Peter and the Port of Joppa
Joppa is a port city with over 7,000 years of recorded history. It is known as one of the oldest functioning harbors in the world. This is the port where huge cedar trees were floated from Phoenicia to be used for the construction of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. This is also the harbor where the Bible tells us that a famous prophet named Jonah caught a ship to Tarshish – a journey cut short by a three-day stay in the belly of a huge fish.
Today, Joppa is known as Jaffa. Its population is about 60,000, just on the south end of Tel Aviv. Jaffa is still a port for small fishing boats, but it is best known now for its restaurants, shops, and tourist attractions along its shoreline.
In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha; she was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!” (Acts 9:36-38)
So, Peter went with them, and when he got there, he was taken to the upstairs room. Tabitha was lying there, surrounded by grieving family and friends. Peter sent them all out of the room and got down on his knees and prayed. Then he turned towards the dead woman and said…
“Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. (Acts 9:40-42)
After raising Tabitha from the dead, Peter stayed in Joppa with a tanner named Simon. A tanner processes animal skins to turn them into leather. In the ancient world, leather was used for all sorts of things, including sandals, boots, bags, armor, quivers, scabbards, water skins, animal harnesses, boating gear, and writing parchment. Peter and the Port of Joppa play an important role in the early church development.
The traditional site for Simon’s house in Joppa is now called St. Peter’s Church, right on the shore of the harbor. Churches have been built and destroyed at this location for centuries, with the current version being completed in the late 1800’s by the Franciscans. For hundreds of years, a church in honor of Peter has dominated the skyline here, serving as a beacon to pilgrims coming to the Holy Land by sea and entering the harbor at Jaffa.