Summary: God uses us in miraculous ways to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.
My mother died on April 3, 1999, at the Southwest Regional Medical Center in McComb, Mississippi. My older brother and I watched her die. I was holding her right hand, and he was holding her left when she breathed her last breath. She was 82 years old and had lived a good life. She had told me some weeks before that she was ready to go; but I wasn’t ready for it. She had worked her whole life to see that me and my brothers were raised right, and in a Christian home. My father was killed early in life, so she was the parent that we looked to for guidance and advice even after we had left home and gone out on our own. She worked in the school cafeteria, and as a store clerk, and in a garment plant, putting in extra hours whenever she could so that we wouldn’t go lacking. We weren’t ready to see her leave us. I was having trouble imagining what life would be without her.
But I don’t think we’re ever really ready to see a loved one die. We keep praying for God to give us a little more time with them. We keep hoping for a miracle. But sometimes, God has other plans. And if we’re seeking His will, we find out later what it’s all about.
In our scripture, we read about a lady named Tabitha, who became ill and died. She lived in Joppa which was a seaport city in Israel. Today it’s a suburb of Tel Aviv. Tabitha means “gazelle” in Aramaic, meaning she was full of grace and beauty. Her name in the Greek translation is Dorcas. And as a matter of fact, there is a species of deer called the Dorcas gazelle. But it says in the scripture that this lady was full of good works and did many charitable deeds. She made clothes and garments for people, and was a disciple of Jesus. She used her gifts to help others and provide for those who needed clothing. She cared for those in need.
There’s a lady in Louisville, Kentucky that they call the modern-day Dorcas. She was brought to tears when she discovered that annually there were some 21,000 cancer patients in Louisville who were receiving chemotherapy treatments and losing their hair. Her name is Lynette LeGette. She learned that patients complained about being cold during the night and would wrap pajamas or towels around their heads to keep warm. God gave her the idea to create turbans for the cancer patients who had lost their hair. She is now known as the Hat Lady. From July, 2002, to December, 2004, during the first years of her project, she and six of her volunteers made over 1000 turbans providing them at no charge to those in need. She said that when you ask the Lord what you should do, you need to be willing to listen for the direction and recognize the opportunities He gives you.
Tabitha did this. She filled a need. She loved people, and people loved her. She was a familiar part of the community, and someone who was well liked. But she fell ill and died. We don’t know what caused her to be sick or how long she was ill, but it caused her to die.
The people who knew her well were devastated. This was unexpected; and they were upset and weeping over their loss. What would they do? What could they do? Whatever it was, it had to be done quickly. According to Jewish law, if an individual died, they had to be buried on the same day; except, outside of Jerusalem, they were allowed three days for the burial. They proceeded to prepare the body by washing it, and laying it in an upper room which was the custom. But time was of the essence.
Some of the disciples had heard that Peter was in the nearby town of Lydda. Word had been spreading all over the land about the good news of Jesus Christ, and how His apostles had been preaching and healing wherever they went. Churches were growing throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria; and everywhere God was at work. Peter was becoming well known, and the disciples in Joppa knew that if they could get Peter to come to Joppa, he could raise Tabitha.
There was no internet. There were no phone lines or cell phones. They had to go to where Peter was. So two men were sent to Lydda with word of Tabitha’s death; and they urged Peter to come as quickly as possible to Joppa. They only had three days. Joppa was approximately 15 miles from Lydda; so it took some time for the two men to get there, and for Peter to travel to Joppa. But Peter arose and left immediately.