The Path of Peter to all Peoples; Part 1

Acts 9:32-43

Now it came about that as Peter was traveling through all those parts, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years, for he was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; arise, and make your bed.” And immediately he arose. And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. Now in Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity, which she continually did. And it came about at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room. And since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, entreating him, “Do not delay to come to us.” And Peter arose and went with them. And when he had come, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him weeping, and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them. But Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. And it came about that he stayed many days in Joppa with a certain tanner, Simon.

Location, location, location and people. Peter, Stephan, Philip, Paul and now back to Peter. Luke, as we have discussed, writes in a semi-chronological way but will zoom in and out on certain aspects and people, then continue chronologically. Luke is less concerned with time than he is with location, people and the acts of the apostles. Luke first presented Peter and John along with the other apostles in the very early days after Christ’s resurrection. Then he zooms in on the early church, then Stephan, Philip, Paul and is now back focusing on Peter. The exact timing, we don’t know, probably within a few years after Christ’s departure but we do know the locations. Notice how Luke segways from Paul to Peter.

“Now it came about that as Peter was traveling through all those parts, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda.” Context is king and by way of reminder, let’s go back a verse. “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and, going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.” As Peter travelled, ministering and proclaiming Jesus as the Christ, as he was supposed to do in Judea and Samaria, he came to Lydda, close to the boarder of Judea and Samaria just off the coast of the Mediterranean.

Lydda is a Latin name, transliterated  from the Greek–it has been anglicized–things change. Luke and all New Testament writers, wrote in Koine Greek. Many Jews in that day were Hellenistic Jews and they spoke Greek. Despite the claims from the outer fringe of dogmatic dispensationalist that the entire Bible was written in Hebrew, it wasn’t. Not even the entire Old Testament was written in Hebrew. Greco-Roman culture abounds during the New-Testament times. Yet as we saw during the day of Pentecost, many different languages and dialects were spoken in the region. We have seen arguments between the native born and the hellenistic Jews, an Ethiopian eunuch and Samaritans among other people, all in a mini melting-pot. Nevertheless, Rome ruled the region. Therefore, Lydda was the Greek name for the old Jewish, more accurately, Benjamite, town of Lod. Although the town of Lod has changed hands several times throughout its incredible history, it exists to this day. It is located next to Tel Aviv, to the southeast.

Now, l don’t know why I wrote all of that boring, superfluous stuff, hopefully it will be useful as we walk the path of Peter. He was in Jerusalem and went to Samaria with John. Considering the context, Luke’s aspiration is for the reader to realize Peter roamed the region. He probably returned to Jerusalem often, as we have seen and will see later in the book of Acts and because it was home-base for the apostles–for now. Also, the text reads that “he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda.” Down doesn’t indicate south, but descending from Jerusalem. It appears that Peter would do mini missionary journeys. And we now see him in the town of Lydda. “And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years, for he was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; arise, and make your bed.’ And immediately he arose. And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.”

Eight years in bed; even if Aeneas, wasn’t paralyzed, he still wouldn’t be able to walk due to atrophy. Eight years without walking! I drive 4 hours twice a week and I have trouble getting out of my truck. My point: the people present were correct in turning to the Lord, it is another, absolutely amazing anomaly which we call a miracle. I love living today; fastfood, fast cars, smartphones, mp3 players, microwave ovens, hot water on demand, pizza, toilets that flush, flannel shirts, steel toed boots, electric guitars, take-out Asian cuisine, books, cold drinks, couches and the like, not to mention that the Bible is at our fingertips at any given moment. Nevertheless, I would have loved to have been present at even one of these miracles. Eight years and he immediately walks. It takes me minutes to get my legs going after a four hour drive. But Aeneas, he pops right up and makes his bed after being in it for eight years. It is no wonder that the people of Sharon and Lydda looked toward the Lord. It’s also no wonder that folks flock to false faith-healers today. God can heal whomever he chooses, whenever he wants, but millions of dollars are wasted on false healings. More than the money, they’re pushing many away with their false fruits.

Not far away from Lydda and Sharon is Joppa, another name which has been anglicized, Joppa, or Jaffa, or Yafo, is located in the south of Tel Aviv. All this to say what Luke already wrote, Joppa was nearby Lydda. Therefore it comes as no surprise that the people present spread the word that Peter was near, performing miracles. As it turns out, at that time, people in Joppa needed a miracle of their own.

“Now in Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity, which she continually did. And it came about at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room. And since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, entreating him, ‘Do not delay to come to us.'” I have yet to hear of a mega-church pastor having raised one from the dead or eight years paralyzed, immediately walking. It’s always dramatic! First they try to get up, a little bit shaky but slowly they rise, trembling, knees knocking. Eventually an usher will take away their walker and force them to walk… It’s such a scripted farce. Peter was much less melodramatic–he said get up and they got up. No fanfare or forehead slapping. Instant and complete healing. Look at Aeneas and Tabitha–simple, fast and effective.

I love Tabitha, what a wonderful woman as described by Luke. She abounded with good deeds and charity. Continually she was meeting the needs of others. Yet, I admit I hate her Greek name; Dorcas. Tabitha is a beautiful name, how it translates to Dorcas is beyond me. Actually it’s not but I have trouble connecting the dots. Tabitha means Gazelle and Dorcas means Gazelle, but still, I would have called her Tabitha, etymology and culture aside. Anyway, we consider the context not strange names. Clearly Tabitha was a good woman, respected by all. We also notice that Luke called her a disciple. We have seen and discussed this before. A “certain man” usually means one who is not a follower of Jesus but “a certain disciple” always indicates a follower of Christ in the book of Acts. Concerning Tabitha, considering the current context, Luke also wrote, “And Peter arose and went with them. And when he had come, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him weeping, and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them.”

A couple of things I notice: Tabitha had made such an impression on her community that the widows present, couldn’t help but show Peter the charitable things that she made. Yet, it seems strange, doesn’t it? They all loved Tabitha so much that they sent two men to find Peter. When Peter arrives, rather than show him to Tabitha’s body, first they showed Peter the work of her hands.

Maybe that’s not all that curious. Tabitha was dead, yet her work lived on. Hoping for a miracle of miracles, the people present probably attempted to persuade Peter by showing him what an absolute lovely, God-fearing, charity-minded person Tabitha was. They wanted Peter to know how important and integral Tabitha was to the community. We can understand this, Tabitha was dead, they were not asking for a healing, they desperately desired life from the dead. Healing a paralytic is one thing, but did they really expect Peter to have the power to raise the dead? In someway, because Tabitha was normally healthy and active, only recently deceased, perhaps this isn’t as difficult a task as healing one paralyzed for eight years–both were equally impossible.

“But Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, ‘Tabitha, arise.’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. And it came about that he stayed many days in Joppa with a certain tanner, Simon.”

What made them think that Peter could raise the dead, because that’s what they believed? We are looking at Peter’s Path and as he traveled, preaching Jesus as the Messiah and healing many, the word spread. Notice; “And since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, entreating him, ‘Do not delay to come to us.'” The people present in Joppa knew that time was not on their side. After death, decomposition immediately begins. They needed Peter and needed him in haste. I am convinced, that at this point in Peter’s ministry, he could have simply said, “she’s fine, return.” Jesus told them that they would do “greater things than these.” Peter didn’t have to be present because the Holy Spirit is omnipresent. Tabitha was already a disciple, the Holy Spirit was well acquainted with Tabitha. Nevertheless Peter left Lydda and went to Joppa. We see the true purpose of the path, it was not to heal but for the people present to see the healing. Peter was personally involved, he went where people were in need. He had personal, physical contact. He wasn’t The Great Peter, sitting on a throne in Jerusalem but visited all these people. Going back to the beginning of this passage, “as Peter was traveling through all those parts, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda.” We also notice that “in Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity, which she continually did.”

Probably Peter, or at least some other apostles had been there before. Notice that the people present showed Peter Tabitha’s work, as of late. Nevertheless, they didn’t tell him her name. Peter knew her name. I realize that this is a super-short summary but the internal evidence is that Peter had been there before. Everything written by Luke has a familiar tone. Notice; “And since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, entreating him, “Do not delay to come to us.” And Peter arose and went with them.” They certainly seem to have known Peter, not only by reputation but also personally. They expected him to be able to raise the dead, no questions asked. Is it possible perhaps, that they had already seen something similar?

This all fits in with what Jesus told them at the beginning of the book. “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Peter is on a path to all peoples. We’ve seen him in Samaria and all over Judea, continually coming back to Jerusalem. Soon, Lord willing, we will see a sharp turn in the path of Peter.

Concerning Lydda and Sharon, Luke writes, “And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.” Concerning Joppa, “And it became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. And it came about that he stayed many days in Joppa with a certain tanner, Simon.” I believe that we can reasonably assume that Peter stayed many days in Joppa to strengthen the church formed there. From history, coupled with the book of Acts, we see that a very large, vibrant, Christian, community thrived in this region for years to come.

Yet there is an ebb and flow. In 1948, the blessed beginning of the blessed generation, according to the dogmatic dispensationalists, Israeli forces forced out the settlers in this region. Some 70,000 Palestinian people were displaced and their vacated homes, were occupied by invading Israelites. Who does that?

The dogmatic dispensationalists in defense of this dastardly deed will say, “Israel is the apple of God’s eye.” To which I would reply, “o…k…?” My daughter is the apple of my eye and if she did something like that, I would be more than unhappy with her. Being more schooled in the Scripture than I, the dogmatic dispensationalists are quick to point out the following: “I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.” To which I would reply, “that’s a foreshadowing of Christ, and, read the context. It is as follows:” “For if you ever go back and cling to the rest of these nations, these which remain among you, and intermarry with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know with certainty that the Lord your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they will be a snare and a trap to you, and a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you. Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the Lord your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed. It shall come about that just as all the good words which the Lord your God spoke to you have come upon you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the threats, until He has destroyed you from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you.” I know, I am very antisemitic for reading the Bible in its context.

Consider the context, twice Joshua said that the word of God has not failed but has been fulfilled. Notice; “you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the Lord your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed.” 

Do you know what failed, me and you– and Israel. It’s sort of the point. If Israel succeeded, Jesus would be superfluous. It’s not antisemitic to say that Israel failed because we all fail. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” “But Russell P, surely you can appreciate the horrors of the holocaust and see that the Jewish people deserved a homeland.” They were given a homeland, Lydda was not part of it. I often wonder (but not too deeply because I am a student of people therefore I know) why the Jews in Germany weren’t given the homes of nazi’s and nazi sympathizers. The Jews in Germany should have been given Hitler’s eagle’s nest, Obersalzberg, Bavaria, the concentration camps, all of Hermen Goering’s wine, the Reichstag, all of Berlin, east and west. Yet politics and especially the communists got in the way. That is to say, that even after the horrors of the holocaust, antisemitism still reigned in the region. Nevertheless, someone, please, see the irony here. Jews were forced out of their homes and into the ghetto. An absolute atrocity, a completely corrupt and callous, catastrophic calamity. Unfair and unjust by unscrupulous individuals, who have rightly gone down in history as the worst of the worst. Words fail me when I attempt to describe the depravity of the national socialist German workers party. These socialist scum are paying for their atrocities in the outer darkness. Yet the oppressed became the oppressor in 1948, driving Palestinian people out of their homes to occupy them for themselves.

Lod and Sharon were the first cities, the only cities of which it was written; “all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.” In 1947, the United Nations Partition Plan excluded Lod from being a part of Israel. Yet Lod has an airport and important crossroads. Strategically and economically, it is an important city. Historically though, other than it was a vibrant christian community, it is quite unimportant. That is, Israel’s purpose in purging the city was not because of their religion but because of economics. There is little validation in Israel’s occupation of Lydda.

What is the desired goal for the christian? What were Jesus’ parting words? What did John see in heaven? What was the promise to Abraham? What is the Great Commission? What is the path of Peter? A super-short summary: the nations having the faith of Abraham in Jesus.

Since I am on a roll, why stop now? At an annual “end-times,” prophecy conference, the host said, and I quote verbatim, “As the world is literally spinning out of control, and you know it is–literally spinning out of control.” Colossians 1:16+17, “all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Host: “I can’t take it much more. I can’t take it much more.” Matthew 24:13; “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Host: “It’s time that we leave this place, alright.” John 17:5 “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” Host: “The Messiah would come from the Jews, Satan has always felt that he has to stomp them out. First prophecy given in Genesis three; the offspring of the woman is going to crush the head of Satan. From that day forward he knew that he had to wipe out the Jews.” Romans 10:12+13: “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for ‘WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.'” And my own humble opinion based on having read the Bible once or twice. Adam wasn’t Jewish, Seth wasn’t Jewish, Enoch, Methuselah, Noah and his sons, weren’t Jewish. Abraham and Issac were not Jewish. Etymologically speaking, Jacob was not Jewish because the word derived from the tribe of Judah. To say that since Genesis 3, Satan knew that he had to stomp out the non existent Jewish people, displays the delusions and obsessions that the outer fringe of the dogmatic dispensationalists have. They truly believe that all of Revelation after chapter 3 is only written to Israel.

I am not an amillennialist, but in the defense of amillennialism as a possible eschatological view, I notice what the woman host has taught concerning amillennialism. She teaches that amillennialism allogorizes everything concerning eschatology. In an attempt to teach dispensationalism, she claims that Scripture is to be taken literally. Well, literally Paul wrote; “Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.”

“But Russell P, you are taking that verse out of context.” Exactly–my argument is not nullified by my example but amplified. Her argument however is shattered. She is the one who claims that the Bible, including “prophecy,” with its weird words, ghastly grammar, strange symbols, numbers, stanzas, colors and the like, are meant to be taken literally. Yet Paul literally told Timothy that women are not to teach and she takes that less literally than 144,000, Jewish virgins.

I have probably confounded and confused you, but remember the CAGED method: Context, Aspirations of Author, Genre, Examples and Divide rightly. Peter is on a path of progressive prophecy being fulfilled. Like a little leaven hidden in the dough, the kingdom starts small in Jerusalem, but has gone to Samaria and as far as the coast. Entire towns have come to the Lord. Like the (not literally) smallest of seeds, the tree is taking root. How one views the Bible depends on their presuppositions. The end-times radio host has demonstrated this in spades. So much so, that she sees Israel in Genesis 3 and only Israel after Revelation 3. She sees two distinct people with two distinct plans, even though Paul writes; “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek.” Last time I checked, no distinction literally means no distinction. Peter is on this path–stay tuned.

One last thing: I may appear to be a bully to this woman, who does preach Jesus as the Messiah–I am with her on that. Nevertheless out of this respect I don’t name her name however she does name names. She is actually quite the bully herself, calling out men of faith who don’t agree with her, mocking and scoffing at their timeless teachings. Some of whom are admittedly walking on a fine line between solid doctrine and antisemitism. Others however embrace the teaching of Paul and his picture of the olive tree. God has always, only had one people, those who have the faith of Abraham. Once again, Paul wrote; “Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘ALL THE NATIONS SHALL BE BLESSED IN YOU.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.”

Where you end up, usually begins with where you start. If one holds to a presupposition that blood Israel has exclusive rights from the Lord to the land in Palestine (just to ruffle a few feathers), then one would believe that God has two distinct people with two distinct plans. But that is not the path that Peter is on. Peter is on the path to bring the gentiles, literally nations, to the Lord as fellow heirs of Abraham. Ironically enough, the proof is in the olive tree (someday someone will see the subtle hint). Like Abraham’s seed, it’s not plural, it’s an olive tree, not trees. The ecclasia, or Kingdom, or church (which is a poor translation) was not unseen or parenthetical to God’s plan. Peter himself states that the prophets promised this inclusive Kingdom. But I am getting way ahead of myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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