In those days the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. Now as Peter went here and there among all the believers, he came down also to the saints living in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years, for he was paralyzed. Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!" And immediately he got up. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
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.
How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me?
The cup of salvation I will raise;
I will call on the Lord's name. (R./)
My vows to the Lord I will fulfil
before all his people.
O precious in the eyes of the Lord
is the death of his faithful. (R./)
Your servant, Lord, your servant am I;
you have loosened my bonds.
A thanksgiving sacrifice I make:
I will call on the Lord's name. (R./)
When many of the Lord's disciples heard this, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that nobody can come to me unless it is granted by the Father." Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.
So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
Through the Easter season the risen Christ calls on what seems dead within us, to make us blossom into new existence. But we continue to be recognisably the same as before. The woman revived by St Peter was the same Dorcas whose "good deeds and acts of charity" had established a bond of trust with many, particularly with the widows in the city of Joppa. They felt her loss keenly, and were delighted to have her back among them, alive and well.
"It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless," said Jesus. "The words I spoke to you are spirit and life." Unsure where all of this was leading, Peter declared both a question and an answer: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." If we decide to follow Peter's example, we must trust that God can work miracles, if he wills. Do we accept that God can achieve what seems impossible for weak human nature? "It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh cannot do it."
We can let ourselves be inspired by the story of Peter's missionary efforts to bring the faith to the wider world. On his journeys he often had the power of working miracles. God does not ask the ordinary person to such heights. Still, all of us are summoned occasionally to things out of the ordinary. The wonders we are called to do may not be as startling Peter bringing a dead person back to life. But I may suddenly be required to forgive another person, or to be silent and simply accept an unpleasant situation, to bear the loss of a friend or relative, to live patiently with an ailment. We will sometimes be callenged to the extent that God seems to be asking the impossible, but "It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh cannot do it."
In John's gospel, Jesus often asks probing questions. One of them was when he asked the Twelve, 'What about you, do you want to go away too?' In the previous verses many would-be followers had abandoned Jesus because he spoke about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Their leaving prompted Jesus to put his faithful few to the test: 'Do you want to go away too?' He was probing, looking for them to make a personal decision as to whether they would stay with him or leave him like so many others.
The risen Lord looks for a similar personal decision from us: 'do you want to go away too?' In our western culture many have turned away from believing in Jesus. As a result, we each have to make a more personal, deliberate decision about faith than was needed in the past. As we try to make that decision we can do no better than to make Peter's words our own: 'Lord, you have the message of eternal life, and we believe that you are the Holy One of God.'