There are several examples of physical resurrections from the dead recorded in Scripture. Over the past three weeks we have read about and discussed eight separate instances in which a person who had died was brought back to life. Some of these people were children, while others were adults. The causes of their deaths differed, as well as the circumstances in which they were raised. Some of these individuals had only been dead for hours, while others had been dead for a few days, and still others for hundreds of years. Each resurrection story has been uniquely different and fascinating, and we are not done yet…
This morning, in our fourth sermon of the “Risen from the Dead” series, we will add another two Biblical examples of physical resurrections to our list. We have already covered the occurrences of resurrection detailed in the Old Testament and in the Gospels. Today we will move into the history of the early church as recorded in the book of Acts. Here we will find a couple of new resurrection stories that we’ve not yet considered. These helped to establish God’s presence and power through the apostles during the foundational years of the New Testament Church.
We will also briefly mention a possible third resurrection that is found during this crucial period of history in which Christianity began. Because we cannot be absolutely certain about the details, this particular story will not be formally included in our list of resurrections. The Bible isn’t clear enough to definitively state that this was indeed a physical resurrection from the dead, but as you will see, it potentially could have been one.
The miracles we will discuss this morning will involve the apostles Peter and Paul. Both of these men actually saw the risen Jesus - Peter on the day of His resurrection and over the 40 days leading up to His ascension, and Paul on the road to Damascus. God used these two great men, just like He had used Elijah and Elisha during the Old Testament, to raise certain dead people back to life.
I. THE KIND WOMAN TABITHA - Acts 9:36-42
Tabitha was a caring, compassionate Christian woman who served in a variety of ways to help the less fortunate in her community. She lived in the small city of Joppa, which was located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. She was a seamstress, and one of her ministries was to make garments and clothing for the widows. She was held in high regard and loved deeply by those around her. The Bible refers to her both as Tabitha, her Hebrew name, and also Dorcas, her Greek name. Tabitha and Dorcas are the same person.
For reasons unknown, Tabitha became ill and died. Her lifeless body was washed and then laid in an upper room. It just so happened that the apostle Peter was ministering at the time in the nearby city of Lydda. Knowing that he was closeby, after Tabitha’s death two disciples were sent from Joppa to go and find Peter. When they encountered Him, these men asked Peter to come with them to the place where Tabitha’s body had been laid. Peter readily agreed and quickly made the short trip to Joppa.
When he arrived, Peter met a crowd of grieving mourners. They told him about the kindness of Tabitha and all that she had done for them while she was still living. Peter cleared everyone out of the upper room. Alone with the body, he knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, arise.” Miraculously, she opened her eyes and sat up. Peter then presented her alive to all of the saints and widows gathered outside. News of the resurrection spread, and many people became believers as a result.
II. THE YOUNG MAN EUTYCHUS - Acts 20:7-12
Near the end of his third missionary journey, the apostle Paul stopped to spend a week in the city of Troas. Troas was located near the northwestern tip of Asia Minor, or modern-day Turkey, and was an important port on the Aegean Sea. Paul had been through the city on several occasions previously and was well-known by its residents. While there, Paul and several of his colleagues met with and encouraged many of the believers.
On Sunday evening, while they were all gathered together for fellowship, Paul began to preach to them. He and his team planned to depart the next day, so Paul prolonged his message and continued speaking into the night. Because it was past dark, many lamps were lit in order to illuminate the upper room where these disciples had gathered. A young man named Eutychus sat in a window sill listening to message that was being proclaimed. After a while, he became drowsy and fell asleep.
Unconscious, the young man slipped out of the window and fell three stories to his death. It is important to note that Luke, a medical doctor and companion of Paul, was one of the men present when this occurred. As a matter of fact, it is Luke who wrote the book of Acts in which this story is found. As such, when Luke states that the Eutychus was dead we can trust his expertise as a doctor - the boy was dead. Nevertheless, Paul went downstairs and laid himself on the young man’s dead body. Incredibly, Eutychus came back to life, went back upstairs, and enjoyed a meal with the believers gathered there. At daybreak Paul and his companions left, but the disciples who remained in Troas were greatly comforted because Eutychus had risen.
I have heard some pastors cite this story as a warning to all of those who sleep during the sermon, but I won’t go there… I’ve also heard some congregations cite this story as a warning to pastors that preach too long, but I won’t go there either...
III. THE POSSIBLE RESURRECTION OF PAUL - Acts 14:19-20
During his first missionary journey, Paul came to the predominantly Gentile village of Lystra, accompanied by his fellow missionary Barnabas. Apparently, there was no synagogue in Lystra so Paul preached in other places. While there he healed a man who’d been lame since birth, and the people were so amazed that they thought Paul was a god. They began to worship him, and desired to offer sacrifices to him, so Paul tried to restrain and correct their misguided actions.
Meanwhile, some Jews from the nearby cities of Antioch and Iconium arrived and stirred up the crowd against Paul. Confusion and chaos ensued, until finally the mob drug Paul out of the city and stoned him. They left his battered body where it laid and returned home, supposing Paul to be dead. Apparently his disciples agreed, seeing that afterward they just stood around the body without trying to render any aid. Incredibly, after a short while, Paul got up and went back to work.
As stated in the introduction, we cannot be certain that this was an actual resurrection. The Bible never directly states that Paul actually died. For this reason, we can not and do not include it as an explicit example of someone who was raised from the dead. However, it may have been one. Afterall, who gets up immediately after being stoned and walks back nonchalantly into the city? And how could someone who’d been pelted with rocks so badly that they were thought to be dead be able to travel by foot several miles on the very next day? Certainly, if not a full blown resurrection this was at minimum a remarkable healing!
While the aftermath of Paul’s stoning is debatable, there is absolutely no doubt that both Tabitha and Eutychus were literally raised from the dead. When we add these to our list, it brings the total number of physical, bodily resurrection stories found in the Bible to ten. They include the widow of Zarephath’s son, the Shunammite woman’s son, the hastily buried man, the widow of Nain’s son, Jairus’ daughter, Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus, Jesus himself, certain Old Testament saints, the kind woman Tabitha, and the sleepy young man Eutychus.
Each of these stories speak to the power of Almighty God. In today’s message we’ve discovered how the LORD worked through two apostles - namely Peter and Paul - to provide credibility to the early church. These two men, followed by many others who continued in their footsteps, boldly and sacrificially carried the message of Jesus far and wide, and as a result the world has never been the same.
Next week we will conclude this series with a message about the future resurrections of the righteous and the unrighteous. You don’t want to miss it. We will see you then.