Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30
A simple story.
A woman named Tabitha. She didn’t operate a large business or manage a wealthy household or have any position of power. She was just Tabitha. And she died.
All we know are a couple of small, insignificant things about Tabitha. One is that she seems to have spent her time ‘… always doing good and helping the poor’. So, not much there except the hugeness of being a generous, caring person…
Another thing – it seems a lot of people loved her dearly. Especially widows who would have been vulnerable and at the bottom of the culture’s socio-economic hill.
So, yeah … she was generous, caring and loved.
Wait, I almost forgot one more thing about Tabitha: she died and came to life again.
Returned from death. Resurrected. You know, all alive and such.
Life after death was something Jesus had already turned into a reality but the truth of it for every day human beings was still a tentative theory. Apparently the early christian believers needed to be reminded that death actually had been conquered and that the principle of new life applied to them.
The hope of real life after real death became real now.
Thought I would mention that.
In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 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!”
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.
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. 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. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon. (NIV)
Notice how worried Tabitha’s friends were before her death and how their joy exploded after she came to life. And notice how a story of a person coming to life barely found a place in the records of the first christians.
Obviously a resurrection or two was all it took to entrench itself into every day belief systems; life after death became an accepted part of the Story after that. As the eyewitnesses spread the news of what they had seen it became evident that they were confident they would live again after they died. As illustrated by Jesus and Tabitha.
When you believe in resurrection you absolutely lose your natural fear of death and you tell others about this very, very mysterious and wonderful thing. You do it with quiet confidence and joy and your future is filled with a hope that non-christians can’t understand.
Someone asked me a couple days ago if I had been back to my mother’s grave since her death and I confessed that I had only been there once for her committal. (For the record, I have no opinion on whether visiting a grave is a positive or negative thing; we each have to decide what is healthy.)
However I can tell you this: I will see her and hug her and talk to her some day.
At the time when she’ll be resurrected. Alive again.
She’ll be bright, joyful, and her body will be healthy the way God created it to be.
And so will I because it will be at a time in the future after I too have died and been made alive again.
I don’t believe in this because it makes sense: I believe it because this is what we have been given from the testimony of eyewitnesses and recorded into our history. I know it in my heart, my head, my soul. I know it because I know Jesus and trust him absolutely to make it so.
I had wonderful opportunity to tell my mother how much she meant to me before she died. But I’m saying it again on this day.
Mom, thank you for so much goodness, sacrifice and love. I love you and I can’t wait to hug you again.
PS: She loved lilacs.