Acts 9:32-35 – Healing Aeneas

Lydda 1948

Lydda in 1948

Lydda was a large Jewish village in the Plain of Sharon. Lydda is on the main road from Jerusalem to Joppa, about 27 miles (44km) northwest of Jerusalem on the coastal plain. (The modern Lod, ten miles from Tel Aviv, is near the Ben Gurion airport.)  Lydda was a large village according to Josephus (Antiq. 20.130) and predominately Jewish (Schnabel, Early Christian Mission 1:688). It is mentioned several times in 1 Macc as one of the most significant Jewish cities in the region (1 Macc 11:34, Antiq. 13.127). The town was burned by the Romans in the Jewish War (A. D. 66) and repopulated with Jews loyal to Vespasian two years later. Later the town was the site of a rabbinic academy and synagogue, but there is no evidence for these at the time of Peter’s ministry.

Luke uses the word “saints” to describe these believers in Lydda (9: 32) and in Joppa (9:41). Luke does not tell us how the Gospel came to this region, although most commentators speculate Philip evangelized the area. The summary statement at the end of chapter 8 Philip went to Ashdod and eventually Caesarea, about 37 miles north along the coast from Joppa.

We know very little about Aeneas, other than his name. Aeneas is a common Roman name since the hero of Virgil’s Roman “national epic” The Aeneid shared this name. Sometimes this fact is used detect a foreshadowing of the future Gentile mission. But there is nothing in the text implying he was a Gentile, and given Peter’s hesitation to go to Cornelius in the next chapter, is seems unlikely Aenaes was a Gentile

The NIV says that Aeneas was “bedridden for eight years,” although it is possible to read these words as saying he was in bed since he was eight years old. Keener (2:1707) points out Luke often tells the reader how long a person was ill before they were healed (Luke 13:11, for example). The word for paralytic is not necessarily a paralyzed person, but one who is weak or disabled in some way (the word is rare in the New Testament, four of five times in Luke/Acts). Sometimes this refers the result of an injury. It is, however, the same word Luke used for the paralytic in Luke 5:18, the “parallel” story for this healing.

Peter heals the man in the name of Jesus and then tells him to “take care of your mat.” These words are reminiscent of Jesus in Luke 5, but may not be an accurate translation. The literal Greek here is “spread for yourself,” which in the context of a man lying in bed for eight years would imply making one’s bed. But the words can also have the sense of making a meal, “set the table” (BDAG, 949). The line might be plausibly translated “take up your mat” or “recline at the table and eat.” If the latter is the correct reading, then there some irony: he has been reclining for eight years, now Peter tells him to come and recline at the table!

Luke tells us that as a result of this healing, many in the region turned to the Lord. This is the same word used in 3:19 along with repentance. For example, in Luke 22:32 uses the word for Jesus’ prayer for Peter. After Peter’s denial, Jesus prays that he will “turn back” and lead his fellow disciples. This may indicate the Jews in the small villages in the area responded similarly to the Jews in Jerusalem who heard Peter’s preaching.

What is the point of this brief healing story? Out of all the things Peter did, why does Luke choose to include this story?

2 thoughts on “Acts 9:32-35 – Healing Aeneas

  1. As is the case with many incidental stories mentioned in the Bible, it can be easy to want to question the appearance of seemingly random stories. I often find myself reading something and wondering why some incidents, which appear to have no real lesson, are included. However, I have to remind myself that the Bible is the inspired word of God, not a bestselling novel, and as such each event recorded is included for a specific purpose. Perhaps this incident, along with that of Tabitha, was included to possibly give a brief glimpse into what the apostles were continuing to do to spread the gospel behind the scenes. This short incident is a reminder to the readers of what was continuing to happen throughout Israel, amidst the larger events such as Stephen’s stoning, Phillip’s encounter with the Ethiopian, and of course Paul’s conversion. Polhill states that often in Acts, miracle “led to the advancement of the gospel” (2102). So, while it may appear very random for Luke to include this in the narrative, by doing so he is showing how the gospel was continuing to spread even through seemingly insignificant people such as Aeneas.

    Reference
    Polhill, John B. (Ed). The Acts of the Apostles. In ESV Study Bible. Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008.

  2. Right away, when reading this story, we tend to think of Jesus healing the lame man. The purpose of this story most likely is that Luke wants his reader to make a connection between the healing that Peter does and the healing that Jesus did. As the Holy Spirit is new amongst the disciples of Jesus, part of sharing the gospel is showing the power that the Holy Spirit gives. Peter clearly says, “Jesus Christ heals you”’ not “ I heal you”. This would have been a very familiar miracle to those who were present as well, as it had most likely had only been a few years if not just one since Jesus was crucified. Therefore, the continuation of healing in the name of Jesus showed everyone who saw, that the miracles that Jesus had been doing were still being done by him but through other people. This miracle helps achieve the spreading of the gospel (Polhill 2102). Verse 35 shows that the desired reaction from those who were watching took place as they turned to the Lord.
    Although Jesus is no longer physically there on the earth, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter is still able to heal and remind people of the amazing and loving acts of grace that God gives. The healing shows that shearing the gospel does not have to be solely words, but it can also happen through actions. The former lame man is left with a testimony and there are witnesses to the actions that were done in the name of Jesus.

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