Text: Acts 9:32-43, Mark 5:21-43, Psalm 36:8-9
Years ago, after returning from a mission trip, I joined my church staff for lunch to share my experiences. As I described some patients we’d met while visiting an infirmary, I noticed my tablemates shifting uncomfortably in their seats. I couldn’t blame them. I pushed my plate away, my appetite dissolved in the memory of such deep and devastating need.
When faced with the reality of true abject poverty, my instinct is to look away. I’ll never be able to unsee the sick and dying, lying in beds crammed ten to a room, but deep down I don’t want to. Witnessing that cloud of suffering has helped me to see God’s rich mercy and compassion with greater clarity.
In Acts 9, we meet two people in desperate need of such mercy. Their stories reflect the realities I saw in a third world infirmary and the suffering I see all around me when I force my eyes to look up. The first is Aeneas, a paralytic who’d been bedridden for eight years (v. 33). The second is Dorcas, a disciple of Christ and vibrant member of the Church who’d fallen ill and died (vv. 36-37). Their two stories illustrate a stark juxtaposition.
Aeneas was from Lydda, a pagan settlement filled with blue-collar workers.
Dorcas lived in Joppa, a beautiful and thriving port city with a long Jewish history.
Aeneas had been bedridden for nearly a decade.
Dorcas had lived a vibrant life of service before becoming sick and dying unexpectedly.
Aeneas had nothing to offer, no good works to give, as she’d been immobilized.
Dorcas was “full of good works and acts of charity” (v. 36).
Yet, by the power of Christ, both of them were fully healed.
There are ugly corners of my sinful heart that think healing can be earned, that God’s touch is reserved for the deserving. I see the reality of my own brokenness and worry He’ll turn away from my need. But the contrast between these two miracles proves that Christ’s compassion is not dependent upon our deservedness.
Over and over again during His earthly ministry, and later through His disciples, Jesus offered healing to people on every rung of the social and economic ladder. Each miraculous encounter shows us that His grace is a free gift, extended to both the greatest and least of us. We can’t twist God’s arm to make Him intervene in our lives. Nor can our good works or earthly belongings offer Him anything in return. His work in our lives is always an outflow of His mercy and grace.
Aeneas and Dorcas were tied together by a God who saw their suffering and refused to look away. Their stories remind me that I can ask for God’s help and expect Him to respond based on His character, not my merit. He shows compassion to me, not because of what I deserve, but because of who He is.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.