6th Sunday of Easter
To Him who loved us and freed us from our sins by His own blood and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father, to him be glory forever and ever, Amen. In the name of Jesus, whose love is greater even than that of a mother, dear friends in Christ, how will you be remembered? There’s a famous novel in which 3 boys find themselves feeling rather unappreciated and unloved. So they decide to get on a raft and float three miles down the river to an uninhabited island. While they’re there their raft floated away. Soon, their family and friends miss them and set out searching up and down the river for them. After finding their raft they conclude that the 3 boys drowned in the river. Sunday rolls around and they hold a funeral for the boys. Sad, depressed, gloomy the whole town gathers at the church for the funeral. Eventually everyone there burst into tears mourning the boys’ deaths, they miss their winning ways and generous natures. But all the while the 3 boys had snuck back to the town and were actually watching their own funeral.
Mark Twain picked up on an interesting idea in the Adventures of Tom Sawyer, didn’t he? But it makes you think. Imagine with me that you just walked into a funeral home where a bunch of people are gathered. They’re all people that you know – family, friends, acquaintances. Then you walk up to the casket and there in the casket is…you! You turn around and you see all your loved ones there. And you listen in on their conversations. What are they talking about? What are they saying about you? What do they miss about you? What are your children saying? Your spouse? Your family? Your friends? Your coworkers? Your acquaintances?
Now, it’s totally fictitious. When you die, it won’t matter what’s being said about you, because of Jesus, you’ll be in glory with your Savior. But it does make us think about our life now, doesn’t it? God wants us to love and serve Him first and foremost in our lives. But one way that we love and serve God is by loving and serving those around us as if we are loving and serving God Himself. How are you doing? How am I? How will you be remembered?
Our text gives us an example of what people were saying about someone after she died. This isn’t long after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension and Jesus’ followers are busy sharing the good news with other people. Here we’re told about a certain lady named Tabitha in Aramaic and Dorcas in Greek, in English her name would be “Gazelle” – a beautiful, graceful animal. And she is described as a disciple of Jesus. A disciple simply means that she was a follower of Jesus. That was the commission that Jesus has given all of His people to, “Go and make disciples of all nations…” And we’re told that she was always doing good and helping the poor. She served others who weren’t able to repay her. And it was just her way of life, she invested herself in doing good to others.
But then it happened. She became sick and died. They washed her body and prepared it for burial. But since the city of Lydda was not far away and they knew that the apostle Peter was there, they sent two men to him to tell him to “Please come at once!” Perhaps they had a humble hope that God might use Peter to return Tabitha to them, perhaps they summoned Peter to give them some comfort in her death, maybe they wanted Peter to preach the funeral sermon, we don’t know. We do know that Peter came and he was taken upstairs and here Peter saw what Tabitha meant to people in that town and in that church and what they had lost in her. Widows were standing around and crying and showing him the robes and other articles of clothing that she had made while she was still with them. The original literally reads, “All the widows came to him and were crying and showing the robes and clothing that she made among them being Dorcas.” Almost as if that was just her, she was just being herself in helping and serving and caring for them. That was just Dorcas. That was who she was. That was how she was remembered.
Then Peter sent them all out of the room. The original actually says that he thrust them out or pushed them to leave as if they were reluctant to leave. Peter wanted to be alone with the Lord. Then in deep humility Peter got down on his knees and asked for the Lord’s will to be done. Certainly Peter must have remembered the time when Jesus had gone to the home of a man named Jairus’ whose 12 year old daughter had died. Jesus, too, had sent everyone from the room and then said to the little girl, “Talitha Koum” literally, “Little girl, I say to you, get up.” And the little girl got up. After praying, here Peter says to the lady, “Tabitha Koum.” “Tabitha, get up.” And she opened her eyes, saw Peter and sat up. Then he took her by the hand and lifted her to her feet. Jesus, the living Lord, was still active with His power and grace through His appointed messengers. Many people all over the town heard about Tabitha, they knew who she was, and now through what God did for her many learned also about her Savior and theirs.
So, what will people say about you when you’re gone? What will they say about me? What would your spouse say? Your children? Your family members? Your coworkers? Your friends? Your fellow church members? What impression do you give to people? What will you be remembered by? Would they remember you as someone in whom the love of Christ was evident and just overflowed into every aspect of your life? Would it be as someone who like Tabitha was “always doing good” and “helping those who couldn’t repay”? Or would it be as someone who was way too often concerned with yourself? Or would it be as someone who didn’t care about others? Would it be as someone who was always complaining, being down, sad and looking to be served rather than to serve?
Far worse, remember what God demands of each of us: We are to love Him first and foremost and love our neighbor as ourselves. When we die, how will God evaluate our lives? What will He remember? Did we fill His demands? Did we show perfect concern for Him and perfectly serve, care, love others? If we’re honest, we have to say we’ve failed.
If we aren’t always doing good and helping those who can’t repay us, the problem isn’t so much that we need to work harder at it, but the deeper problem is that we’re losing sight of the One who did always do good and did always help those who could never repay Him. If we find ourselves struggling to do good, the answer isn’t found in working harder at being good, the answer is found in looking harder at what good was done for us. Why did Tabitha do what she did? Why did God have this event recorded for our learning? Tabitha did what she did, not because she was such a good person, but because her Savior was such a good Savior. You see, she was a disciple. She knew her Savior. She knew her sin, knew her failures, knew her faults, but she also knew she had an incredible Savior who rescued her, she had a Jesus who died for her on a cross and rose from the dead to assure her that she was forgiven. And that meant what? That meant she could live to serve, live to always do good for others, live to help those who couldn’t repay her. The same is true for you. That’s your Savior. When God sees you, because Jesus was perfect for you, He now looks at you as someone who has always done good, always helped others, perfectly cared for those who can’t repay, since Christ has done that for you, that means what? You are free to live, free to love and serve others, as Tabitha did.
1. Why did she do what she did? A life of love and service flows out of a heart transformed by the grace of God. If you find your life lacking in doing good, look first at what your Savior did for you. Jesus’ whole life was doing good, every second of every day of His life, He thought about you and He lived perfectly for you, He always did good. Then, He even died for all your bad. And He gave you the gift of complete and free forgiveness. That’s what Tabitha knew and her life became one big opportunity to share the love of Jesus with others. Yours is too.
2. What did she do? There’s always something we can do. We aren’t told Tabitha had any relatives or children or husband. No doubt she wasn’t rich or well-off herself. But she didn’t use that as an excuse, “I’m too poor! Let others do the work, they’re better off than me!” No, she found what she could do. She used her needle and thread, not to make money for herself, but to help others. And look at what her simple efforts meant! People saw her love and care, her life of always doing good, serving those who couldn’t pay her back, and it’s as if it prepared the soil so that after she was raised from the dead many people came to know her Savior and the seed of the gospel was planted in their hearts. There’s always something you can do.
3. Who did she really serve? As a disciple of Jesus she served others as if she served Jesus. Remember Jesus’ words? “Whatever you did for the least of these of mine, you did for me.” May we have eyes like Tabitha to see in other people not means to our own ends, not annoyances, not bothers, but souls for whom Jesus died and rose. Souls whom we can love and serve. And when we serve them, we actually serve our Savior.
Today, especially, we thank the Lord for faithful women, particularly mothers. Mothers like Tabitha. Mother’s whose hearts have been transformed by the love of Christ. Mothers who busy themselves in doing good, not to get anything out of it, not to expect pay, not to be rewarded, but mothers who serve like Tabitha, mothers who serve their families as if they are serving Jesus, Himself. Thank the Lord for such mothers!
And just think, the works God works in and through us by faith in Jesus live on. What could possibly be a better thing to be remembered by others than to be remembered as a man or a woman, a father or mother, a husband or wife, a friend, a child, as a disciple of Jesus so filled by the grace of Christ that you served others and were always doing good, like Tabitha. Let it start today. Amen.