Acts 9 – Tabitha and Ananias (Oh, and Peter and Paul)

Today’s ChocolateSplendid 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassageActs 9

Greetings from the ghost town that is a mall food court at 9:30 AM on a Friday. I just got done with a dental appointment, and to celebrate, I’m subjecting my teeth to sugar and cacao solids. I know it’s been awhile since I said anything about the physical circumstances under which I’m opening up the Bible, but today’s a little out of the ordinary, so here’s me for old times sake, talking about the site where I’m reading about Saul’s conversion.

It’s a familiar story. Saul is so bent on stopping the spread of this new Jewish sect centered on Jesus of Nazareth, he seeks authorization to capture Christians at Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem. But on the road to Damascus, Jesus blinds him with a flash of light and speaks directly to him, and three days later when he regains his sight, he preaches the deity of Jesus so aggressively that the disciples keep having to relocate him, from Damascus to Jerusalem to Tarsus. Luke then flips his attention to Peter, who performs some healing miracles in the cities of Lydda and Joppa, but first: Saul.

Saul gets his sight back by a man named Ananias, whom the Lord directs in a vision to go visit this persecutor of Christians and restore his sight. And I’m struck by Ananias’ honesty and trepidation as he tells God, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name” (13-14). The adversary of Ananias’ whole faith has been stripped of the power of sight, and yet the morally right thing to do is to give up his leverage, make himself vulnerable, and trust.

The drama of the situation is like something out of a Marvel Netflix original, but with God. And Ananias makes the right call. He obeys.

So while Paul is drawing persecution upon himself by joining the same people he used to persecute, Peter is healing people. He heals a paralyzed man who’s been bedridden for eight years, but that’s nothing he hasn’t done before. The bigger miracle is when Peter proves himself instrumental in God’s raising a woman named Tabitha from the dead. It marks the first time since Jesus’ own death and resurrection that such a miracle has occurred; Peter, through the Holy Spirit, is breaking new ground. To bring back the woman as she lies lifeless on her deathbed, Peter commands her, “Tabitha, arise” (40). I recall Pastor Jonathan Burnham in one sermon noting that Peter likely spoke the command in Aramaic, where it would have sounded remarkably similar to Jesus’ command “Talitha kum,” or “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” (Mark 5:41), which he issued to raise the daughter of the synagogue official Jairus. Empowered by the same Spirit, Peter’s miracle of resurrection echoes Jesus’.

But of course, the little girl died again, as did Tabitha. These little resurrections are themselves just echoes of the eternal life that can only be found in Jesus Christ: promises and reminders that death does not have the last word.

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