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?

6 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.

    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.

  3. I am not too sure where to start when talking about the healing of Aeneas. What I do know is this was one of the most significant parts of Peter’s ministry. We often see Peter healing people in the name of Jesus Christ. We saw this in the earlier part of Acts when Peter and John were walking through the temple of Jerusalem. (I believe that is where they were if I remember correctly) As they were walking through there was a lame man begging for money. There was this famous line “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you” (Acts 9:6). I say this is a famous line because I remember it with a lot of imagery, this part of Acts was one of my favorites to read and understand. Peter then healed the lame man in the name of the Lord. Then now we can see Peter do this again to Aeneas who was not exactly paralyzed but weak and frail and unable to walk. This second healing is to me is just a big testament to the impact that Peter had on the various communities and the influence that it had in spreading the Gospel to more people. One last thing to note that I find very interesting is that most of these “paralyzed” people that are healed aren’t really paralyzed to begin with. As professor Long points out it is just a person who is “weak or disabled in some way”(Long). I think the word “paralytic” is just the word that Luke was using. I don’t think this is the right answer but Luke included this story to emphasize what Peter had done throughout his ministry. This is something I previously touched on earlier.

  4. I could not imagine how Aeneas feels to be weak and disabled not being able to walk “being bedridden for eight years” is a long time, especially if once in our lifetime you were able to walk (Acts 9:33). Luke often shares how long these paralytics have been disabled because it shows “the severity of [their] paralysis” (Polhill, 2102). The severity shown to the readers makes it so that the power of God healing this disabled man makes it even more of a miracle. Peter is the one who said to Aeneas, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you rise and make your bed” (Acts 9:34). Any person who was disabled or with a disease people were told not to touch or go near them because they are unclean, but by Peter going to this paralytic man, it showed others how one is supposed to act to people of all different types. By Peter healing this man, it showed others of God’s mighty power. This story was probably a story that Luke wanted to include because not only did it show the power of God and what He is capable of doing, but it also showed many “residents of Lydda and Sharon” what God is capable of doing and it turned all of them to the Lord (Acts 9:35). It was important to the disciple Peter to get the Word spread everywhere, and “Lydda served as a regional administrative town for Judea, and was on an important trade route” where a lot of conversions could later happen because it is a well-traveled area. (Polhill, 2101). Luke included this healing of Aeneas to show us as readers, saving can happen anywhere, God is almighty and powerful, and we should not be afraid to go to people who are different from us and show our love to them.

  5. It was interesting to hear that the town of Lydda was burned down by the Romans. It was horrible to hear that such a terrible event had happened because this could mean many people were either injured or even killed. Also, it was interesting to me that there is no evidence of Peter’s ministry in Lydda, especially such events such as the healing of Aeneas had taken place there, and performed by Peter. Learning that Aeneas was bedridden for eight years, did not mean that he was paralyzed but he could have just been sick which I think is something many should know when reading this section of Acts because it gives more context to what is currently happening in the story with context behind the situation as well. Many individuals empathize with the words that Peter said to Aeneas when he healed him such as “Jesus Christ heals you” (Acts 9:34). I think it is very interesting how many people have different understandings of the way Peter healed Aeneas because many think Aeneas was healed to do different activities and many have different ideas about them. I like to think that it is more straightforward than overthinking the situation because it was a miracle that occurred so why overthink the entirety of the situation and the meanings.

  6. The brief healing story of Aeneas in Acts 9:32-35 serves several purposes in the narrative of the book of Acts. Firstly, it demonstrates the power of the Holy Spirit working through Peter to perform a miraculous healing. This is consistent with the theme of the book of Acts, which emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit in the expansion of the early church. Secondly, the healing of Aeneas serves to authenticate Peter’s authority as an apostle. The story follows the account of Saul’s conversion and Peter’s visit to the church in Jerusalem, in which he is accepted as a leader and respected by the other apostles (Acts 9:26-31). The healing of Aeneas further establishes Peter’s credibility as a representative of Jesus Christ and reinforces his authority within the early Christian community. Finally, the healing of Aeneas serves to demonstrate the impact of the Gospel on the wider community. Aeneas is described as a man who had been bedridden for eight years, and his healing would have been seen as a remarkable and miraculous event. Polhill tells us that the mention of eight years is to show us the severity of the mans paralysis (p. 2102). The news of this healing would have spread quickly and would have contributed to the growth of the early church, as people were drawn to the message of the Gospel. In summary, the inclusion of the healing story of Aeneas in Acts 9 serves to demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit, to authenticate Peter’s authority as an apostle, and to demonstrate the impact of the Gospel on the wider community.

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