Church of the Good Shepherd
Discussion of Acts 9:36-43 (HCSB)
In the city of Joppa, known today as Jaffa, there was a disciple named Tabitha. She spends her time doing good works and acts of charity. She shows her love of God by showing love to her neighbors, especially by making dresses and clothes for those in need. Notice that we don’t know anything else about Tabitha. We know nothing other than the fact that she showed agape love to those around her.
Imagine you’ve been assigned to write Tabitha’s obituary in the local newspaper. What would you write? We don’t know how old she was. Was she young, middle-aged, or old? We do not know. We don’t read about a husband. Was she married, or maybe once married and now widowed, or had she never married? We do not know. We don’t know how many children, if any, she had. We don’t know if she had any siblings or extended family. We don’t know what his hobbies were. We don’t know his nickname or his favorite hobby or his favorite sports team. We do not know his financial situation. We do not know his political beliefs. All of the “important” information that we can easily find in today’s obituaries is missing and when I say “important” I mean “important” to us.
Yet this very brief description of his life tells us everything we need to know, or better said, everything God needs to know. If Jesus wrote Tabitha’s obituary, it would simply read: “Disciple of Jesus Christ.” That’s all Jesus would need to write, because that’s all God needs to know. Everything else – everything we might think is incredibly important, it’s all completely and utterly irrelevant.
Everyone will stand before Almighty God no matter what, and we don’t stand before the Lord surrounded by the number of friends we’ve had in life (either Facebook friends or real friends). We don’t come before God with our bank statements and investment portfolios. We are not judged by the interest of our various hobbies. There is no spiritual scale where we are weighed with good deeds on one side and bad deeds on the other. Either we are clothed in the filthy rags of our righteousness (which won’t work well for us) or, if we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior – with all that that entails – we are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Tabitha’s obituary would simply be “Disciple of Jesus Christ” because her life cried out to everyone that she was a faithful follower of our Lord. She worked to help those in need, which Jesus requires of his followers. If in doubt, please read Matthew 25:31-46 this week and see what happens to those who refuse. They are driven out of the presence of the Lord at the final judgment. Sitting on the sidelines and watching others engage in ministry is not an option for a Christian.
We all know that our time here on earth is limited. Either we die or the Lord will come before us. These are the only two options as far as Christians are concerned. So, I think it would be a wise use of time for us to each think about what our obituary would say if it was written tomorrow. If our obituary could only contain one thing, would it say that we were Christians, a true follower of our Lord and Saviour, or would it say something else? For even more discomfort, imagine what our obituary would say if it were written by the risen Christ himself. Would he say “disciple” or “fence-sitter” or “hypocrite”?
But maybe a better way to think about it is not what our obituary would say, but rather what our life says about us. We write our own obituaries and we write every day of our lives. We are the author of the story of our life. Tabitha’s life made it clear that she was a disciple and her deeds on behalf of those in need and she wrote herself a beautiful obituary. What does our life say?