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Tabitha

Updated: Mar 18



the SimplyRevised Podcast



Sometimes, we think an extensive ministry or program is necessary to share Christ effectively. Without a program, we likely do not consider what we do as ministry or an effective way to share Christ with others. How could something so insignificant be compelling? 


I would like to share with you about a woman who had an extensive impact in her community using the smallest of tools. Tools that she had in her hands. As we continue our series, Bearing Witness, let's look at the example of Tabitha in Acts 9. We are considering the lives of several women we read about in the New Testament. In looking at their stories and reading these accounts, I hope we learn from their lives as we discover their significance in the gospel and early church communities. We began our series by noticing Mary Magdalene. Her story is a story of redemption, transformation, and devotion. Last week, we considered Lydia: a businesswoman, a leader, a woman who cultivated a receptive and generous heart. In Tabitha's life, we discover the importance of sewing kindness to those around us. 


Discovering The Text


Acts 9:36–43 (NIV)

"In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, "Please come at once!" 39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. 40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, "Tabitha, get up." She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon."


Acts is a follow-up to Luke's Gospel and picks up where the Gospel of Luke leaves off. It has sometimes been called "Acts of the Apostles," and Luke provides the purpose of this volume in the opening sentences. Jesus commissions His disciples to share His message to the ends of the earth. 


Acts 1:8 (NIV)

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."


Acts follows this pattern as the message of Jesus goes out from Jerusalem. The first half of Acts follows the Apostle Peter, whereas the second half of the letter focuses on the Apostle Paul and his mission to the nations. In chapter 9, where we find the account of Tabitha, we trace Peter's steps. Peter is in Lydda (Acts 9:32), about 10 miles inland of Jappa, where Tabitha lives. Peter has been proclaiming the good news of Jesus and healing people through the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:32-35). Many people in this region turn to the Lord through his ministry (Acts 9:35). When Tabitha became sick and died, the disciples, in Jappa, sent for Peter since he was nearby (Acts 9:38). 


Tabitha Get Up


When Peter arrived, he was taken upstairs, where widows had gathered around Tabitha, mourning her loss. With words much like the famous words of Jesus, "Lazzarth come forth" (Jn. 11:43), Peter says to Tabitha, "get up." 


Acts 9:40–42 (NIV)

"Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, "Tabitha, get up." She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord."


Making An Impact


Tabitha's impact was from the smallest tools in her hands: thread, a needle, and a thimble. However, in her hands, she sewed kindness to those around her. Her small act had a tremendous impact on the lives of others. Tabitha sewed and stitched garments for the poor and widowed. 


Today, we can take for granted the social safety nets we have. From hospitals to unemployment assistance, food programs, and disaster relief, although not perfect, we have access to assistance if needed. In the first century, many were without access to assistance. The significance of family and communities was relied on. Many relied on the support of generosity, hospitality, and kindness of others in times of need. 


God has always valued this type of generosity and kindness. In the Old Testament, Israel was instructed to show grace to the poor and the foreigner. 


Leviticus 19:9–10 (NIV)

"When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God."


Jesus reflected this principle as He taught the importance of caring for those in need around us.


Matthew 25:35–36 (NIV)

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."


The early church community and the Apostles continued caring for the poor, widowed, and orphaned. In (Acts 6:1-7), we read about the daily food distribution to the widowed. Later, the church is instructed about caring for those in need. In (1 Timothy 5:3-16), Paul guides Timothy in caring for widows within the church community. He outlines criteria for supporting widows, including familial responsibility, age, character, and need considerations. In doing so, Paul acknowledges the church's commitment to care for those who are genuinely in need and have no other means of support.


Care for those in need has always been a purpose reflected in the character of God, Jesus, and the church community. Tabitha continued this commitment as she sewed garments for those in need in her community. A seemingly small and insignificant act of kindness and generosity that had a tremendous impact. 


Crossing The Context


What do we learn from Tabitha? Sew kindness to those around us. We may not all be good with a needle and thread; that's not the point. Tabitha's significance is that she used what she had: her talents, resources, and time. Her kindness overflowed to those around her, and she impacted her community. Her generosity grew from a single thread to the fabric that stitched a community together. What she did was express the love of God through a needle and thread.


What can you do? Look around your community; where is a need? Sew kindness to those around you. Consider donating your time to a local shelter or food bank. Get to know people in your community. Visit local businesses and say "hello" to those you interact with. Over time, you build relationships that have an impact. Buy someone's coffee or a meal, and take the opportunity to be generous. 


Some of you have card ministries, some ensure flowers are offered in times of difficulty, and some ensure the Lord's Supper is prepared and the building is welcoming for worship. These are all ways we can serve and be generous. At times, it may be unseen, but they make an impact.


Where you have the opportunity:


sew kindness to those around us




notes:

Scripture references and quotations are from the: Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.



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