encouraged by the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:26-42)
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26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. 30 When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. 31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.
Aeneas and Dorcas
32 As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. 34 “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. 35All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. 36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas ), who was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 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!” 39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. 40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.
Acts 9 = The tremendous event of Saul’s conversion – while on the way to Damascus to take Christians prisoners. He was authorized to take any Christians there captive and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment.
On the way, Jesus met him in a blinding light – and he realized what he’d been doing. He was told to go into Damascus and wait. Ananias was then told to go and pray for Saul – but he was hesitant due to the words he’d heard of Saul. But God told him that Saul was chosen by God to take the word of the Lord before the Gentiles – even kings and rulers.
Ananias prayed for Saul, he was healed, and Saul immediately went out to preach the good news of Jesus in the places he used to persecute Christians. The Christian leaders didn’t recognize him at first – because of what he’d previously done.
Saul preached of the murder of God – but also the resurrection (as we saw last week at Easter) – and it is due to the resurrection and as evidenced by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the believers – that Jesus is the son of God, Messiah, Savior of the world.
Saul had previously been ignorant of all these things because he was only book-learned, and it took an encounter with Jesus (the living, risen Jesus himself) to change his mind and be able to finally understand and piece together the Scriptures that spoke OF Jesus. Then he was able to preach effectively in the synagogues and many were converted.
There are two images of Jesus in the Bible:
- The Suffering Servant
- The Glorious King
The Jews were focused on the second and many missed the first. We are now living between the former time and the latter.
“A time is coming when people will worship in spirit and in truth” when we receive Jesus as Savior. Saul finally realized this and preached it in the synagogues – in Damascus first. Then he went to Silicea and preached for 3 years. Then he came back – and there was a plot by the Jews and the governors of that area to kill Saul – so his followers let him down in a basket from the wall.
This updates us to today.
The disciples in Jerusalem had probably heard of Saul’s conversion (it’s been over 3 years). But they were still wary of him because of his long, hard reputation.
At this time, Barnabas (the Son of Encouragement) lived up to his namesake (nick-namesake) and blessed Saul before them.
Barnabas has been mentioned before in Acts 4 – his generosity noted – and he helped many people who were in need at that time. He “had a heart of gold.” Later, when the Antioch Gentiles received the gospel, Barnabas is sent down as one of the delegates to meet them and check out this move of the Spirit. He found that it was a genuine move of the Spirit and he encouraged them there.
Acts 13, Barnabas is chosen with Paul (Saul) to go on their first missionary journey.
Acts 15, Barnabas went with Paul to Jerusalem to help settle the controversy of Gentiles entering the church (did they need to keep all the Jewish Law? circumsicion? diet?) It was decided they didn’t need to keep all the rites and rituals that were part of the Old Covenant.
Later, Barnabas shows this same kind of “take a chance generosity” with Mark. Mark had let them down previously, and though Paul refused to accept him back into their missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to. This eventually split the two of them, but later Paul praised Mark and wanted him back – in a letter he wrote.
We all fail in different ways – but God is able to help and restore and strengthen us.
Barnabas brought Paul to the apostles (probably before Peter and James (Jesus’ brother)). Probably the others were busy elsewhere.
Paul doesn’t meet with the disciples around the churches in Judea, and some of the believers were probably not too eager to meet with him – suspecting him of being a secret spy. There was an air of suspicion about him, until Barnabas vouched for him.
Paul speaks boldly in the name of the Lord – he’s debating with the Helenistic/Grecian Jews who’d been hostile to Stephen and stoned him to death. Quite a turn of events – because he’d held their coats while they had stoned Stephen. And eventually, these same guys tried to kill Paul. But they sent him away, back to his home in Tarsus.
The disciples were concerned with Paul’s safety and the safety of the church members with good reason (Acts 22). Paul (in Acts 22) mentions this time – he was in the temple in Jerusalem praying and the Lord appeared to him and said, “Quick! Leave Jerusalem immediately! The people here won’t accept your testimony!” Paul tried to argue saying his testimony is so amazing that people will have to believe. But God is firm and says, No, I will send you to the Gentiles. So, Paul agrees to go and the disciples send him off to Tarsus.
So this departure is really based on God’s will.
This whole portion of Scripture (Acts) reads as if it’s one event after the other, but there may have been much time that passes between events. For example, Paul may have stayed in Tarsus for up to 10 years.
Paul was a Roman citizen (received from his father – probably who did some service for Rome, got the citizenship and passed it on to Paul). So, Paul was learned in the popular culture as well – and was able to quote from poetry and other sources that the non-Christians would be familiar with. Paul eventually becomes the central focus of Acts.
There was a time of peace, encouraged by the Holy Spirit, the church grew (and possibly spread to Galilee).
People are being healed, saved, meeting the reality of the good news.
“So the Word of God spread.” Many in Jerusalem, including priests, believed.
This is a fulfillment of the Word of Jesus before his ascension – that the gospel would spread throughout Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Peter evangelizes the countryside in Judea.
Philip has passed through, preaching the gospel there after his encounter with the Ethiopian. Peter is backing up that missionary tour – going the same route, preaching and confirming the disciples as he goes.
He comes to Lydda to visit the saints (believers). Lydda = 25 miles NW of Jerusalem – at the crossroads of two major highways. Here, he meets Aeneas – bedridden for 8 years. He heals him and word of it spreads. Luke writes “all those who lived in Lydda saw him and turned to the Lord.” (Probably not ALL, but this is emphasis to show that this was a pretty major event.)
Peter next goes to Joppa – modern Jaffa (Tel-Abib?) Here there is a much-loved disciple “Tabitha” Aramaic = “Dorcas” Greek = Gazelle in English. She was doing well and loved by all the people and she suddenly dies. The whole church is mourning her, hear that Peter is nearby, so send for him.
What could he do? She’s dead. She’s lying in preparation for burial. And Peter goes upstairs, sends everyone out, kneels and prays, then tells her to “get up.” He takes up by the hand, helps her up, and presents her alive to the others. WOW. Lots of joy there.
There are many similarities between this story and Jesus’ story of raising Talitha? daughter of Jarius.
- The sending of messengers
- The mourners around the room
- The kicking everyone out of the room
- The calling for her to wake up
- The taking of her hand
Here, Peter is recreating the miracle that Jesus’ did earlier.
- Jesus said, “Talitha, get up.”
- Peter said, “Tabitha, get up.”
- There is only one letter difference there.
Jesus had said, “What I have done, you will do.” Here is evidence of that. Peter obviously has an open line with God, and so he can speak with authority.
Luke 5 – the healing of the paralytic (through the roof) and Jesus had encouraged the man “your sins are forgiven.” When people get sick, we often self-examine. (What have I done? What have I not done with my life?) And Jesus spoke to that heart and said, “You’re forgiven.” But to prove he has authority to say that, he also healed his body.
Elijah (and Jesus?) also raised a widow’s son to life.
Throughout the Scriptures, there are similar accounts of raising people.
- Elijah raised a widow’s son.
- Elisha also raised someone.
Jesus is willing to use these servants – even you and me – if we recognizes him for who he is and what he’s done. He has promised to not bring the same diseases upon his people (in the Old Testament) as those who didn’t believe in him in other lands. He’s able to heal today as well.
Physical, Spiritual healing – related to forgiveness. When we ask for forgiveness, God expects us to forgive others. Many people find that healing takes place only AFTER they forgive other people. Many times we harm ourselves and prevent God’s healing power to come through us because of our own unforgiveness. If we hold a grudge, unforgiveness against people – even close relatives – we are not free, we are not healed. Release them from the grudge, forgive them, and find healing for your own spirits.
We’ve all been touched and healed by the Lord. Let’s be prepared to share this with others.
Healing from death, physical, emotional, spiritual healing is available in Christ.
Acts 9 finishes with Peter at the house of Simon the tanner. The rabbis thought that tanning was unclean (because the animals might be unclean). But they also wrote the Scriptures on the hides of animals that were clean. Peter doesn’t seem to mind so much.
Later we see in Acts 10 that Peter learns to eat even unclean animals.
Interesting that Luke records strange details that don’t really help his story. BUT it does prove that Luke was an accurate historian – this is not myth, it’s history, it happened, it’s real. These little details demonstrate that.
In the final short section, Luke shows that the gospel has been preached in the whole province by now. And the Christian mission in the Jewish nation has now widened. The reader of Acts is now prepared for the next leap that the gospel message must take. That’s where Acts 10 begins the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles – to Cornelius and his household.
The good news is still good. Jesus heals, saves, He is Lord. Is he YOUR healer, Savior, Lord? If not, perhaps today is the day for you to be healed. We’ve been studying the resurrection, perhaps today is your day to be restored to life in your spirit.