The Validity of Christ’s Vitality (Acts 9:32-43) | Jared Betts

Luke’s Purpose for Acts

For us to really appreciate this text, it is important for us to remind ourselves of Luke’s reason for writing this meticulous historical narrative of the church. It is a narrative written by a man whom the most renowned scholars have considered to be “a historian of the first rank.”

It was the 19th to early 20th century archeologist, Sir William Ramsey, who supposedly declared of Luke’s work:

“Not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians…Luke’s history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness.”[1]

Some of you may recall that these words were uttered by a man who set out to disprove the historical credibility of Luke’s work; however, after being faced with Luke’s accuracy with Roman Law and society, his giving correct titles, and his ability to correctly convey the geography of the time, Ramsey concluded:

“I began with a mind unfavorable to it…but more recently I found myself often brought in contact with the book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It has gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.”[2]

The book of Acts is not a farce, it is a work of historical precision. It is a dependable and trustworthy relaying of past events.

We should remember that not only is Luke’s work one of historical precision, but it is also one with a purpose. In other words, there is something Luke is intending to prove to his audience through his precise detail, and he tells us about his purpose in the very beginning of Acts saying:

“The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach.”[3]

In other words:

“Most excellent Theophilus, the gospel account I wrote for you previously, the one where I had undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, investigating everything carefully from the beginning so that I might write it out for you in consecutive order so that you might know the exact truth.[4] Do you remember that? That first account I composed was Jesus just getting started. Here is what He continued to do after He vicariously died for the sin of His people, and victoriously rose from the dead on their behalf and ascended to the right hand of the throne of God, functioning as the only wise Sovereign of heaven and earth.”

The book of Acts reveals to us that Jesus Christ did not remain dead and buried in the tomb of a rich man, but He rose again never to die again. It testifies that the Father did not allow His Son to undergo decay in the grave, but raised Him back to life, seated Him at His right hand, and gave Him all power and authority over His creation.

Acts was written so that people would know all that Christ continued to do and teach. It is an account of the acts of the Living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, building His church with His gospel through His apostles by the power of the Holy Spirit for the accomplishment of the Father’s purpose. Christianity did not end with an empty tomb; it began with it! As one person says about the book of Acts:

“All through the narrative we see the ever-present, all-controlling power of the ever-living Savior. He worketh all and in all in spreading abroad his truth among men by his Spirit and through the instrumentality of his apostles.”[5]

Within our portion of Scripture today, the risen Lord’s power is seen very clearly through the restoration of Aeneas and the revitalization of Tabitha by the hands of the Apostle Peter. Through the exertion of His power here, Jesus proves His vitality. Within Luke’s narrative, he brings us face to face with the reality of the rule and reign of the resurrected Christ.


Jesus Restores Aeneas

Let us begin by considering verses 32-35. As we can see, Luke is now focusing on the ministry of the Peter who is described as traveling through all the regions, which is referring to Judea, Galilee, and Samaria.[6] The text tells us that during this journey, Peter eventually came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda, which is also known as Lod. It is within this town about 9 miles east of Joppa on the road from the sea-port to Jerusalem that Peter finds a man named Aeneas.

            Now, this is the only place in the Scripture where we hear of this individual. Luke has included for us what is important to understand about this man. He was someone who had been bedridden eight years, and as the text reveals, he had been subjected to a prostrate position for eight years because he was paralyzed. The Greek word here means to loosen beside or to relax, and it is speaking of those who are lacking strength and sick of the palsy. Palsy is a broad term that refers to the many forms of paralysis or paresis. From the little understanding I have of these two maladies, paresis is a weakening of the muscles caused by nerve damage or disease, whereas paralysis is the complete loss of muscle function. There are apparently various forms of paralysis: Monoplegia (The loss of function in one limb), Diplegia (The loss of function on both sides, such as both arms, legs, or sides of the face), Hemiplegia (The loss of function on one side of your body, usually caused by stroke), Quadriplegia (The loss of function within all four limbs), Paraplegia (The loss of function from the waist down), and Locked-in Syndrome (The loss of all muscle function in the body except the eyes).

There are several things we can easily deduce from our text about Aeneas:

  1. First, he was not born this way.

This is something that had come upon this man at some point in his life eight years prior.

  • Second, whatever came upon him left him not in a state of paresis, but one of paralysis.

It is safe to assume he suffered much more then just a weakening of musculature given that he had been bedridden for eight years. His being sick of the palsy brought about an extreme form of paralysis the rendered him incapable of leaving his bed. We can assume it was either Quadriplegia, Paraplegia, or even the possibility of Locked-in Syndrome. We do not know which.

  • Third, this man suffered from an organic disease.

An organic disease is when a body part is diseased, disfigured, physically damaged, or dead. It is, therefore, a verifiable one. This is to say that it is not an unseen malady. Aeneas was bedridden for eight years, and we can conclude that all who lived in Lydda and Sharon were well aware of his condition given their response to what happened to him.

            Within our portion, Luke presents us with a man in a miserable state. For eight years this man has been sanctioned to his bed and suffering. There is nothing that can be done for him. Aeneas needs to be restored, and Luke tells us that Peter found him. We are not entirely certain how Peter came to learn of Aeneas. The Greek wording here conveys both a finding something by searching for it or coming upon it unintentionally. Regardless, Peter found him in his pitiable state in need of restoration and said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you.”

Let us not forget that the book of Acts is a work of antiquity. It was written by a man of reason, a doctor who took his work as a historian seriously, investigating everything carefully from the beginning so that he might write it out for us in consecutive order so that we might know the exact truth. This means that when we read Acts, we are not reading a collection of fables fit only for young children and those feeble in mind and incapable of reasoning. We are reading a polished work of history. Not just church history, but world history, for within this reputable account the known world is being impacted by ones accused of having “turned the world upside down” with their teaching.[7] Their message of life in Christ alone did this because He bore witness through them “by signs and wonders, and by various miracles.”[8]

Remember what the purpose of Acts is. It serves to testify to the empty tomb. It provides proof upon proof of the vitality and power of the One who died, but now lives forevermore. It is an account of what Jesus Christ continued to do after He was nailed to the cross at the hands of godless men, and raised back to life by God and seated at His right hand possessing all power and authority, which He exercised through His Apostle’s.[9] This book is ultimately not about the Apostles. It is about Jesus. It is The Acts of the Lord Jesus through His People by the Holy Spirit for the Accomplishment of the Father’s Purpose.

I want us to Consider the number of times in the gospel accounts where Jesus compassionately and completely restored people of their infirmities:

  1. He gave sight to the blind.

We see this in Matthew 9:27-38, Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 8:22-26, Mark 10:46-52 which records for us the conversion of Blind Bartimaeus. We see it above all in John 9:1-7 where Jesus takes a man blind from birth and gives him sight.  

  • He caused the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.

This is alluded to throughout the gospel accounts and seen specifically in Mark 7:32-37 when a man was brought to Him who was deaf and spoke with difficulty. Mark says that :

33 Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva34 and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” 35 And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly. 36 And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. 37 They were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

  • He cleansed those with leprosy.

Lepers walked away clean after encountering Him. Mark 1:40-42 speaks of how:

40 a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.”

  • He restored those whose bodies were withered.

Mark 3:1-5 says:

“He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.”

  • Most importantly, He restored those who suffered any and all forms of paralysis.

This restoring power is seen in John 5:2-9 with a man by the pool of Bethsaida. The text says:

Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.

Mark 2:3-12 is undoubtedly the greatest example of Jesus’ ability to restore those who were paralyzed. It says:

And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. And Jesus seeing their faith *said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He *said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” 12 And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

            Truly, Jesus earthly ministry was marked by restoration. He frequently restored people of their organic diseases. He healed that which was verifiable, and He healed instantly, totally, and undeniably. Everyone that encountered Christ’s healing power was immediately restored to a state of perfect health, and because the ailments were verifiable no one could deny what they had seen. The only reasonable conclusion, therefore, was that God had condescended.[10] He had taken on flesh and dwelt among us and acted for His glory.[11] As Matthew 15:30-31 states so simply:

30 And large crowds came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them. 31 So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.”

What does Peter say to Aeneas? He says, “Jesus Christ heals you.” In other words, “Aeneas, Jesus is the One who is actively making you whole.” How can Jesus do this? He lives and reigns over His creation. Death could not hold Him. The grave could not contain Him. It had no power or effect over Him. The proof of this truth is seen in the fact that after Peter says, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed,” that “Immediately he got up. Jesus restored him.

We know it was Jesus who did this with Aeneas because he was healed instantly, totally, and undeniably just like we see during His earthly ministry as recorded in the gospel accounts. Through Peter, Jesus was vindicating Himself and validating His vitality. As Peter said to the people after the healing of the lame man at the temple gate called Beautiful:

“Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus.”[12]

Aeneas was a mirror through which the people of Lydda could ponder the power and life of Christ. It confirmed His resurrection and ascension and demonstrated that He is the only wise Sovereign. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the One worthy of all allegiance for He possess a Name above every name, One in which every knee in heaven and upon the earth will one day bow to, and confess with their tongue that He is Lord, all to the glory of the Father.[13] It is no wonder that after Aeneas was restored that all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. Again, by His healing Aeneas through Peter, Jesus reveals that He is alive in well and able to save all who draw near to God through Him.


Jesus Revitalizes Tabitha

Luke then presents us with another account where Jesus does much more than restore a person of their physical malady. He revitalizes an individual. To say it another way, He brings a person back to life.

Now, this certainly will not be the first time Jesus does this. His ministry was not only marked by His ability to restore people’s health, but to restore life itself. He brought numerous people back to life apart from His own:

  1. The Young Man of Nain.

Luke 7:11-17:

11 Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. 12 Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to speak.”

  • Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus.

After Lazarus had been dead for four days, John 11:43-44 says that Jesus went to his tomb and:

“43 He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” 44 The man who had died came forth.”

It is important to understand that when Jairus approached Jesus his daughter was extremely sick and on the point of death.  As Jesus was on His way to her, a woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years reaches out and touches His cloak in order to be made whole. Jesus stops and turns around to ask who touched Him. The woman falls before Him and tells Him the whole truth. He in turn calls er daughter and encourages her in the truth that her faith had saved her and that she could go in peace. Mark 5:35-43 tells us that:

35 While He was still speaking, they came from the house of the synagogue official, saying, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the Teacher anymore?” 36 But Jesus, overhearing what was being spoken, said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.” 37 And He allowed no one to accompany Him, except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the synagogue official; and He saw a commotion, and people loudly weeping and wailing. 39 And entering in, He said to them, “Why make a commotion and weep? The child has not died, but is asleep.” 40 They began laughing at Him. But putting them all out, He took along the child’s father and mother and His own companions, and entered the room where the child was. 41 Taking the child by the hand, He said to her, “Talitha kum!” (which translated means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl got up and began to walk.”

Let us now turn our attention back to Luke’s narrative in. Acts 9:36-42 where he introduces us to a believer residing in Joppa named Tabitha, or Dorcas in the Greek language. As Luke says in the latter part of verse 36:

“This woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did.”

She was a vital member of the church there in Joppa. She was walking in the goods works that God had prepared beforehand for her to walk in knowing that she was His workmanship.[14] Tabitha was one who walked in a manner worthy of the Lord and bore fruit in every good work.[15] She was like the women described in Proverbs 31:20 who extends her hands to the poor and stretches out her hands to the needy. She had the same attitude in herself which was in her Savior and did nothing from selfish ambition, but regarded others as more important than herself.[16] Tabitha was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity. The word for “abounding” here conveys the idea of a hollow vessel being filled up with something, or a surface covered in every part. Essentially, Tabitha’s soul was thoroughly permeated with kindness and charity.

This is what makes verse 37 so tragic:

37 And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died, and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room.

This certainly delivered a tremendous blow to the believers in Joppa and sent them into a state of grief. It is important for us to notice that though grief was undoubtedly present in their hearts, so was hope. Such hope is seen in the fact that after they customarily washed her body for burial, they laid it in an upper room and not in a grave. Luke tells us why in verse 38:

38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him, “Do not delay in coming to us.” 

They were aware of what Christ did for Aeneas through Peter just nine miles away in Lydda, and they understood that Jesus could do much more than restore a person of some physical malady, He go restore life itself. They, therefore, implored Peter to come for he was the Lord’s instrumentation.

            Acts 9:39-41 reads:

39 So Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, 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. 40 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. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive.” 

You cannot help but notice some similarities between this account and Jesus’ healing of Jairus’ daughter where Peter himself was intimately involved:

  1. A dead body rests in the room of a house.
  2. The house is full of people weeping.
  3. Mourners are asked to leave the room.
  4. The person who was dead is presented alive.

Notice that after Peter sent them all out, he knelt down and prayed. He understood that he did not possess any power within himself to resurrect this woman. He knew that just as the living Christ was the only one who could actively heal Aeneas, so was He the only One who could give Tabitha life. This is exactly what He did.

Acts 9:42 says:

42 It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.

By this point it is very clear why many believed in the Lord. He had proved Himself to be alive and well. He had established that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; and that He is the exclusives means to gaining access to the Father.[17] He had further demonstrated that He is indeed the resurrection and the life; that whoever believes in Him will live even when they physically die, and those who experience His resurrection will never cease to live, because He is their life and He will never die.[18] He did this all through Peter’s ministry.


The Validity of Christ’s Vitality

Why was Acts written? It was not written so that we might crave the power that was being wrought through Peter. That was only for a specific time and purpose and has been done away with the Apostle’s passing. It was written so that we might know all that Jesus Christ continued to do after He died and rose again for His people and crave Him. It vindicates Jesus and validates His vitality. It reveals the reality of the resurrected Christ who is reigning over His created realm. It shows us that the Man from Nazareth has not rotted away in some tomb, but that He lives.

The fact that Jesus lives means that:

  1. He truly is who He claims to be, the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
  2. There is genuine forgiveness and true life in Him, for all of turn from their sin and self-righteous efforts to earn His favor, and cling to Him through faith, confident that He who knew know sin, became sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
  3. There is life beyond the grave:

His being alive establishes the believers hope of eternal life. Just as He lives, we too shall live. Since death has no power or effect over Christ, it will not possess it over His people who have been untied to Him through faith in who He is and what He has done upon the cross in their stead.

May we not forget that His being live does not merely establish the believers hope of eternal life, but also confirms the unbelievers dread of eternal death. The fact that Christ forever lives tell those who do not believe that they will forever die. Paul said to the Athenians in Acts 17:30-31:

30 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

If you do not believe, I beg of you to come to your senses and turn from yourself and trust in Christ. That fact that He lives means that their will be a day when those who do not know God and who do not obey His gospel will be eternally destroyed. Repent and believe the gospel. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. Cry out to Him knowing that He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, because He always lives to make intercession for them.

Let us who believe remember this as well, that Christ does not just reside on His throne in heaven. He lives in us by His Spirit. As Paul said in Galatians 2:20:

20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Let us, therefore, workout our salvation with fear and trembling knowing that the living God is at work in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure and glory.


[1] Quoted by Josh McDowell in Evidence that Demands a Verdict; Page 71

[2] Quoted by John MacArthur in The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 1-12; Page 5

[3] Acts 1:1

[4] Luke 1:1-4

[5] Easton’s Bible Dictionary: Acts of the Apostles – Easton’s Bible Dictionary (blueletterbible.org)

[6] Acts 9:31

[7] Acts 17:6

[8] Hebrews 2:3-4

[9] Matthew 28:18; Acts 1:1-11

[10] Philippians 2:6-7

[11] John 1:1,14

[12] Acts 3:12-13

[13] Philippines 2:9-11

[14] Ephesians 2:10

[15] Colossians 1:10

[16] Philippians 2:3

[17] John 14:6

[18] John 11:25-26

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