Luke’s story about the conversion of Saul (Paul) has just concluded (Luke 9:1-30). So Luke comes back to Peter who is just outside Jerusalem to introduce the spread of Christianity to the Gentiles. The Aeneas miracle story (Luke 9:32-35) and our story intend to make it clear that Peter has power through Jesus Christ to begin the mission to the Gentiles. These miracle stories are an introduction to the oft repeated Cornelius, a Gentile, and Peter story in Luke 10:1ff.
The location of our story necessitated calling Peter to come from Lydda, in the Hebrew Bible it is called Lod and which is less than 15 miles southeast of Jerusalem, to Joppa. This is the contemporary city called Jaffa, which in its history was an important Philistine and maritime city on the Mediterranean Sea. Joppa was about 12 miles from Lydda so not an impossible distance given the urgency of the request.
Peter arrives goes to an upper room and finds this very devoted woman disciple, Tabitha (Greek Dorcas), being prepared for burial. All of those present were in deep distress because Tabitha had helped them and many others. Peter tells them to go outside. He kneels and prays. He says to her to get up and she does. The clear signal from Luke, the writer of both the gospel and Acts, is that prayer is what healed her. Furthermore just as with the previous story where it is explicitly said, “Jesus Christ heals” (Acts 9:34), here it says, “many believed in the Lord” (Acts 9:42). By virtue of the fact that these miracle stories are reminiscent of the great OT stories of Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:32-37) the reader has confirmed Peter’s prophetic ministry.
I am struck by the fact that here at the beginning of the mission to the Gentiles there is this sense of urgency. One way it is depicted in our story is through Peter’s call by the disciples who knew he was nearby. Peter senses the urgency. He wastes no time in departing. He arrives and without hesitation goes into action. Just as he did at the beginning of Acts when there was a need to replace Judas with Matthais (Acts 1:12-26). As well the depiction of Peter seems to follow in an almost parallel fashion many of the actions that Luke relates to Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. Certainly the church that emerges in the two books of Luke and Acts not only is depicted as a pluralistic community but one that is guided by an urgency to see the Holy Spirit at work in empowering the church.
How do we retain that urgency in 2013 Eastertide?