Jesus and Women – The Healing of Peter’s Mother-In-Law

Jesus and Women – The Healing of Peter’s Mother-In-Law

Jesus and Women – The Healing of Peter’s Mother-In-Law.

Please read Mark 1:29-34 (also Matthew 8:14-17 and Luke 4:38-41).

CONTEXT. Jesus seemed tireless on this one full day in Capernaum. He taught with authority in the synagogue, He cast out a demon after His teaching, He healed Peter’s mother-in-law at Peter’s home, then after sunset Jesus continued His powerful healing ministry with sick and demon-possessed people from all over the area. Undoubtedly, Jesus slept well that night.

a. Near the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus was teaching in a synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath. Capernaum was to be their adopted headquarters and home site for the duration of Christ’s ministry. In this synagogue, the people were amazed at the teachings of Jesus, astonished that He didn’t teach like the scribes. They were thrilled that “He spoke as one having authority.” In other words, His teaching wasn’t mere God-talk, repeating mindlessly what everyone had always said. The words weren’t empty, hypocritical, or full of hidden motives. Jesus spoke with authority because He was the true “author” of His words. He taught from His heart, honestly and transparently, and His words were not spoken for show or for appearance’s sake. Jesus opened up Scripture in a fresh way, and the hearers were inspired by what He said to them. The fact that his life was consistent with His speech only added to His credibility.

b. In this synagogue was a man with an evil spirit. Once Jesus entered the synagogue, the demon in the man knew immediately who Jesus was and was alarmed at Jesus’ presence. The spirit started to foolishly give commands to Jesus, as if it had power over Jesus to make Him leave the synagogue. But the demon ended up by acknowledging that Jesus is truly “the Holy One of God.” Jesus told the demon to be quiet and to come out of the man. The evil spirit had no choice but to obey. Not only did Jesus speak with authority there in the synagogue, He also proved He had authority over the demonic world. Soon He would prove His authority over sickness as well. Apparently, despite His intentions, the fame of Jesus started to spread around the region of Galilee. The word was getting out.

c. Why did Jesus order the demon to be quiet? Maybe He didn’t want to hear a faithless confession. Maybe He wanted His identity as Messiah to be under wraps for the time being. Perhaps Jesus wanted the people to believe in Him because of what He said, not merely believing the word of an evil spirit. Perhaps Jesus didn’t want the assistance of a demon in revealing His identity. Jesus didn’t want the Good News to be spread by a demon because demons are not worthy of that glorious and holy task. On the other hand, maybe it was all the above.

THE HEALING. a. Jesus, accompanied by James and John, walked from the synagogue to Simon Peter’s house nearby. It must have been a short walk, because travel was limited during the Sabbath. Reliable Christian tradition locates Peter’s house  just next door, all of 84 feet away from the synagogue. Upon arriving at Peter’s home, Jesus was told that Peter’s mother-in-law was very sick with a high-grade fever, diagnosed by none other than the doctor Luke. She was evidently a much beloved person, because everyone in the area begged Jesus to heal her. Jesus approached her, tenderly touched her, and took her by the hand, helping her to sit up. Jesus rebuked the sickness, essentially telling the fever, Who do you think you are? You don’t belong here! How dare you invade this woman! Leave her, now! And the fever immediately left her. She was fully restored to good health in an instant. Jesus also had strong words of rebuke when facing off with the devil (Luke 4: 8), when confronting the demons (Luke 4: 35 and 41), and when in the midst of the storms. As Lord of all creation, Jesus had authority over inanimate objects as well as living beings. Even non-living nature with no wills of their own obeyed Him, whether sickness or storm or water. The rebukes of Jesus carried weight, and all of nature obeyed Him, whether living or non-living. Even the sick human cell organisms were rebuked by Jesus.

b. Peter’s unnamed mother-in-law is an excellent model for all of us. As soon as she was healed, she rose up and without hesitation prepared the special evening Sabbath meal for Jesus and the disciples. Her instinct was to serve after the fever left her. She was healed, and then she served out of gratitude, a sense of hospitality, and the duties of the traditional believer on the Sabbath. She was blessed in order to be a blessing. She was healed in order to be a servant.

AFTER THE HEALING. a. Capernaum was abuzz with news of what Jesus was doing. He opened up the Scripture like no one else, He cast out a demon, He healed a fever. All in one day! People couldn’t go to Peter’s house during the Sabbath, so they stayed away for the afternoon. There were travel restrictions during the day, and they weren’t comfortable yet approaching Jesus for a healing on the Sabbath. But as soon as Sabbath ended at sunset, people came from all over the area. It seemed that the whole town of Capernaum was at Peter’s door, bringing the sick and the demon-possessed. “No  matter what their diseases were, the touch of His hand healed everyone… and the demons came out at His command, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But because they knew that He was the Messiah, Jesus rebuked them and refused to let them speak.” (Luke 4:40-41).

b. “The touch of His hand.” Jesus knew the power of touch. Human touch strengthens the bond between people. It is life-affirming, intimate, and confirms the value of the person being touched. To no one’s surprise, the latest research says that infants who are not touched or held, who are left alone without the benefit of human touch, are irreversibly harmed in their development. It is practically impossible for these infants to connect with people as they grow into adulthood. The crucial role of touch doesn’t end with young children. It is an important bonding vehicle throughout life and on into the unfortunate isolation of senior citizens. Jesus of course is well aware of the value of touch, and He performed many miracles with that vital physical blessing.

c. Once again, Jesus would not let the demons speak. This time it seems to be connected to His status as Messiah. This is another example of what is called “the messianic secret.” Why did He want His identity as Messiah to be quieted? Perhaps He didn’t want His followers to limit Him to being a faith healer or miracle worker, or a wise magician who did special tricks for the people. Jesus was of course so much more than that. Perhaps He wanted His identity to be under wraps at this time so He wouldn’t get out-of-control publicity, limiting His freedom of movement and itinerant ministry. Maybe He didn’t want to receive mobs of attention because that might hinder His very personal mentoring and ministry with His chosen disciples. Maybe He didn’t want the people to miss the point of His being the Suffering Servant, and not merely a Messiah with supernatural power. Perhaps the people weren’t ready as yet to understand the type of Messiah He truly is. Also, there’s a good chance Jesus didn’t want to disrupt the divine timetable as to His Passion, death and Resurrection. He doesn’t want the people to try to crown Him king, hastening a premature Palm Sunday coronation. Perhaps all these factors are present in His messianic secret. God only knows.

PREACHING TOUR. After sleeping the night in Peter’s house, Jesus snuck away to pray by Himself. He needed to decompress after the intensity of that particular Sabbath day. He needed to renew His intimacy with the Father. He needed to gain strength for the challenges coming ahead. And He needed fresh marching orders from the Father. He evidently received those orders loud and clear, for Jesus soon said that He needed to preach, He was compelled to preach, “because for this purpose I have come forth.” (Mark 1:35). Sure enough, Jesus then went on a major preaching tour throughout all Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, spreading the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

The Big Question: What did we learn about Jesus in this story?