************ Funeral Sermon on Acts 9:36-43 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on June 3, 2019

Acts 9:36-43
Funeral of Grace Bosch

When I heard about the death of Grace Bosch I right away thought of Tabitha of Acts 9. Because Grace is our Tabitha. Now Grace would be embarrassed if she heard me talking this way. In her funeral instructions she writes, "No viewing. Close the casket." And, she wrote, "I don't want any eulogy."

With this in mind, let me tell you something about Grace Bosch that most of you are not aware of. She struggled with being patient. She prayed for patience and she wanted it right now. Here is a woman who seemed to be the picture of patience and yet she prayed for patience.

Why do I say this? So you know this message is about Grace Bosch the sinner. So you know I am not idolizing her. So you know I am not making her into something she isn't. Grace Bosch, the sinner, was like Tabitha.

"In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha." Let's stop there for a moment. The word disciple was applied to Tabitha. It is the only feminine form of the word "disciple" in the New Testament. Tabitha was a disciple. A follower of the Lamb. A believer in Jesus. Someone who knows Jesus died for her sin. Someone who knows she deserves God's judgment and not God's mercy. That was Tabitha. And, that was Grace Bosch. A disciple.

"Who was always doing good and helping the poor." Tabitha made herself available. Tabitha didn't say, "I'm too busy. I don't have the time. My schedule doesn't permit me to help. I am tired and worn and weary. I am too old. My back is sore." She didn't say any of that. She made herself available. When you think about it, that really is the most important thing any of us can offer God. "God, I am available. I am available to answer Your call. I am available to do Your work. I am available." Sometimes we get our priorities so messed up that we are available for everything but God. But not Tabitha. And not Grace either. Both ladies made themselves available.

"Who was always doing good and helping the poor." Tabitha was a wonderful, wonderful woman to have in the church. Tabitha was full of good works. That's what the Greek says. Full. That word "full" describes Christians. We are to be full of the Spirit. We are to be filled with all the fullness of God. To be "full" means to be devoted to, totally controlled by. Tabitha was devoted to good works. She lived to give to others. Specifically, she made clothes for the widows in the church. She made robes -- inner garments. She made outer clothing -- coats. She was quite a sewer and used her gifts to help the needy widows. Don't forget, no Social Security back then. No widows' pension. No government aid in those days for either widows or orphans. It was the church that helped the needy. It was church members like Tabitha that helped the needy.

Tabitha makes me think of what Paul wrote to the church of Ephesus:
(Eph 2:10) For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Did you hear that? Tabitha was saved to do good works. Grace was saved to do good works. And, if you are a believer, you are saved to do good works. That is God's design, God's plan, God's workmanship, for the people He chooses to save.

Tabitha became sick and died. Sad for the church. Sad for the people she helped. Just like we are saddened by the death of Grace.

Now the custom of the Jews at death was to wash the body and immediately bury it since they did not do any embalming and contact with the dead made one ceremonially unclean. But in the case of Tabitha they did not bury her. They washed her body and placed it in an upstairs room. That's remarkable -- that they did not bury her.

Why? Next verse: because they heard that Peter was in Lydda, about ten miles away. They know Peter is nearby. By faith they believe, if God so chooses, that Peter has the power to raise the dead. So they send two men to get Peter.

Peter went with the men, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. I am sure Peter saw Tabitha. But not for long. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Tabitha had made while she was still with them. In my mind's eye I see those ladies surrounding Peter, all of them talking at once, all of them shoving in his face the garments Tabitha made for them. All of them, "Look. Look at what she made." Now, Tabitha must have been good at what she did because you don't show others shoddy workmanship. And, Tabitha did not use the cheapest materials either because you don't show others some cheap thing made in Viet Nam.

I have something to show you. HOLD UP ORANGE CYCLING JERSEY. During one of my visits Grace asked me if it is safe to cycle on our roads. I told her I wear a bright orange jersey. I also told her that I needed to buy another one because the zipper no longer works. "Bring it to me," she said. "I will fix it." And she did. She fixed up a couple of jerseys for me. Grace was my Dorcas, my personal Tabitha.

The widow ladies loved Dorcas. They loved her for loving them. They loved her for her gifts to them. They loved her for her care and concern. They loved her for being their sister in Christ. Oh they loved her and already they missed her and were sad about her death.

So Peter is in the upstairs room with all the grieving ladies. All of them vying for his attention. What does Peter do? First thing Peter did was send them all out. So he could pray without distraction, without interruption, without noise all around him. So Peter prayed. Then he turned toward the dead woman and said, "Tabitha, get up." She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.

That, dear friends, that is a miracle. I already said Peter was ten miles away in Lydda when Tabitha died. It takes a day to get there. It takes a day to get back. So Tabitha has been dead for at least thirty-six to forty-eight hours. Decay has already taken place. But now the process is reversed and her body is restored and rejuvenated and alive. That's a miracle.

The miracle happened because Peter made himself available even as Dorcas made herself available. The miracle happened because Peter prayed.

I have two questions. First, why did Peter come? Second, what did Peter pray for?

Why did Peter come? Not for Tabitha. Tabitha didn't need Peter -- she was dead and in the glorious presence of the Lord. Why did Peter come? Not for the widows. In spite of their tears, the widows didn't need Peter to raise Tabitha because God's design for the church is that none of us are indispensable; God's design for the church is that someone else step into the gap and take Tabitha's place; God's design for the church is that every member is gifted for service to the other members. So why did Peter come?

And, what did Peter pray? What did he ask God for? It wasn't a simple matter of asking God to bring Tabitha back to life.

Why did Peter come? What did Peter pray for?

Something else is going on here. Something important. Go back a few verses and we see a miracle -- Peter healed a paralyzed man in the name of Jesus Christ. In our passage we see a greater miracle -- Peter was used by the Lord to bring Tabitha back to life. In verse 42ff we see the greatest miracle -- Peter was used by the Lord to bring lost sinners to the Lord.
(Acts 9:42) This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.

Peter came to Joppa to do the Lord's work, to proclaim the Gospel, to save lost souls; that's what he was praying about -- that he be used to do the Lord's work by raising Dorcas from the dead. That's also why Dorcas did her work -- for the Lord, His Kingdom, His Gospel. And, that's why Grace Bosch did all her work as well. Like Tabitha, she sewed and made herself available. She loved helping at Used Treasures. She visited shut-ins. She played a mean game of cards. She always had a smile on her face. She never complained. A couple of years ago I told her she lived up to the words of Eliphaz in Job 4:
(Job 4:3-4) Think how you have instructed many, how you have strengthened feeble hands. (4) Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees.
It was all for the Lord, His Kingdom, His Gospel.

But, don't forget, we are talking about Grace Bosch the sinner. The lady who prayed for patience. The lady who was a disciple of Jesus. This lady was used by God as His servant to do good for the sake of the church and Kingdom and Gospel.

I want to end by asking you to look at your life. Are you a disciple of Jesus? Are you a follower of the Lamb? Because only then are you used by the Lord in His church and His Kingdom. Because only then do people praise God for the good you do. Because only then are you a blessing to God's people.
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