For a moment, open up the files in your brain marked “Bible knowledge.”
Does the town of “Lydda” find a match?
How about the name “Aeneas?”
They didn’t for me this morning, as I was reading my Bible.
If I had been on a Bible quiz team, I would have assumed that Lydda was some obscure town in Israel that had been mentioned in some even more obscure Old Testament book—something like II Hezekiah.
As for Aeneas, well, I remember that there was a great NFL cornerback by the name of Aeneas Williams. That tells me I’m way too devoted to the Sport’s Page. But that’s about all that came to mind.
Guess what? After 50 years of reading and studying the Bible, including a 4-year seminary education, I came across those names in a not-so-obscure book of the New Testament—the Book of Acts! How could I have missed them? I don’t know how many times I’ve read the book of Acts, but there it was, a whole paragraph devoted to the incredible things God did through Peter in the town of Lydda, in Acts 9:32-35. The story’s brief enough to quote here:
Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the
saints who lived at Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years, for he was paralyzed. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus
Christ heals you; get up and make your bed.” Immediately he got up. And all
who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.
So, Aeneas was no cornerback for the Lydda church football team–far from it. He was in really bad shape. The Apostle Peter, on a short-term missions trip through Israel, came to the town Lydda, not far from the coast, and found this saint who had been paralyzed and bedridden for way too long. And in the name of Jesus Christ, he healed him, just like that.
What happened after that is the biggest part of the story. “And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord” (Acts 9:35).
Whoa! Apparently, Aeneas’ condition was well-known in all that area. Just about everyone in town and in the surrounding region knew about poor Aeneas, and why he hadn’t been out and about in a long, long time. When suddenly Aeneas began showing up around town, people wondered why. And they “wondered” even more when they heard that the Apostle Peter had been by and that in the name of Jesus Christ, healed him. And “all”—that’s a pretty inclusive word—who were in Lydda and Sharon turned to repentant faith in Christ as their Savior and Lord. In other words, there was a revival in that area that missed absolutely no one!
I realized that this was a huge deal for little Lydda and Sharon. It followed the exact same pattern of what had happened in Jerusalem a few years earlier in Acts 3. Peter had encountered a poor cripple who had begged at a certain gate to the temple for years. Everyone knew him because every time they passed by that gate that guy was there begging. As Peter and John passed by one day shortly after Pentecost, the beggar asked them for money just like he did everyone else. Peter had answered with those famous words, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6b, KJV).
Then Peter took him by the hand, lifted him up, his ankles and feet were strengthened, and he immediately began “walking, and leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:8b, KJV). “And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (Acts 3:9-10, NASB).
Everyone knew this guy couldn’t walk, and now he was dancing and leaping and praising God, and clinging to Peter and John, and so they wondered what had happened. And Peter was right there to explain to them exactly what had happened—that in the name of Jesus Christ, whom they had crucified—this man had been healed. And 5,000 people came to Christ that day!
Go back to Acts 9 again. The same kind of thing had happened the next place Peter went after Lydda. Tabitha, who was called Dorcas, a great servant of the Lord, had died in Joppa. Believers there knew Peter was in the area, so they called on him to come and pray for Dorcas—even though she was already dead! Peter obliged, got on his knees and prayed at her bedside, and she was raised from the dead! “It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord” (Acts 9:42).
Do you see a familiar pattern emerging here? A bold representative of Jesus shows up some place. He does a remarkable miracle in the name of Jesus Christ, one that is obvious to many people. They wonder. And they come to find out that it was done in the name of Jesus Christ. And many come to faith in Christ.
Yes, in these cases, it was always Peter, an apostle. But the same sort of thing had happened for non-apostles like Stephen and Phillip in Acts 6 through 8. And Jesus’ promise of answered prayer was not just for apostles, but for every believer: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:12-14).
What Peter did we could call prayer-evangelism. You promise to pray for someone in Jesus’ name. Jesus answers. And people wonder. Then many come to faith in Christ!
In this time of great stress and distress as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic, many people are at the end of their rope. Most are afraid. Some are sick. Some have friends and relatives who have died. Others are out of work, can’t pay their bills and don’t know where to turn.
You know some of those people. You could offer simply to pray for them in the name of Jesus Christ. The rest is up to God—until they begin to wonder why life has turned around for them. Then it will be your turn again. Tell them to trust in Jesus for themselves. Tell them He died for their sins, too, and proved it by being raised from the dead. Tell them to start praying in Jesus’ name. Invite them to listen to an online church service. And see how God can work even through you!
In these crazy times, we’re all going to have opportunities to pray for others in need. Let’s claim that amazing promise of Jesus in John 14:12-14 for ourselves and for all we know, and for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ!
And watch out! God might well just show up!
–Jim Wallace: Biblical Discernment Ministries, jamesdwallace.com, biblediscern.com