Please Stay or Get out - Acts 9

Thoughts from the Sycomore’s weekly reading of Acts…

9:36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she 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!” 9 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 for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.

Two thoughts from today’s reading. First, in honor of International Women’s Day, it seems fitting that I had the opportunity to contemplate the life of Tabitha. What an amazing woman. She not only did good and helped the poor. Vs. 36 actually says that she ALWAYS did those things. That’s remarkable—it’s no wonder she made her way into the Holy Word of God. However, there is another reason that her name is mentioned in the Bible. She was one of the few people in the Bible who was raised from the dead. And while some of their names aren’t even mentioned, hers was—which is again, a testament to her amazing influence in the Kingdom of God.

I want to point out something else that caught my eye in today’s text. It’s in verse 40 (highlighted above). Did you even wonder why Peter sent those women who were mourning her death out of the room? I thought that it was an odd thing to do. Maybe Peter thought—“What if I can’t raise her from the dead?” What if they see me fail? I know for sure that Peter wasn’t afraid that he was going to fail so that wasn’t the reason why he sent them out. If anything, knowing that God was about to raise Tabitha from the grave, I would think that this was a great opportunity for the women to be there to witness the resurrection. But this too wasn’t to be the case. So why’d Peter do it?

Maybe a look at what the women were doing at the time could offer some insight into why Peter kicked them out of the room. Today’s text tells us that they were crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Tabitha had made for them. That description actually doesn’t do much justice to how intense the situation was. There was mourning and grieving, but there was also this sense of abandonment and hopelessness that they were expressing - from the depths of their souls. They were widows. They’ve already been “abandoned” once by their husbands and basically by society (that’s how widows were treated back then). Tabitha was not just their friend, she was also their breadwinner. They had nothing. Basically, she gave them life. The wailing and hopelessness in that room must have been staggering—even suffocating. I think that’s why Peter kicked them out. If they weren’t simply distracting him from praying, they were definitely projecting a whole lot of negativity (hopelessness) as well. That was not the kind of environment that Peter needed to do the impossible. So he kicked them out—for some peace and quiet from all the wailing, but also from the hopelessness as well. I’d take a good hard look into our heart and souls and ask ourselves—when the Spirit of God is moving and about to do something amazing, are we those who are asked to remain in the room or are we those who are told to leave? That’s a tough one isn’t it? But it’s a reality check that’s far overdue for some of us.

I have found celebrating the accomplishments of women around the world as a privilege to me. They certainly deserve it. We need to recognize and acknowledge who they are and what they’ve done not just this one time a year—but every day of the year. What I would also remind us to do is to not just celebrate them as equal achievers—they deserve fare more. Recognize them as those who have far surpassed us men many a times throughout history as well as those who have achieved what is uniquely feminine. Mothers will always be heroes to me. They’re not perfect. But who is? But all I know is that despite their imperfection, they’re the ones who held our world together when it all seemed to be crashing down. They’re the ones who offered us hope. And all of this was usually done… from behind the scenes. I’m not sure if my mom wanted to be anywhere else than “behind the scenes.” That’s fine. What’s long overdue, however, is a great big thank you to them that’s center-stage worthy. #desiringGod2017

Love, Sam