The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany (2/8/2009)

The Fever Left Her,and She Began to Serve Them 

Lessons:     Isaiah 40:21-31     Psalm 147:1-11, 20c     1st Corinthians 9:16-23     St. Mark 1:29-39

Prayer of the Day:     Everlasting God, you give strength to the weak and power to the faint. Make us agents of your healing and wholeness, that your good news may be made known to the ends of your creation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

 1:29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. 32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. 35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." 38 He answered, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do." 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

St. Mark 1:29-39 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

 Why did Jesus heal Saint Peter's mother-in-law? That may seem a strange way to begin this weekly meditation, but I am curious: why did Jesus heal Saint Peter's mother-in-law? Don't expect the usual barrage of mother-in-law jokes. That's not why I ask. It's just that there are so many others he didn't heal.  This week's text even tells us his ability as a faith healer was so widely known, that his disciples told him everyone was searching for him. But rather than go to them, and continue his healing ministry in Capernaum, Jesus went on to the neighboring towns to meet with the people there. So if he wasn't interested in healing all the others who had heard about him in Capernaum, why did he heal Saint Peter's mother-in-law?

The answer to this question may be buried in the 31st verse - buried in her response to Jesus. Saint Mark tells us she was in bed with a fever. The Greek word Mark uses for fever is based on the root word for fire. Peter's mother-in-law was burning up. She was seriously ill. But Jesus simply walked into her room, took her by the hand, and lifted her up. Then, Mark tells us, the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

Now I doubt that Jesus healed her because he suspected that neither Peter nor his wife were capable of throwing dinner on the table. And I doubt that she began to serve them because she was filled with a sense of obligation, and had to do something to pay Jesus back. I believe that she went from her sick bed to an attitude of service, because that's what happens when Jesus enters someone's life. Jesus called to Peter, Andrew, James, and John and they left everything (even their wives and their mothers-in-law) to serve him. Jesus healed a leper, and he immediately served his healer by proclaiming to the whole town that the Messiah had arrived. Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law, and she began to serve them. Such is the life of faith. When we experience Jesus' touch in an authentic way, it inspires us to give of ourselves in service to him by serving others.

Some of us have been reading, lately, about why people join Christian congregations. It is commonly known that people "church shop" these days - going from congregation to congregation to see which one most closely serves their particular needs. People leave churches, as well, because they don't adequately "meet our needs" anymore. It seems as though we pick the congregation that can add the most to our life, perhaps carefully weighing the costs and benefits to make sure that that becoming involved will be a net gain for us.

This week we are reminded that Jesus calls us not to be served, but to serve. I wonder if that changes the way we "shop" for churches. I wonder if that encourages us to look, instead, for a congregation that needs our gifts, a congregation that can be strengthened by our presence, a congregation that gives us an opportunity to serve Christ with our time and our talents and our resources.

For those of us who already belong to congregations, perhaps Jesus here reminds us to pray, not that our church might better serve our needs, but that we might better serve our Christ by strengthening and supporting the ministries of our local congregation. That is just one of the many ways that we might join Saint Peter's mother-in-law in serving our Lord. May you and I be faithful in doing so. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week's Text:

  1. Why did Jesus heal Saint Peter's mother-in-law?
  2. How was her response an effort to show her gratitude?
  3. What do you suppose Peter and the others thought?

Connecting with This Week's Text:

  1. How has God touched my life?
  2. How do I show my gratitude to God by serving others?
  3. What new manner of serving might I adopt this year, as I continue to grow in faithfulness?