Recently I was asked to conduct the funeral for a dear sister in Christ who went home to be with the Lord. As I prayed over what I should say, the Spirit guided me to the story of a woman in the Bible whose name was Tabitha, or as some of you may know her – Dorcas.
Acts 9:36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” ESV
The Bible doesn’t tell us a lot about Tabitha. We don’t know how old she was. We do not know whether or not she was ever married or had children. We know nothing about her parents or her childhood. We do not even know when or how she came to know Christ. The only thing we know was that she was a disciple and that she cared about people.
There is one little clue in scripture that might give us a little more insight into who she was. The name ‘Tabitha’ (Greek – Dorcas) means “gazelle.” Many of us know that a gazelle is an animal that looks a lot like a deer. It’s a part of the antelope family which is commonly known for its speed and agility. If you dig a little deeper into Tabitha’s name you learn that it comes from a word that describes – beauty and honor. Scripture doesn’t tell us if Tabitha fulfilled the meaning of her name, but apparently her parents wanted her to possess the character of someone who would be known for their gracefulness.
We are not sure if Tabitha was always graceful in her actions, but we do know that she was full of grace. Tabitha was a woman known for her acts of charity to those in need. What made Tabitha such a grace-full woman? The Bible says that she was a disciple of Jesus Christ.
What does it mean to be a disciple? A disciple is someone who sits under the teaching of a master so that they might gain knowledge from their instruction and guidance by their example. Did Tabitha ever meet Jesus personally? Most likely she didn’t. As far as I know, there is no record in scripture of Jesus ever going to the city of Joppa. Tabitha did not come to know Jesus through personal interaction, but rather through her salvation. By calling her a disciple of Christ the Bible is telling us that she was a born-again believer who did her best to follow Jesus not only as her Savior, but also as her Lord.
I am thankful to say that the lady whose funeral I conducted was a lot like Tabitha. She was a woman full of God’s grace.