Rev. Erik Veerman
Jesus Christ Heals You, Arise
We’ve been working our way through the book of Acts over the last 4-5 months, except for a brief break at Advent. And it’s been helpful, hasn’t it? Especially as a church plant.
The reason we’ll mainly go through books of the Bible… is that God in his providence has given us his Word. His very Word.
• And so our philosophy here is we start with God’s word…
• and we seek to understand it considering what was happening at the time, who the human author was, his and God’s purpose in writing …and then how that applies to us today.
• Some passages are more about what to believe and others are more about how to respond
• Overall… God’s word covers the breadth of human experience and sin… and who God is and his call for us to respond
• On the other side of the spectrum is topical preaching. Starting with… what’s the current situation or pattern of sin, and then seeing what the Bible says about it.
• It can be helpful at times… but it mises out on the breadth of Gods word. And is often limited by a pastor’s interests and views.
• Now, I do plan to occasionally preach a topical sermon. I haven’t yet.
• But when we study the breadth of the Scriptures, we’re following the pattern of the apostle Paul. He said to the Ephesian elders that he preached to them the “whole counsel of God.” That’s what we’ll strive to attain.
• Some of you are probably thinking “you’re kind of giving us a topical sermon before the sermon”
• I am. The reason is… sometimes as we’re working through texts of scripture, we may come across something where it may be good to get a broader perspective.
• I did that last summer in Romans 8 when we got to the verse on predestined and called and justified and glorified. You may remember that.
• Well this morning, I want to do that with miracles. Spend the first half of our time broadly talking about miracles and then getting to the specifics.
I’m hoping and have been praying that you’ll find that helpful. This passage is very encouraging.
Reading of Acts 9:32-43
In 2016, a professor at a small Christian college was on a trip to Israel. While there, he felt God was leading him to heal people. As he describes it, God had given him visions of a woman on a park bench who had a herniated disc, someone under a bridge with a knee injury, a man with glasses who had a patch over his eye, a woman in a wheelchair, and a man with a back injury using a crutch. He recounted that he found each of them… prayed for them and God healed each of them. In fact, he wrote that those were only the first people that God would have him heal that week. What do you make of that?
Or take a different kind of miracle. A sad but hopeful story. A couple of years ago, a young mom and her infant daughter slid off an icy bridge. Their car plunged into and was partially submerged in fridgid waters below. No one witnessed the accident. It wasn’t until 14 hours later while multiple officers were searching for the car… they heard the distinct voice of a woman calling for help. The voice led them right to the car… but when they approached, they found that the young mom had passed away on impact, but her young baby daughter had survived. Despite the freezing temperatures the child was in good health, still strapped into her seat. But there was no other woman who could have called out.
Do miracles happen today? There are certainly a range of views.
You may know someone who doesn’t believe in miracles at all. Or you may know someone who claims to have the gift of healing or who has seen someone healed by someone else. I’m talking outside of doctors and medicine.
Well, which one is it or is it somewhere in the middle? How should we be thinking about miracles, including miracles in the Bible? But most important – why does this matter in your life? Do these two miracles in Acts have any relevance to you? My goal this morning is to answer all those questions. Especially the last one. Because they do have relevance.
We’ve already seen other miracles in Acts, like the man healed at the temple gate – remember that back in chapter 3. Or the description of the disciples and Philip performing signs and wonders, chapter 5 and 8. Or chapter 8, Philip, after baptizing the Ethiopian, being miraculously transported to another city. We’ve seen those things, but we haven’t really delved into the question of miracles.
This seems the best place to answer these for multiple reasons. These two accounts are pretty clear and descriptive and amazing. One of them, Tabitha, who had already died was raised from the dead. The miracle of miracle.
To give us some structure, lets approach these questions at three levels.
• First, miracles in the Bible, and very specifically Acts. What is the purpose of these miracles? This will lead to some answers about miracles today.
• Second, which is a related point… Jesus’ role in miracles? We’ll especially consider Christ’s reign in heaven, and his ongoing ministry on earth. Well, that also has relevance to when and how miracles take place today.
• And the third point… the connection of these miracles in Acts 9 to you and me. The hope they give us.
And each of these points connects in one way or another to a resurrection – to being raised from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection, Tabitha’s resurrection, and our resurrection. That last point is especially encouraging for us in the here and now.
So again, First, The purpose of miracles in the Bible and Acts. Second, Jesus’ role in miracles, in Acts and ongoing. And third, these miracles and us – the hope they bring.
1.) Miracles in the Bible and Acts
As you may know, these miracles in Acts are not the first miracles in the Bible. No, there are many recorded miracles all throughout the Old Testament… especially Moses in Egypt and the wilderness.
In the books of 1 and 2 Kings we’re told of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Between the two of them, you can read of about 40 miracles. For example, Elijah met a widow and prayed that her jar of flour and jug of oil wouldn’t run out… and it didn’t. He would also raise this same woman’s son from the dead, and later call down fire from heaven upon false prophets, plus many more.
And Elisha, who came right after Elijah, performed even more. Elijah prepared the way for Elisha’s ministry. Elisha healed Naaman who had leprosy; he parted the Jordan river; he prayed and caused the Syrian army to go blind and then to receive their sight again. Elisha also raised a young boy from the dead. He caused an iron axe head to float in the water, and many others.
I bring these up because they are connected to Jesus and to Acts. Jump over to Luke 7, which we read earlier and is printed in your bulletin. It’s about John the Baptist. He is the last prophet, of sorts… prophesying about Christ. John the Baptist had come in the power of Elijah. They both are connected.
And in Luke 7, John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he is the Christ – the promised one. That’s a straight forward question isn’t it? But Jesus never gives a straightforward answer. A simple “yes” would have sufficed. But instead, and this is printed on page 2 of your bulletin – Luke 7:18-23. It says, “at that hour Jesus healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits.” And then Jesus answers John’s disciples. He said, “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.”
Now, we would probably think, “ok, is that a yes?”
But for John the Baptist, not only was Jesus answering “yes” …it was a resounding “yes.”
Jesus was saying to John the Baptist, “you came in the power of Elijah… well I am the one whom you prepared the way for… I’m the promised Elisha. I fulfilled his promises. And all these miracles… they testify to me as the promised one. Elisha healed in the name of the Lord, but I heal in my own name.”
Jesus’ miracles testified to his fulfilled promises and his kingdom, which has come. It’s the same thing with the prophecy of Isaiah 35. It says, “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”
And Isaiah 35 is not prophesying only about the miracles that Jesus would do. It’s not specific. It’s prophesying about all the miracles that would come in Acts. They all testify to the Salvation that has come. Salvation and miracles are prophesied together In Isaiah’s prophecy. He says… “For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert… And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness.” And then, it says “the ransom of the Lord shall… come to Zion.”
Here’s what I’m saying. The miracles by Jesus and by the apostles… and by Elijah and Elisha… and by Moses… really, all the miracles in the Scriptures. They have a very specific purpose. They are not just amazing things that God has done, no, they either point to God and his salvation and power, or they testify to God’s anointed messengers.
Here, the miracles of Jesus and the apostles demonstrate the fulfillment of the promises and prophecies. They fulfill Isaiah 35 and Elijah and Elisha’s promise. They show that God’s kingdom has come.
If you remember back in Acts chapter 1. Jesus answered his disciples’ question about the kingdom by saying this: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth” Right after that, Jesus first ascended to heaven, so he’s reigning as King of his kingdom. And a few weeks later, they received the Holy Spirit and his power – which is the ongoing ministry of Christ. We’ll come back to that in a couple minutes.
You see, one of the thing we’ve seen in every chapter of Acts is this: The events are not random highlights of the early church. No, Luke, the author, has included them because they have significance – they are part of God redemptive plan – significant parts.
• We saw that with Pentecost – the giving of the Holy Spirit and the extensions of that.
• Luke has also highlighted how the Gospel was going to Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, now to the ends of the earth.
Everything has been intentional and has a purpose… including the miracles. The miracles in Acts show that God’s kingdom has come. God’s kingdom has been inaugurated. In our country, every time we elect a president, there’s a special ceremony. What’s it called? An inauguration. It marks the beginning of the president’s role as leader. It commences his administration.
Similar thing here. The miracles in the Gospel accounts and Acts celebrate that Jesus has come and inaugurated his kingdom.
What I’m saying is that signs and wonders and healing are unique occurrences in the early church and with the apostles. This special gift – the gift of miracles - was for that time and place. And we have the benefit of hearing of their testimony and knowing that the Kingdom of God in Christ had come… Jesus’ Kingdom is now established.
Now, before you go post on social media that your pastor doesn’t believe in miracles. Well, I do. I believe that miracles happen today. I’m on the cautious side, I’ll say… because as CS Lewis, the late well known British philosopher, put it, “the question whether miracles occur should never be answered simply by experience. Every event,” he said, “which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses.” And, our senses can deceive us. But Lewis did believe in miracles because he believed in a reality beyond nature – the sovereign God of the universe.
I make a separation between someone having the gift of miraculous healing – which I don’t believe that gift continued beyond the New Testament… and from God intervening in his world and bringing healing. I believe he does, today. We pray as a church for healing. For miraculous healing. [Quote #2] Everything that God made is his – and he can certainly supernaturally affect things in his world.
So that’s the bigger context of miracles in the Bible and Acts. Now, there’s lots more that I could say, but hopefully that gives you a grid to use as you think about miracles.
2.) Miracles and the role of Jesus (and the apostles)
Let’s transition now and talk more about Acts 9.
And kids, I’m really really sorry to tell you this… but when your mom tells you to make your bed. Well, it’s actually in the Bible. Look in the middle of verse 34 – Peter tells Aeneus… “rise and make your bed.” No more excuses!
Ok, we’re on to the second point now. Mainly about Jesus’ role in miracles… but first a note about Peter and Paul’s role in the church.
We’ve just transitioned here from Saul’s conversion. Saul of Tarsus – the apostle Paul. Yet, Luke takes us back to Peter. Why? Well, a couple reasons. For one, it’s the chronological thing that happens. But also, Luke is demonstrating that Paul and Peter, the two leading apostles, are aligned.
• It’s interesting. Paul is the great apostle to the Gentiles - the ends of the earth. Yet he is a Jew of Jews. And he begins his ministry to them – proving and proclaiming Christ.
• And Peter, on the other hand, is the great apostle to the Jews, the Hebrews – yet God is about to, in the next chapter, show Peter that the Gospel is for all nations – and Peter’s going to participate in that.
It’s the same Gospel, and they are both leaders in the church.
So, here we have Peter, and as it says in verse 32, he was going in and out among them. He was travelling around to minister to and encourage the believers.
Peter was near the Mediterranean coast - west of Jerusalem. He was visiting believers first in Lydda and then nearby Joppa. Jappa, if it sounds familiar, was where Jonah lived – it’s just outside of modern-day Tel Aviv. And Peter met this believer in Christ named Aeneas. He had been paralyzed for eight years. And Peter said to him, verse 34: “’Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.’ And immediately he rose”
Peter was clear about this. He doesn’t have the power to heal. No, it was the power of Christ.
Does this miracle sound familiar to you? It may. It very closely resembles the miracle that Jesus performed in Mark 2 - Jesus raising the paralytic. The man who was lowered down from the roof. After he healed the man, Jesus said to him “Rise, take up your mat and walk” Very similar to what Peter said
And the second miracle… it’s also similar to another miracle of Jesus. After Peter prayed for Tabitha, he said to her “Tabitha, arise.” That‘s almost identical to Jesus brining Jairus’s daughter back to life. He said to her “Talitha, get up!”
You see, these two miracles in Acts point to the ministry of Jesus. Both his former ministry on earth and his ongoing ministry in heaven – his role in healing.
As we’ve worked through Acts, you may remember, we’ve been talking about Jesus’ ongoing ministry from heaven through the Holy Spirit. And when we compare Jesus’ heavenly ministry to his earthly ministry, there’s a big difference.
• When Jesus walked the earth… his ministry of miracles and granting faith occurred where he was at the specific time he was there. In one sense, his ministry was limited in that regard.
• But as the ascended Christ, working through his Holy Spirit…. Jesus’ ministry now is greatly expanded… it’s not limited by his physical presence.
So in Acts… Jesus was working his miracles through the disciples and the Holy Spirit, no matter where they were. That’s part of what Luke is demonstrating in these miracles. The Holy Spirit is the agent of Christ’s ongoing work.
And for you and for me... What a tremendous encouragement! Right now, Jesus is in heaven… but if you are a believer in Christ, Jesus is ministering to you and me through his Holy Spirit. He is at work everywhere… at the same time. His ongoing ministry didn’t stop at the end of Acts, no, Jesus continues his work in us through His Spirit.
Here’s a quick summary so far: the miracles in the Bible and Acts demonstrate that Jesus had come. His kingdom had come. And, in fact, Jesus is the one who heals! He’s not there in the flesh – no, he was resurrected and then ascended to heaven. But Jesus continues his ministry through his Holy Spirit. And Peter and Paul – as apostles, they had special roles, but their miracles and their apostleship came to an end with the New Testament.
3.) These Miracles offer hope both now and in the future
And that brings us to point 3. The hope for us in these miracles.
This is a very emotional text. Tabitha – that was her Greek name. Dorcas was her Aramaic name translated into Greek.
Tabitha was dearly loved. And she overflowed with love… with acts of mercy for everyone. Even the two men that came to Peter… urged him to come. And so Peter came to Jappa.
• They were all sad.
• They were all grieving.
• Yes, they were Christians, they knew she was in the presence of Christ, but they were weeping because they dearly missed her.
“Peter, look at what she made me. This beautiful tunic. This scarf she knitted for me is so precious.” Peter was likely filled with a passion for them and a sadness for Tabitha’s death.
Jesus wept when Lazarus died… even though he knew he would raise Lazarus from the grave just moments later.
So what does Peter do? He does the same thing he did before Jesus healed the paralyzed man. He prays. And then he looked at Tabitha’s body. By the way, she was definitely dead. They had already prepared her body and anointed her with perfumes. And that’s when Peter says , “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes…. And Peter raised her with his hand, verse 41. And Peter presented her, alive, to them.
Can you imagine how much rejoicing there was? The word spread throughout the area. Christ was proclaimed and more people believed.
But, do you want to know something? If you go to Jappa today – it’s now called Jaffa. You will find an historic site called Tabitha’s Tomb.
But wait! She was resurrected! Right?! She was, but eventually she passed again from this world. I’ve always thought that it must have been a bummer to die twice. Lazarus, Tabitha, the widow’s son.
But, beloved, even though she died again… it doesn’t take away from the hope we have in her resurrection. Rather, I would say just the opposite for two reasons:
First, it illustrates that God cares for your whole being. Both of these miracles point to that. God cares for your body which includes your mind, and your soul. God cares for you when you are in pain and in sorrow. And you can pray for healing… and pray for a miracle. And can seek help and medical attention. You can and we should because the God of the universe made you, body and soul. He cares for your whole person. Jesus’ healing here of Aeneas and his raising of Tabitha points to God’s concern for your whole being.
The first hope is this: When you are physical or mentally hurting… weighed down… including grief like the grief of Tabitha’s friends. God in Christ can lift you up… and remind you of his love and care through all your pain. He understands. Hope for the now.
And here’s the second hope. A future hope. Tabitha’s resurrection points to your future resurrection. If you are in Christ… a future resurrection to heaven… to Jesus’ very presence in eternity. A future physical bodily resurrection for you because of Jesus’ physical bodily resurrection. The miracle of Tabitha’s resurrection points to the miracle of your future resurrection… if you believe in what Christ has done for you on the cross… and how he conquered the grave. Hope for the future.
You see, this hope here in these two miracles… it’s a both-and hope, a now and future hope. These miracles give us hope BOTH for the now – our present physical affliction and burdens and grief – AND hope for the future healing of our whole being in Christ.
So as we learn of the miracles of Aeneous healed and Tabitha raised…
May we see that God’s kingdom in Christ has come…
May we know of Jesus ongoing ministry through His Spirit, praying for and believing in God’s healing.
And may we have hope through our sickness and in our future resurrection. All because of the resurrected and ascended and reigning Christ – our savior – and his continuing ministry in our lives and through out the world.