“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 still with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then 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.”
Who is this lady called “Dorcas” mentioned only in this chapter of the Bible? As I was researching her name, I found that in Aramaic, her name was “Tabitha.” Both names, Tabitha and Dorcas meant the same thing: gazelle. This was an appropriate name for her, as a gazelle represents grace, beauty and swiftness. She was certainly a woman of grace, had a beautiful spirit and demonstrated swiftness to do good deeds for others.
Dorcas lived in the major port city of Israel, where many people from different parts of the world mingled. I believe God placed Dorcas there where her story could be spread throughout the land. Joppa was a good place to propagate the Gospel to the gentile world.
A little before her time, a great prosecution arose against Christians in Jerusalem, dispersing them through the regions of Samaria and Judea. Those scattered everywhere preached the word and perhaps Dorcas heard the good news of Jesus. She became a devoted follower of Jesus Christ—-a disciple. After Peter raised her from the dead, her story of God’s wonderful healing power spread throughout the land.
Dorcas, as a disciple, displayed her love and devotion to Jesus Christ in very practical ways. She performed “charitable deeds” through acts of mercy to relieve the burdens of the poor and needy. We read of these good deeds in verse 39 about Dorcas sewing tunics and other garments for the widowed and poor. She was a helper to many as she cared for them not only physically but also tended to those poor in spirit.
Mother Teresa once said, “We cannot do great things on this earth, but small things with great love.” So what small things might we do with great love? Giving an hour to listen to someone who is lonely? Delivering cookies to a new neighbor? Mentoring one of 755 students waiting for a Teammate? Visiting the sick in the hospitals? Shoveling snow off someone’s walk in the wintertime? Writing a note of encouragement to someone who is facing hard times? Planting flowers for an elderly person?
Don’t be afraid to get a little dirty or to get creative with your giving. Whatever you do, ask God to help you meet the deepest needs of those around you. Dorcas used a small sewing needle to help those who were needy and destitute. Her care for them was motivated by her deep love for Jesus. She did what she could. How deep is our love and how will we show it? May we discover the “Dorcas” in all of us.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the story of Dorcas. Motivate us to make a difference in the lives of those around us. Guide us to reflect your love to others. Amen
Written by Janece Nelson