Posts Tagged ‘disciples’

Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did. (Acts 9:36)

In the last few weeks we have been looking at the stories of early women disciples as presented by Luke in the book of Acts. In the new era brought about by the Lord Jesus, women will be included in ministry. Of all of the women whose stories are given by Luke, only Tabitha is officially mentioned as a “disciple”. Of course, all of those who follow Jesus are disciples, but Tabitha is given special designation. Luke honors her and there are many reasons why.

As we have seen when looking at the lives of the other women in Luke’s Gospel and in the book of Acts, Luke only uses a few sentences about Tabitha, yet he still tells us much.

First of all, Tabitha exemplified all that was most praiseworthy in a follower of Jesus. She was truly unselfish and spent her time meeting the needs of others. We are not sure if she was a widow or just unmarried, but there is no mention of a husband. We are not sure of her financial circumstances either. But it does not matter; Tabitha wasted no time sitting around feeling sorry for herself. Luke tells us that she continually did deeds of kindness and charity.

Tabitha lived in Joppa, an important port town on the coast of the Mediterranean about 35 miles northwest of joppa mapJerusalem. The new Christian faith was spreading at this time throughout Judea. At the time of our story, the apostle Peter was ministering in the nearby town of Lydda.

Like many port towns, Joppa had its poor and destitute. Perhaps Tabitha could see them wandering the streets looking for charity. Maybe she noticed abandoned widows walking along in rags. She was moved with pity and a desire to do something about it. Being very talented with a needle, she knew that this was a way that she could serve.

We can compare Tabitha to the godly wife in Proverbs 31:10-31. Tabitha must have had all of the strength and organizing capabilities of her counterpart. Both sought to do good works. Both were excellent with needlework and spent many hours making garments for others. Both had seemingly endless energy for showing love to others.

It is interesting that Luke gives this disciple a double name – Tabitha and Dorcas. Recall that a few chapters earlier in Acts, Luke tells the story of how the Greek widows felt that they were not receiving equal treatment with the Hebrew widows (Acts 6). The new young Church found a way to deal with the problem that made everyone happy by establishing the system of deacons who saw that all of the widows were taken care of. Perhaps Luke was accentuating the fact that Tabitha was such a generous and kind woman that she made garments for Hebrew and Greek widows and thus was one of the first in the new Church to take seriously Christ’s command to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. Tabitha’s big heart would not let her refuse anyone help. Certainly Dorcas/Tabitha was beloved by all.

Tabitha took God’s command to care for the poor seriously. “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor” (Zechariah 7:10). God had continually asked the Israelites to look after widows, orphans, and aliens. (See also Ezekiel 22:7 and Deuteronomy 24:17, 20, 21.) When Jesus came, He ministered to the marginalized constantly – the poor, the widows, and the outcasts. Tabitha as one of Jesus’ disciples followed His example in ministering to those in need especially the forsaken.

Tabitha expressed her genuine love for the poor by making garments for them with her own hands. We can easily envision her pouring her love into every stitch and praying for each recipient. Many people began to depend on her and it is no wonder that they must have been devastated when she became ill and died.

And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him “Do not delay in coming to us.” So Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them. But Peter sent 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. And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. (Acts 9:37-42)

Dorcas and PeterTabitha’s love and kindness were so great that the many widows that she cared for were at her home crying when she died. They honored her by carefully washing her body and laying her in an upper room in preparation for burial. When Peter arrived they wanted him to know what a wonderful woman Dorcas was. He was so moved by their love that he prayed to God for her restoration. Peter must have sensed that God would do a miracle, because after he prayed he said in a positive way, with no doubts, “Tabitha, arise.”

After he called her, Tabitha opened her eyes. She saw Peter and then she sat up. This miracle reminds us of several times that Jesus raised people from the dead – the raising of Jairus’ daughter and the raising of the son of the widow of Nain. Jesus sent the mourners out of the room at Jairus’ house. Peter did the same at Dorcas’ house. In all cases the raised person sat up and was given to their loved ones. These restorations were not only for the dead persons – the miracles were also to bless those who had loved the victims and missed them – such as the poor widow of Nain. And the miracles were for those who were standing around witnessing the event because many came to believe on the Lord Jesus after this miracle.

The widows’ sadness turned to joy when Dorcas was restored to them. This woman who had given so much to others was now given life back. Doubtless, Tabitha continued to sew and serve the widows and the poor. I can’t imagine this energetic, loving woman doing anything else! Tabitha is a testimony to us of unselfish love and gratitude.
So many churches have followed her example. Women for several centuries have started sewing circles called “Dorcas Societies” to provide clothes for the poor. As an aside, the first group was established at Douglas Isle of Man on December 1, 1834. This service began as an act of thanksgiving to God after they had been spared from a plague of cholera.

And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. (Titus 3:8)


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