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Rise Up, Jesus Christ Heals You!

February 20, 2022


Pastor Peder Kling


Sermon Passage: Acts 9:32–43

This week, we had some audio problems with this video. So, it may be better to use the "audio only" option (above). Sermon begins at minute 47:08. "Unmute" to listen.

The Wide-Angle and the Narrow-Angle Perspectives

One of my goals in preaching every week is to help us understand that the stories in our Scriptures are not independent stories without a context. It seems to me that many sermons and Sunday school lessons today will move from one story in the Bible to the next, without much thought to the story’s biblical context. We’ll often read a story, learn some moral lessons for our personal application and betterment of life, and then we’ll conclude with some conclusion that ties the story into Jesus’s salvation. I think we are especially tempted to do this in the gospels, where many of stories might seem to have little connection to one another. In Mark 4, for example—what does Jesus calming the storm have to do with the next story, when he healed a demon? The connection, there, might seem a bit inconsequential and so we read the stories as two separate stories, with separate lessons. 


Now, it’s not always bad to focus little on a story’s context, as long as Jesus is reasonably taught from the Scriptures. If you’re giving a brief devotional, or a Sunday school lesson to small children, it’d might be too complicated to get into discussions of a story’s Biblical context.


Yet, we all seem to know well the quick and memorable phrase—“context is key”. The gospels and Acts aren’t random collections of stories. Matthew’s gospel is a story, not a collection of stories or fables. Mark’s gospel is a story, not a collection of stories of fables. So also is the same for Acts. The gospels and Acts are taking you somewhere, as you read them. 


So, let me give you a quick synopsis of where we’re going to go this morning. For the first half of our message, it’s going to feel like we’re jumping around our two stories this morning as we really nail down that question of context—why are these two stories (of Peter healing a paralytic and raising Talitha from the dead) placed here at the end of Acts 9? That’s where we’re going to go first, and we’ll spend a fair amount of time there this morning because (1) it’s not a particularly obvious, or easy, answer—yet, (2) it’s an important answer. The context really does add to the beauty and relevance of this passage this morning, that we might apply it to ourselves.


But then, I want to actually look at the stories this morning. They’re deeply personal, as we learn intimate details of Aeneas the paralytic and Tabitha who became ill and died. So after looking at the context of these stories we’ll look at the stories themselves. Through these two perspectives—the wide-angle perspective of the context, and the narrow-angle perspective upon the stories themselves, I trust we’ll get a beautiful picture of Jesus’s kingdom and ministry to us this morning, as he is meeting us through his Spirit and through faith.


The Wide-Angle Perspective: How These Two Miracles Fit in Acts

So, this brings us to the question of context. How do these two stories contribute to the greater story and progress of Acts this morning? Truthfully, if you’re reading through Acts in one sitting and tracing the flow of the narrative from one event to the next, it might seem that these two stories appear randomly in Acts. It may seem they have little to no consequence in the greater narrative. This is one of those “fly-over” passages—much like the way a genealogy might feel to us, or some of those seemingly redundant miracle stories in the gospels. That’s certainly how these stories felt to me when I first read them. How do we solve this, as we look at this story about Peter this morning?


To refresh ourselves on the greater narrative in Acts this morning, and really feel the tension at work here, I’ll remind you that the first 5 chapters in Acts emphasize Peter’s ministry to the church in Jerusalem, and then Peter sort of falls to the background as chapters 6, 7, and 8 begin to focus on the gospel moving beyond Jerusalem to Samaria and beyond. In chapters 6 and 7, Stephen takes center stage in Jerusalem when he preaches his condemning sermon to the Jews who had rejected Christ. Then in chapter 8, Philip takes the gospel north to the Samarians—remember, they’re the Jews who had mixed with the nations. 


So, you might say that Peter was the apostle to the Jews in chapters 1­–5, and then Philip was the apostle to the half-Jews of Samaria in chapter 8, and then that leads us to Saul in chapter 9—the apostle to the gentiles. The gospel is advancing! In our most recent two sermons in Acts 9, we’ve considered Jesus’s great patience and providence in saving Saul of all people, to be his apostle to the gentiles, of all people. It would seem Acts has been building us up to chapter 9, and the global conquest of Christ that might follow after Saul’s conversion. As Jesus himself told his disciples in chapter 1 verse 8, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea [i.e., Peter’s ministry], and Samaria [i.e., Philip’s ministry], and to the end of the earth [i.e., through Saul’s ministry]”. That’s exactly what we’ve been seeing unfold, under Christ’s providence, as we have recently seen Saul’s conversion and commission to be the apostle to the gentiles.


Yet here, in our passage, Acts takes us back to Peter’s ministry immediately after Saul’s conversion and commission, as we’re rearing up for the gospel to hit the gentiles. Why? That seems a bit strange, doesn’t it? If we’re just tracing the expected trajectory of this story, we might expect Saul to immediately begin his missionary journeys throughout Rome. Those journeys don’t begin until chapter 13! Our two stories in chapter 9—along with chapter 10, and chapter 11, andchapter 12—focus back in on Peter’s ministry! And, his ministry begins with these two, seemingly random healing stories—Peter heals Aeneas the paralytic, and he raises Tabitha from the dead. What are we to think of these two stories—and perhaps, even the next three chapters which focus back into Peter? Isn’t it a bit odd to focus on Peter, “the apostle to the Jews” (as Paul describes him in Galatians 2:8), when we’re supposed to begin focusing on Christ advancing his kingdom to the gentiles through Paul? 


Peter the Doorkeeper…

To answer this, we must remember something about Peter. While Peter is the apostle to the Jews, he’s also presented in Acts as the apostle who holds the keys to Christ’s kingdom with the rest of the apostles. He’s the doorkeeper—he’s the key holder—to Christ’s kingdom. I said earlier that Peter seemed to be the chief apostle to the Jews in the first 5 chapters in Acts, and that he then falls to the background in chapters 6–8 as the gospel makes its way to Samaria. 


There’s one place Peter shows up in those chapters, if you’ll turn back to chapter 8 verses 14–16. These verses describe what happened immediately after the Samaritans received the gospel. That development—that the Samaritans were fully included into God’s people—was a jarring development by Jewish standards. The Samaritans and Jews despised one another. I think I said a few weeks back that Jesus’s story of a “good Samaritan” was provocative for a reason. Samaritans aren’t good. They’re unclean. They’re half-breed Jews who had mixed with the gentile nations for centuries. They don’t hold to the customs of Jerusalem. Yet here, they receive the Jewish Messiah through Philip’s ministry. 


How do the church leaders in Jerusalem respond to this development? They send Peter (with John), to whom Jesus said “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19). Peter hears that the gospel was preached to Samaria, that the Samaritans received it, so he goes to Samaria. Why? Acts 8:14, to “pray for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized [with water] in the name of the Lord Jesus.”


So, we see here this strange situation in the church’s early existence where a church would receive the gospel, be water baptized, but not Spirit-baptized. It’s as if the church, for a moment, was in limbo—they believed the gospel and had received the kingdom of Christ, but they had not yet received all the benefits of the kingdom of Christ in heaven. Again, as Jesus said to Peter— “I give to you the keys to the kingdom… whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”. Christ designed that the neither the Jews, nor the half-Jews in Samaria, nor even the non-Jewish gentiles throughout Rome would receive the full benefits of Christ without his appointed apostles uniquely loosening up the blessings of Christ to these peoples. 

So, this explains why we see Peter show up in our passage, as we’re situated between Saul’s conversion and Saul’s missionary journey to the gentiles. Christ had used Peter, his chosen instrument, to open up the door which stood between the gentiles and the kingdom of heaven. Thus, as we look ahead to our passage next week in chapter 10, Peter receives a vision from Christ which clearly indicated that the gentiles must be included into God’s people without any distinction from the Jews. In chapter 10 verse 34, Peter preaches the gospel to a house full of gentiles, and then the Spirit falls upon them powerfully  in verse 44. People often call that passage “the gentile Pentecost”. Peter opened the keys to the kingdom of Christ’s blessings to the gentiles, freeing Saul to begin his ministry in perfect unity and obedience to Christ and his apostolic church. You might say that Peter opens the door to the gentiles in chapters 9–12, while Saul goes through it in chapter 13 with a gospel-crusade to the nations.


A Quick Point of Application

Now, let me make a quick point of application in all this. In one sense, this all illustrates the unity of the church. We’re an apostolic church—built upon the foundation of the apostles’ ministry and teaching, with Christ being the cornerstone. I made that point a few weeks ago.


But more than this—the metaphor of keys to the kingdom opens up the imagination, doesn’t it? It’s the classic mystery novel, where a child finds a key and asks his mom or dad “what’s this key for?”. The mom or dad says, “that’s a mystery to be solved, Johnny! for all we know it could open up a hidden chest of treasures!”. Keys imply hidden, mysterious suspense and glory. They imply that something valuable like gold (or, something terrifying like a dragon) is locked up. Peter and the apostles were unlocking doors to the city of God—the pearly gates of splendor, forgiveness of sins, even fellowship with the king and adoption into his royal family so that we might be called sons and daughters of the most high God. Peter was on a mission of jailbreak, releasing Jerusalem, then Samaria, and then the nations from bondage to sin and God’s wrath, so that they all might enter the kingdom of Christ. 


The really good news, brothers and sisters, is that the door is still open and the king is still calling the nations to himself. There’s no locked door standing between you, or your unbelieving neighbor, and God; only hardened, sinful hearts that won’t receive Christ stand between God and man. Pray earnestly that the Lord would continue softening hearts toward him, that we might see people draw near to him by faith. As Jesus himself said of his kingdom in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” The Lord suffered and died, and then he sent out his apostles, so that the door to himself and his kingdom wouldn’t be locked. 


…the Doorkeeper of What Kingdom?

So from a bigger, wide-angle perspective, we now understand why Peter is brought back into the story for three chapters between Saul’s conversion and his ministry to the gentiles. That all does set us up quite well for the next several weeks, as we look at those chapters in greater detail. But then, there’s still that question lingering before us his morning. Where do these two miracle stories of Peter healing a paralytic and raising a dead woman fit into all this? Based on what I’ve said, it might make more sense to skip them, and jump right into chapter 10 where Peter receives his vision about the Lord receiving gentiles, and then Peter preaches the gospel to them. How do these two miracles about Peter healing Aeneas and Tabitha set us up for what’s to come? 


Let me ask you this. What sort of kingdom is Peter opening up to the nations? What rich blessings—and what merciful king—will Peter make available to the entire world? We’re talking about the kingdom of heaven, here. Peter has keys that open the doors to the kingdom of heaven. We’re talking about the new creation, the kingdom of life and blessing that the end of our Bibles talks about in Revelation 21 and 22 when God restores the entire cosmos to peace and glory. Revelation 21:3–4,


Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, and neither shall there be mourning, no crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things [of this cursed and broken world] have passed away. 


Then John, receiving this vision of glory says,


The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day [i.e., because there won’t be any enemies]… 


That’s the kingdom that we’re talking about, as Peter is opening these glorious doors to the Samaritans and the nations. Does that sound familiar, perhaps, in coherence with our passage wherein Peter is literally overturning the curse through the power of the resurrected Christ? It’s almost as if Peter is unlocking the new heavens and new earth to the gentiles, because he is.  


You see, God ensured that his Son Jesus Christ—as well as his apostles after him—would not only proclaim the kingdom, but they would also demonstrate the kingdom in all its future glory and power. This really is our hope—that through the forgiveness Jesus purchased for us on the cross, he will fully save us from all pain as we repent from our sin, and trust in him for eternal life and healing. Keep all the blessings of the kingdom stamped upon your eyeballs, Christian. It’s good for your soul!


Do you remember Jesus’s answer to John the Baptist, when John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus? He asked Jesus, “Are you the [messiah] who is to come, or shall we look for another?”. Jesus replied, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” 


So there, Jesus himself is telling John the Baptist—and us, today—that you can know his kingdom arrived when you see the marks of his kingdom—healing to the blind, the lame, and even the dead. Is it a coincidence that, just before Peter opens up the doors to such a kingdom to the gentiles, we read two stories of Peter doing the same miracles as Jesus? We need to read these two stories into the next chapter, so that we might understand that this is the sort of kingdom and life which the gentiles are about to receive through the forgiveness of Christ.


The Narrow-Angled Lens: Receiving His Kingdom and His Ministry

Now, we’ve done a lot of dancing around our passage this morning up to this point, in order to place Peter’s miracles into the greater context of Acts, and of Christ’s kingdom. The context of these two stories draw us to remember that the kingdom which Christ opened up to us through Peter is a kingdom of life, not death. It’s a kingdom of peace, not suffering or pain. Even though we do suffer now, we might remember Paul’s words in Romans 8:18, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” And of course, we do have rich blessings in Christ now—we have his peace, his forgiveness, his comfort, his personal ministry to us so that we might endure this world in the strength and peace which he supplies.


In fact, as we now look at the actual stories we’ve been dancing around this morning, that’s exactly what we’re going to see. In the apostle Peter, as he’s ministering to Aeneas and Tabitha, we see a striking resemblance of Jesus’s ministry to us. 


Let me ask you something. When you read these two stories—do you at all find yourself saying, “hmm, that sounds a lot like Jesus’s miracles and ministry”? It sounds exactly like one of Jesus’s miracles—and, I’ll draw out for us some of the more nuanced parallels for us in a moment. But, let me just point something out for us real quick before we begin. On the one hand, Peter’s apostolic ministry and healings should look a lot like Jesus’s ministry because it is Jesus’s ministry. Peter is Jesus’s apostle—his ambassador. He’s healing “in Jesus’s name”, preaching “in Jesus’s name”—on his behalf. So, that’s a bit more of an obvious reason why we might expect Peter’s ministry to look a lot like Jesus’s ministry in the gospels. 


But let me remind you that Peter wasn’t just one of Jesus’s disciples—he was in Jesus’s inner three disciples of Peter, James, and John. Jesus’s most intimate, delicate moments of ministry were witnessed only by Peter, James, and John—the other 9 disciples were excluded from those moments. For our intents and purposes here, I’ll simply point out that perhaps the most delicate and intimate resurrection story in the gospels—when Jesus raises little Talitha, a 12 year old girl—Jesus only permitted Peter, James, and John to come with him. Peter uniquely saw Jesus ministering in the most delicate situations, and as a result, I think we uniquely see Jesus shining through his student Peter in our passage this morning. This isn’t so much a story about Peter’s ministry—it’s a picture of Jesus’s ministry to us, even as he brings his kingdom of life to us through Peter.


How Jesus’s Ministry to Us is Shown in Peter

So, let me quickly point out a few ways Jesus’s ministry and care are shining through his student, Peter, this morning. 


Jesus’s Ministry is Available

First, look at how Peter is first presented to us in this passage, in verse 32. “Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda”. That’s describing Peter as a sort of itinerate leader of the church, visiting the various churches that were being planted across the land. Remember the effect that Saul’s recent conversion had on the church, described in the verse prior (verse 31), “the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied”.  Saul, the great enemy of the church, had been converted. The Lord was spreading his kingdom through extraordinary means. So, it would seem that the leaders of the church who were still stationed in Jerusalem sent Peter out to encourage the young churches.


The point I want to illustrate at this point, quite simply, is a huge part of Peter’s ministry—and he learned this from Jesus—was to make himself available to the people. Jesus—and Peter after him—was completely available to the people, as they both made a habit of going from town to town, ministering God’s life-giving blessings right out in public, to be approached by anyone who was desperate enough for healing. It’s a huge contrast to most important leaders today—and even then, if you might think how unapproachable the pharisees and priests may have been. If you want even a doctor’s consult, you need to go through a reception’s office, and with some means to pay the hospital. Not so with Jesus. Not so with Peter. I’m reminded of how the crowds literally pushed Jesus right off the beach at Galilee, so that he had he preach from a boat where nobody could reach him. Or perhaps you remember the story in Mark 5. After Jesus crossed the sea of galilee, a man implored Jesus to come with him to his house to heal his dying daughter. Jesus agreed, and joined the man on the journey to his house. On the way, a woman who had a discharge of blood for 12 years touched his tunic. She was healed instantly. Yet, in a stunning turn of events, Jesus took time to call her out from the crowd, and call her “daughter”. Then, he proceeded to the man’s house, only to raise his 12 year old daughter—again, Talitha—from the dead. 


This isn’t just an itinerate ministry, we’re talking about here. Jesus and the apostles weren’t just itinerate—mobile, on the move. They were totally available to all who desired life and healing. Think about how our story in Acts 9 progresses. It bears a striking resemblance to that chain of events I just described in Mark 5, concerning Jesus and Talitha, and the woman with the flow of blood. After Peter healed Aeneas, the word spread to the adjacent town of Joppa where a beloved widow had died. Look at verse 38, and consider the eagerness Peter was to be available to all who desired the king’s blessings. “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.” Peter didn’t have plans to go to Joppa. He was asked to go there to deliver one lady from death—just as Jesus was asked to go to Jairus’s house to deliver one little girl from death. It reminds me of what Jesus said in Matthew 18:12— “If a man has a hundredsheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?”. 


The kingdom of God—even the king with all his blessings of peace, protection, and forgiveness—is readily available to all who would receive Christ through faith and repentance. That’s good news for us, today. But Peter doesn’t remind us that Jesus’s ministry is always available to us. He reminds us that Jesus’s ministry truly is powerful.


Jesus’s Ministry is Powerful

Verse 33 of our passage—There [in Lydda, Peter] found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.’ And immediately he rose”. That’s power, is it not? Then, verse 40—Peter “knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body, he said ‘Tabitha, arise’, and she opened her eyes, and … she sat up.” We’ve already pointed out that these miracles remind us of our eternal hope, when Christ’s kingdom will finally bring forth a new heavens and a new earth where mourning, sickness, disease, and death will be completely gone. However, don’t miss the simple fact that this is the powerful ministry of Jesus at work, here. While raising the dead was a unique miracle that he gave his apostles to perform, do not forget that the same Jesus is powerfully ministering to us from his throne in heaven, through his peace-instilling forgiveness and his transformative Word and Spirit. While your sin or your trials may seem big when you look at them, do not forget the powerful ministry Christ is offering to you for your peace, joy, comfort, and victory over sin. In Peter’s ministry, we are reminded that Jesus’s ministry is available, and powerful. But it’s also merciful.


Jesus’s Ministry is Merciful

It was a mercy that Peter made himself available—to travel to Joppa, was it not? More than this, however, consider the tender, merciful, delicate hand which Peter put forward in this sensitive moment. As he arrives in Joppa, he’s greeted by all who loved Tabitha. She was a widow who “was full of good works and acts of charity” (verse 36). So her husband had died—probably meaning she was older. But more than this, she worked with kitting, sewing, and textiles (dare I say that’s another indicator of her age?). As Peter walked into the venue, all the widows were weeping, and they showed him all the beautiful garments Tabitha made. This is personal. Peter knew it. He sent everyone out of the room in order to communicate how sacred this moment was, he said a prayer, and spoke two words: “Tabitha, arise”. Then, we’re told that “he gave her his hand and raised her up”, and he “presented her alive”. I almost get the picture of a groom presenting a bride, hand-in-hand, with pride and joy. 


Do you see the merciful, delicate hand of Peter here? Do you see the merciful, delicate hand of Christ? Peter learned this from Christ! Read Mark 5, how Jesus raised Talitha from the dead with the same care—caressing the 12 year old girls hand, and almost whispering into her hear, “Talitha cumi, which means little girl, I say to you, arise” (Mark 5:41). Is Jesus tender and merciful toward us—or, does he strike us down with a heavy stick when we’re helpless and overcome by our sin and suffering? He makes himself available, doesn’t he? He took on our flesh, died for our sin, and intercedes on our behalf through his Spirit with groaning too deep for words. What a mercy. 


Through Peter’s ministry, we see that Jesus’s ministry is available, powerful, and merciful. One last one—it’s indiscriminate. 


Jesus’s Ministry is Indiscriminate

After Tabitha’s resurrection from the dead, we’re told in verse 43 that Peter “stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner”. Peter stayed with a tanner, of all people. That’s a significant detail. Tanners were tanners of leather—they dealt with dead animals. By Jewish standards, their profession made and their home them unclean. Peter didn’t care, did he? He stayed with the tanner “for many days”. Before meeting Jesus, Peter would have cared. But, Peter had 3 years of seeing Jesus touching leppers, talking to Samaritan women, and doing just about every unclean thing you can think of by Jewish standards. No doubt, some of that indiscriminate ministry had rubbed off onto Peter—and this only sets us up for our story next week in chapter 10, where Peter gains full clarity on this matter. The kingdom is for everyone who might receive the king—God shows no partiality.


Receive Jesus’s Kingdom and Ministry

So brothers and sisters, Christ’s kingdom of life is offered to you in this passage from the wide-angle perspective. It is our hope—that Christ is offering life, forgiveness, and eternal blessings to the nations. Yet as we narrow into the story, we see even more of Jesus. We see that in his ministry to us, he is available, powerful, merciful, and indiscriminate. Let this fill your hearts and minds with peace, comfort, and a readiness to seek him through prayer and his word. 

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