March 25, 2014

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe                            


Lesson III.D.1: Peter in Lydda: A man healed (9:32-35)      



32 And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.

33 And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy.

34 And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.

35 And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.



My study of this short little lesson has convinced me that it is a wonderful passage and rich with meaning. I thank God for giving me the time to study and learn more about Him. I pray that He will bless me with the ability to rightly divide his Word.

With Paul home in Tarsus, the narrative focuses once more on Peter. He last appeared in connection with the Samaritan mission (8:14-25). Now he is participating in the greater Judean mission by evangelizing the coastal communities. Finally, he would witness to a Gentile, a key incident in establishing the mission “to the ends of the earth” (10:1-11:18). This small section about Peter’s witness to the coastal towns consists of two miracle stories: the healing of Aeneas (vv. 32-35) and the raising of Dorcas (vv. 36-43; Lesson III.D.2).


This passage can be viewed as a picture album featuring the ministry of Peter as a traveling preacher. As we ponder the pictures, there are three things impressed upon the mind, which we may deal with in ascending order; first, the communion of the saints; secondly, the operations of the Spirit; and thirdly, the victories of the Lord. The three things are found in the verses before us.



32 And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.


Peter is described as passing throughout all quarters, which suggests a wide ranging preaching tour. He stopped in Lydda to visit the saints there{2]. Christians are saints, or holy people; not only the eminent ones, like Saint Peter and Saint Paul, but every sincere professor of faith in Jesus Christ. We are not told just how there came to be Christians in Lydda. Perhaps it was the product of Philip’s ministry, since he would have passed through Lydda on his journey northward from Azotus to Caesarea (8:40{1]).


As mentioned in the introduction, there are three things that this passage impresses on the mind. We shall begin to analyze these beginning with the lowest level, that which is the simplest and most apparent; let us see what this passage reveals about the communion of saints; then moving to the next level, we will see what it reveals concerning the operations of the Spirit; and finally, we will look at the highest level to see what it reveals about the victories of the Lord.


First, what is there here concerning the communion of the saints? A careful reading of the story bring to light the influence of a man who is not named—the person from whom they learned about Jesus. We are likely to ask a simple and natural question, “Where did the saints at Lydda come from?” Let’s return to Chapter 8 and the story of the Ethiopian eunuch. The last verse reads, “But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.” As we noted in the beginning paragraph, Lydda would have been one of the cities where Philip preached. He had preached in Samaria and a church had been formed. He had preached to the Ethiopian eunuch and had won him for Christ. He had been borne by the Spirit to Azotus, and then started preaching through the cities. It is probable that his preaching in Lydda had been the means of gathering together a number of those who believed in Christ. This is why I believe the saints in Lydda were the result of Philip’s preaching.


Peter now passed over the same ground, and entered into the result of Philip’s ministry. Wherever Peter went, he benefitted from the ministry of another. A ministry such as that which Peter exercised in Samaria would have been completely out of place had it not been for the preparatory work of Philip. If Philip was not the one who had originally evangelized the region, then the Christians who were living there may have been converted at Pentecost, or perhaps they were faithful believers who had been scattered far and wide by the great persecution. But there is no doubt that Philip the evangelist had ministered there.


The communion of saints always expresses itself in service. Wherever the apostle urges the saints to be true to the communion (spiritual union) or fellowship (association), the expression of communion must be in service of some kind. The church does not express its communion when it gathers together in assembly. The church expresses its communion, when in all types and kinds of manifold ministry it unites and ministers in helpfulness and love.


33 And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy.


At Lydda, presumably in the Christian community{3], Peter found a paralytic by the name of Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years. Luke does not say whether this man was a Christian, but the use of certain man to describe him means that he probably was not. In fact, Luke tells us very little about him. How old was he? Did he believe in Jesus Christ? Was he Jew or Gentile? These are things we would like to know.


In this verse, we can observe the operation of the Spirit. First of all there is evidence of the Spirit’s operation in the guidance of the apostle as he went throughout all quarters; to the saints at Lydda, to Joppa by the invitation of two men who represented the assembly who was in trouble because Dorcas was dead; then tarrying in the house of Simon the tanner. Nothing is stated about the activity of the Spirit. This man is traveling throughout all quarters, no longer because of persecution, for the church at this time had peace. Persecution will attack it again, soon enough. The apostles tarried in Jerusalem until they were driven out by persecution; but the period of persecution had passed for the moment. The Spirit was guiding this man throughout all quarters.


The working of the Spirit is manifested in the exercise of gifts; the gift of miracles, the healing of Aeneas; the raising of Dorcas. The gift of miracles is not the only gift to be found here, because as we study the story of Dorcas, we will discover that she was blessed to have the gift of “helps,” which is simply the gift of providing relief. When Dorcas was using her deft fingers to make garments, she was doing it in the power of that gift which the Holy Spirit had bestowed on her; just as surely as Peter raised Dorcas, and healed Aeneas, as the result of gifts bestowed by the Spirit.


Let us take the gifts He gives us, and use them, and not wish that we had some more spectacular gift, which He has wisely withheld from us. This is the age of the Spirit. We are to act, not in imitation of the methods of the apostolic age, but in obedience to the present work and power of the Holy Spirit.


34 And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.


Peter took the initiative to heal Aeneas without any request being made, like Jesus did on several occasions (Luke 7:13-15{4]; 13:12{5]). The healing was accompanied by a healing word, calling on the name of Jesus{6]. Peter then told Aeneas to “arise, and make thy bed” (“take care of your mat,” NIV). The expression is thoroughly ambiguous. It could be taken in the sense of him folding up his mat, just as Jesus commanded another Paralytic to rise and take up his (Mk. 2:11{7]; Lk. 5:24{8]). The same word, however, is used for preparing a couch for dining, the Jewish custom being dining while reclining on a couch. If Peter’s directions are taken in this sense, the reference would be to the man’s thorough recovery and taking food to give him more strength (Lk. 8:55{9]; Acts 9:19). In either case, Aeneas ability to rise to his feet and prepare the mat is certainly evidence that his paralysis had been cured. This miracle was Peter’s second healing of a cripple (3:1-10; 14:8-10{13]). Notice that the healing was instantaneous, and the man was able to get up and make his bed. He became a walking miracle.


We come now to the third thing this passage brings to mind, the supreme matter, the victories of the Lord. How carefully Peter was speaking to Aeneas to make clear to him what had just happened. Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. We hear again the very echo of the voice of Jesus. The appeal was to the will: Arise. He was asked to do something he could not do before he was healed, “Arise and make thy bed.” There was no confession of faith made by Aeneas. It was a gift of healing without any conditions, except one; that he rise to his feet and make his bed. It is highly probable that Aeneas received spiritual life and physical healing at the same time. He was only asked to exercise his will, which was expressed in walking. Let’s go back and look at the first verse in the Book of Acts: “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.” He said to a man, “Arise, take up thy bed and walk.” Was the Lord still doing it through a member of His own body, Peter the apostle?


Now we can set aside the picture album and gather up the conclusions. The communion of saints is created by the operation of the Spirit, and results in the victories of the Lord. The operations of the Spirit are for the victories through the communion of the saints. Once again, the victories of the Lord follow the communion of the saints by the operations of the Spirit.


A threefold responsibility is suggested; that we cultivate the communion of the saints; that we do it by submission to the indwelling Spirit; and that the reason shall for ever be our desire to crown Him Lord of all.


35 And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.


Lydda was located inland about 12 miles from the Mediterranean Sea in the fertile coastal plain of Saron (Sharon), which extends north from Joppa to Mount Carmel; an area about 10 miles wide and 50 miles long. Lydda is on the southeastern edge of the plain, and it was on the road from Azotus to Caesarea. Lydda is today called Lod. Israel’s international airport is just north of the city.


Aeneas was healed and Luke said the people of the region turned to the Lord as a result of Aeneas’s healing. If all the residents turned to the Lord, we already have a mission to the Gentiles because most of the residents were Gentiles. Possibly what Luke meant was that all those that witnessed the healing act of Peter or all those who had contact with Aeneas believed in the Lord. Just seeing him walk around convinced them that Jesus was still alive and they needed to trust Him (for a similar instance see John 12:10-11{10]). You may recall how the news of Jesus’ miracles also spread to the surrounding neighborhoods and attracted crowds to Him. As we have seen before, the miracles in Acts are signs of Jesus’ power and often serve as the initial basis that leads to intimate commitment to Him. They are never, however, a substitute for faith (Jn. 3:15-18{12]).


The healing of Aeneas was the thing that initiated many coming to Christ. Three times in Acts, Luke used the words turned to the Lord to refer to salvation (9:35; 11:21; 15:19). The Gospel was beginning to attract a wider audience, for many in this coastal region were Gentiles. You can be sure, however, that Peter did much more in Lydda than heal Aeneas, as great and helpful as that miracle was. He evangelized, taught and encouraged the believers, and sought to establish a church in the Christian faith. Jesus had commissioned Peter to care for the sheep (Jn. 21:15-17{11]) and Peter was faithful to fulfill that commission.



Wherever the risen Christ is present in the person of one of His faithful born again Christians there is new power to overcome the handicaps of human existence. Miracles do happen. They happened then and they happen now. A Christian fellowship in which there is no signs of new life, no indication that people are rising above the dead level of their old selves, that they are conquering the fears and anxieties that threaten the smooth operation of their lives—in that fellowship there is something radically wrong. Jesus promised that through the gift of the Spirit, His disciples would do greater things, and according to the stories in the Book of Acts, they went on to do them. Jesus had no monopoly on miracles. The miracles we have in the New Testament are the signs of the tremendous surplus and overflow of divine energy that had come into the world through Jesus and was being communicated to men through channels chosen by Him. It was a sign in the language of that day. The language of our day may differ, but the sign is the same—NEW LIFE AS THE RESULT OF RESURRECTION POWER.


scripture reference and special notes.

{1] (Acts 8:40) But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.

{2] At this point I need to mention a view held by some Bible Scholars. Acts 12:17 states, “But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.” Note that it says that Peter “went into another place.” The idea is that Peter’s ministry in the coastal cities should be placed chronologically after Acts 12:17—after he escaped from prison in Chapter 12, he journeyed to the coastal cities and ministered to the saints. This is only supposition, since scripture doesn’t confirm this view.

{3] It has often been argued that Aeneas was not a Christian. If, however, the “there” of verse 33 is taken as referring to the “saints of Lydda,” rather than merely “Lydda,” he is associated with the Christians.

{4] (Luke 7:13-15) And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak . And he delivered him to his mother.

{5] (Luke 13:12) And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.

{6] “Jesus Christ maketh thee whole” could also be translated “Jesus Christ has healed you.”

{7] (Mk. 2:11) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.

{8] (Lk. 5:24) But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.

{9] (Lk. 8:55) And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat.

{10] (John 12:10-11) But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.

{11] (Jn. 21:15-17) So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

{12] (Jn. 3:15-18) That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

{13] (Acts 14:8-10) And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked: The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.