Formations 06.18.2023: Sharing What We Can

Acts 9:36-43

To the best of my recollection, there are only two Christians in the New Testaments whose deaths are explicitly mourned.

Paul assumed that Christians would grieve, though not as if we had no hope (1 Thess 4:13). And, of course, Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35). Mourning was certainly part of the experience of Christians in the first century. But when in the New Testament does someone die whose mourning is explicitly mentioned?

We find both accounts in the book of Acts. First, there is Stephen. According to Acts 8:2, after Stephen was stoned to death, “devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him.”

The second is Tabitha, also called Dorcas, who is featured in this week’s lesson. When she dies, her loved ones prepare her body and lay her in an upstairs room of her house. They send word for Peter to come, though we’re not told what they expected of him. Perhaps he had known Dorcas before, and they thought he would want to join them in their grief. Maybe they thought it would be appropriate for him to say a few words at her funeral. At any rate, when he arrives, “All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them” (Acts 9:39).

Though Dorcas only appears on the New Testament stage after her death, we quickly learn that she was an admirable Christian. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity, and she was deeply mourned by those whose lives she had touched. Just look at the garments she had made for the widows of Joppa. Just look at how badly they miss her.

Luke thought Dorcas deserved to be remembered. He tells the story of how Peter raised her from the dead by the power of God. But he tells us more.

There were plenty of people healed by Jesus in the Gospels or by an apostle in Acts. Some were even raised from the dead. That’s a story worth telling. But Luke also makes sure we remember Dorcas for who she was in life. She was kind. She was generous. As far as we know, she never preached a sermon, taught a Bible lesson, or performed a miracle. Those apparently were not her gifts. But she knew how to work with textiles. She sewed, or weaved, or otherwise fashioned garments for people who needed them.

She was an example of faithful discipleship. May her tribe increase.


• What do we learn about how Dorcas expressed her devotion to Christ?
• Why are such acts of compassion important?
• How can we follow her example?
• How do you want to be remembered after your death?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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