Perhaps it’s because we all love our fish stories, that Jonah was swallowed into the belly of darkness, only to be later spit up on the shore of safety. Perhaps it is the scandal of an elected official humbling himself before the feet of Jesus, Jairus begging for his daughter’s recovery. Perhaps it is the drama of Lazarus stumbling out of the grave mummified, dropping his bandages with each step. For lots of reasons, we all have our favorites, and yet today’s text is arguably the story filled with the most new life you’ve never heard of. It’s Tabitha’s resuscitation.
So why is this an Easter story?
Acts 9:36-43 Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.
Women, after first preaching the resurrection, are finally acknowledged as more than helpers.
God is always about the business of dealing with our dead places.
Jesus’ promised power is now upon his followers.
After a ministry of needle and thread philanthropy, stitching the patterns of love for the most marginalized, Tabitha’s women’s collective closes down, her life cut short. But her eyes were opened. A conversion from dead in bed to alive in the sewing circle.
After diseasing the flesh and infecting the blood, illness held the power, demanding the last word and the last breath. But after she was helped up off the gurney, God declared a new thing. A conversion from sickness and suffering to health and wholeness.
After a holy week of denial and desertion, of disciples abandoning and cock’s crowing, Peter, the Rock, has crumbled, his belief pulverized by the cross. But in an upstairs room, on bended knee, he commands Dorcas to “get up.” A conversion from trembling doubt to healing authority.
After the barrenness of not birthing a son, and grieving the loss of husband and father-in-law, the widows were left without welfare, beyond the scope of social programs or economic means. But after the resuscitation, their benefactor was restored. A conversion from the edge of poverty to the center of security.
After segregating Jew and Gentile by rule and regulation and ritual, the Church was clear about its members only club. But a woman was welcomed, a Eunuch was baptized, a Centurion was saved, and the Church began to grow. A conversion from the chosen few to the many children of God.
After writing exclusively with the pen of masculinity, refusing to commission women, Luke has the ink of misogyny on his hands. But by the book of Acts, the writer ordains Gazelle a disciple, the only feminine example in the entire New Testament. A conversion from male domination to female inclusion.
This is an Easter story because everybody and everything is converted, transformed by the resurrection of a risen Christ, by a God who loves us too much to leave us where we are. So, while the world has already moved on, putting its Bunny baskets of candy on clearance, we have encountered the empty tomb Good News:
To be Christian is to become unlike myself, accused after leaving the graveyard on Sunday morning that, “I don’t recognize you anymore. I don’t recognize you sharing your resources. I don’t recognize you caring for the poor. I don’t recognize you loving your neighbor. I don’t recognize the new creation God has made of you in the name of Jesus the Christ.”
Church, if we believe only one thing, it’s that He is risen, and so have we.