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Healing of Tabitha from Acts
On Thursday, some goslings hatched. We can hear their tiny cheeps from the back corner of the shed, some bright yellow fluff is visible from below mother goose but as yet we cannot see how many there are, nor discern anything of their characters. As they grow though they will little by little come into view, firstly within the shed, then just on the threshold, eating and drinking close by the nest, then still with tiny feet and fluffy heads they will follow mum into the field, never really straying far from her protecting wings; she will show them the drinking places, all the best patches of grass and before long they will thrive as tall long necked yellow birds uninhibited, unbridled and full of vigour for exploration.
The church, newly hatched in the fear of the upper room grew too in this gradual way. Witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection, baptized in the Holy Spirit, Peter first heals in the name of Jesus the man begging at the Temple gate known as Beautiful. Then all the people are astonished, but soon the apostles are performing many miraculous signs and wonders, and as a result people brought the sick into the streets laying them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by on his way to Solomon’s colonnade where the believers used to meet.
Now, all these things took place in Jerusalem, close to the church’s birthplace whilst today’s account of the raising of Tabitha is important not simply for the scale of the miracle but because it takes place so to speak away from the shed door. Luke, the writer of Acts, is presenting us with the astonishing early history the first days and months of the church, how it will spread geographically from Galilee to the centre of the then civilised world in Rome and demographically from the Jews to all peoples of the earth. Today in Joppa, we see that the disciples to whom Jesus gave power to perform miracles in his name are beginning to reach out to the borders of Judea and beyond. Joppa is now the port called Jaffa, a suburb of Tel Aviv, only a few miles from Lydda. Tabitha’s friends, knowing that Peter was there, send for him. Rather than bury Tabitha, they wash her and prepare her but then lay her in the upper room hoping for Peter to come, hoping for a miracle; the time for doctors was past but it was not too late to send for Peter.
Luke spends time explaining that Tabitha was a Jewish Christian disciple (this is the only time in the New Testament that the feminine Greek form of this word is used.) He explains that she performed many charitable works including, we might interpret, making the clothes for the widows.
Like Jesus, when he healed Jarius’ daughter, Peter sent the crowds away, then notice, he knelt and prayed. Throughout all the earlier miracles, that I have mentioned Peter insisted that the power of healing was from Jesus Christ, not any power of his own so here he kneels, a clear sign of honour and servitude. He kneels, prays and only then “turns towards the dead woman.” I don’t think this means that he had his back to her but that he first turns to Jesus for guidance and empowerment before bringing his attention to Tabitha. This miracle is presented to the believers and the widows, becomes known all over Joppa and “many people believed in the Lord.”
The church is growing, becoming strong, Peter will go on to convert Gentiles, and he shall be the rock upon which the church is founded, upon whose tomb the great basilica of the pontiffs is to be built in Rome.
Form the little goslings with the grace of God great flocks were to be born and take flight.