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Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside, 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. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. - Acts 9:36-42
The outstanding characteristic of this woman, Dorcas, was grace and ministering in selfless love. She helped others. Her very name, both in Hebrew and Greek, means Gazelle (I’m guessing she went by the Aramaic version her name Tabitha, rather than the Greek version Dorcas). A gazelle is an animal characterized by grace. We are also told that she was a disciple, this means she was a sincere follower of Jesus and an important leader in that Christian community. The believers in Joppa have heard that the apostle Peter is in the neighboring village of Lydda, and in their grief they send for him to come to Joppa. We don’t know for sue if they thought that Peter could raise her from the dead, or if they only wanted the comfort he might provide in the midst of their loss.
The real question is, what is the purpose of this story? What is the account of this miracle meant to show us? Here again (just as in the previous miracle of the paralytic being healed) we get a story that shows us not only God’s power to heal physical disease and death, but His mighty power to bring us to life spiritually!
In the same way that a paralyzed person cannot take any steps toward Christ until He first heals him, neither can a dead person live a life pleasing to God until He first brings them back to life. The New Testament makes this point abundantly clear - we are DEAD in our sins until Jesus heals us and brings us to life.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world. - Ephesians 2:1-2
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins. - Colossians 2:13
The name of Jesus is able to do what no amount of human persuasion or human power can ever do. He alone can impart strength and sensation to paralyzed legs. His power alone can raise a corpse from the dead. He alone can call a soul out of spiritual bondage and give it eternal life.
We are only His instruments, and if we think that any of the power depends on us, we misunderstand how He works. In fact, it is only when we sense our complete inability, as Peter surely did when he knelt and prayed for Dorcas to be raised, that we are in the place God wants us. If you have any confidence in your ability to lead a soul to faith in Christ, it is misplaced confidence. But if you cry out, “O Lord, who am I to raise the dead? But You can do the humanly impossible through me” - then, God will work wonders!