I’d like to pick up on the concept of mission-focused ministry which was the theme of last week’s message. You might recall that maintenance-focused ministry is mainly characterized by seeking God’s help in navigating through the ups and downs of regular life.
Mission-focused ministry is mainly characterized by seeking God’s power through the Spirit to proclaim the glorious realities of His new society centered in the sinless life, sacrificial death, and bodily resurrection of HIs one and unique Son, Jesus Christ.
This week I’d like to focus on what that call can look like in the day-to-day life of ordinary disciples like us.
Background: The infant church has begun to spread and by God’s grace and power met two significant challenges. One in Acts 6 re: a potential division within the body along ethnic lines and one from Saul who was bent on destroying Christ’s church before his miraculous conversion recorded in Acts 9.
At this point, the church consists of several mainly Jewish congregations throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. These congregations began and were established as the apostles obeyed Christ’s words recorded in Acts 1:8
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."
These were the local congregations that flourished following Paul’s conversion. Acts 9:31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.
To give a quick timeline most scholars place Christ’s actual birth around 4 to 6 B.C. which would put His sacrificial death for sin around 28 to 30 A.D.
Historians speculate Paul was converted around 33 A.D. and was taken by Barnabas to meet the apostles around 36 A.D.
This would put the events surrounding Tabitha’s resurrection around 37-38 A.D. These events began with Peter’s pastoral visit to several congregations throughout Judea. Lydda and Joppa were two small Jewish cities between Jerusalem and Samaria around 30 to 40 miles northwest of Jerusalem
He went to a group of churches carrying on a thriving though virtually unknown witness for the message of Christ’s full redemption. Note how the text reads Peter went to visit the saints in Lydda. That’s another way of saying he went to the church in Lydda.
I would love this kind of witness. A strong, vibrant witness characterized by local churches faithfully following our Lord even if it doesn’t draw the attention of the Christian media. Not much is known or written about the early Jewish church, but by God’s grace through the obedience of the apostles, they carried on a faithful witness for at least several years.
It was a witness typified by Tabitha also called Dorcas. In those days most Jewish people including our Lord Jesus spoke Aramaic and many had two names one Aramaic and one Greek or Hebrew. Aramaic spread throughout the middle east in connection with the rise and conquests of the Assyrian empire.
What do we know about Tabitha’s witness and how does it speak to our witness today?
Acts 9:36-38 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 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!"
Start where you are. Vs. 36. In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor.
Tabitha was a faithful disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A disciple is one whose life revolves around worshiping the Lord as an end in and of itself, walking obediently before Lord as an end in and of itself, and witnessing of the Lord’s full redemption as an end in and of itself.
Almost all disciples follow our Lord as we live within the blessed ordinariness of home, work, family, and community.
No biblical evidence suggests Tabitha traveled to foreign lands to proclaim the gospel, Scripture doesn’t record powerful messages she preached that won thousands to Christ, there’s no record of her making a courageous life or death stand for the gospel.
Tabitha simply lived as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ using her talents to connect with those around her to build bridges to declare Christ’s full redemption. The very life Christ called His followers to live in Matt. 28:18-20. The same life each and every one of us can live right now.
Wherever we are in life in the right here and right now is the place Christ has called us to faithfully follow Him.
Use what you have. Vs. 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.
Tabitha had a talent for sewing and making clothing.
She matched that with a desire to follow the Lord’s character and example of ministry.
She had a ministry to a particular group of people who mattered to her.
Finally, believe God will show up. Vss. 40-43. 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. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.
I’m convinced we should still believe that God can and will show up in marvelous, unexpected, and miraculous ways to infuse our witness and make Christ’s name and redemption known.