The Ripple Effect
Text: Acts 9: 32- 43
Proposition: When the truth and life of Jesus Christ are experienced by one person it transforms their life to such an extent that a ripple effect touches others.
Introduction: Water molecules are amazing things. They connect to each other on all sides. The exception to that are the water molecules at the surface, these ones have no molecules on top to connect to so they compensate by connecting even more strongly to those on each side of them. That reinforced connection of these water molecules we call surface tension. When that surface has an object fall upon it there is a depression of the surface, kind of like when a trampoline depresses down under a persons weight. Then, as the object passes through that surface tension, the surface tension springs back into place. That action creates a horizontal push on the water molecules beside it and a ripple develops each time the surface readjusts to its equilibrium. The testimony that something has broken the surface tension comes from the series of ripples radiating out from the center. That’s just a tiny law of physics that God created for us to one day discover. Like every law He creates it causes order, enables life and reflects an even greater order that it is just a small part of. The ripples on a sand dune or the washboard roughness on a gravel road are part of that same law of horizontal pressures on surrounding material. Let me take that law and use it for a moment as a metaphor to describe what God did in sending Jesus Christ into humanity. Jesus has been likened unto a rock, the rock of ages, the stone which the builders rejected. When that rock entered into humanity it broke the surface tension of what people expected of God and what people thought about Who God is. For the first time since Adam Someone tore through the fabric of man’s sin nature and began to impart righteousness to all who through faith encountered Him. The ripple effect is still being felt today not only because Christ actually came here but also because He dramatically changes peoples lives, exchanging death for life. Let’s look at an account of this, a ripple effect that eventually has come all the way through more than 2000 years of time to transform your life here today. Have a look at Acts 9:32 to 43.
I. As Random As Grace May Seem, God Uses Sent People Strategically.
There were great changes happening in the world at the end of the 4th decade AD. Caligila became the new Roman Emperor, there was a new High Priest replacing Caiaphas and the man who would one day be used of God to write almost half of the New Testament, Paul, was now established in the northern city of Tarsus. Peter sensing this new opportunity moves out from Jerusalem and ends up about 35 K away at Lydda or Lod, near present day Ramallah. It’s here that he meets a man who has been paralyzed for eight years, Aeneas. We can assume that Peter likely saw this man a few times and then one day is prompted by the Holy Spirit to do the impossible. Peter has learned his name and calling him he says, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.” It is amazing, it’s a present tense statement, not will heal you but heals you now and the evidence of that is you do what you couldn’t do. You stand and walk and carry that which once carried you. Miracles even today are not meant to be an end in themselves, they are signs that point to the source. They point to the One who has the power to heal but even more importantly the will He has to love you where you are and to transform your life. It’s Jesus the Christ who heals, not Peter and the effect of that present tense action of Jesus breaks the surface tension of sickness and paralysis. Verse 35 says, “So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.” The gospel of Jesus the Christ goes out like concentric ripples from Lydda. .
About 20k from there, in Joppa, is a Christian woman named Tabitha or in the Greek language, Dorcas. She becomes ill and suddenly dies. The news about the miracle of Aeneas in Lydda has reached the people in Joppa and in hope two men are sent to bring Peter there. He goes and sees her dead body lying in an upper room. The widows of the community show him how she had made clothes for them, they praise her for how she spent her life. Her good works became a testimony to her faith. But Peter had not been brought here to do a funeral, he had been brought here because of Jesus the Christ. The impossible had happened at Lydda, Aeneas was healed of paralysis. Now here in Joppa the church believed Jesus could do an even greater impossibility with Tabitha, He could raise her from the dead! That was their hope, their faith was that Jesus could do even this… if He was willing.
You know how this ends, Peter prays, recognizes the will and timing of Christ and in Jesus name he raises her to life and presents her to the people. The surface tension of death had been broken through and the splash of that incredible event travelled out like a shock wave. In verse 42 it says, “And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord.” Here’s the point, God chooses strategically what He does. The resuscitation or raising of Tabitha from the dead declared the power of God clearly to all. The purpose of it in revealing Who Jesus is was also clear and yet the next purposes were unseen by all. God was about to change the church from being a predominantly Jewish focused force to being the power of God for salvation to the Gentile world. Years later the apostle Paul would write this in the letter to the Romans, 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” God moves with great precision in our lives and though Grace can sometimes seem so random, the Lord God moves strategically, changing lives and communities through faith in Jesus the Christ. Let me invite you to see that very same thing happening in your lives today. Consider this, these people were just people, how God uses them is like how He uses us. Peter was willing to move from Jerusalem following God’s lead and timing and as a result met Aeneas and Dorcas. Unless he was willing to meet with people he had never met or known, that could not have happened with Peter. He had to be willing to go. Aeneas was used of God to have a faith that didn’t end in despair. By faith he hoped in Christ and by faith he was saved and healed and did what he never thought was possible. Dorcas was a woman who did good works because of her faith in Jesus the Christ. It was this generosity and compassion that God chose to use by letting her down into the cords of death. He never once failed her or forgot her but chose to let her suffer illness and sudden death. It was those very sufferings that created the surface tension that He would break through to reflect the truth of Christ. If we read just a little further in the story we see Peter staying on in Joppa and living with a man who was a tanner, a man named Simon . What lays between the lines is that tanners handled dead animals daily, skinning them and processing the hides. That to the Jews was considered a contamination, a defiling. As a result tanners were forced to live outside the community and were considered repulsive. That’s who God has Peter go and live with and that’s where the next great event in the Gospel happens, on Simon the tanner’s roof. God uses people strategically, even the ones that you may think you have little in common with and are not naturally drawn towards. God’s grace is at work, see it, agree with it, be transformed by it and allow God to use you in a way that ripples the truth of Jesus the Christ across the lives of others.
Next week we’ll follow the ripple of the gospel of Christ as it touches one whom the Jewish church least expected, a Roman Centurion. We’ll see how God calls people to trust Him, to risk faith when we can’t see how it’s all going to turn out. But mostly what we’ll see is the love of God in sending Jesus to be the One who breaks the surface tension of sin and death in order that you would not only have life, but that you would have it abundantly, in Him.