He Restores Your Mother-in-Law
Rev. Kurt Lantz Epiphany 5 B Mark 1:29-39
February 07, 2021 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear people to whom Jesus has come,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Simon Peter’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever (Mark 1:30). Who cares? Jesus does. Last Sunday we heard how Jesus went to the synagogue in Capernaum and there healed a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-28). It was public and dramatic and it was a concern for all of the people in the synagogue that day. The word went out afterward about what Jesus had done, and certainly the word would also have gone out if Jesus hadn’t done anything about that unclean spirit. It was a no-brainer that Jesus had to do something about such a challenge in such a public place.
But then Jesus went to the house of Simon Peter and Andrew. The crowd was not yet there. Only James and John are mentioned going with them. Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever. Who cares?--the mother-in-law herself who is too sick to see to the needs of the honoured guest; Simon and Andrew in whose house the ill woman lay; surely Simon’s wife would have cared about her mother. But all in all it is a very private affair.
Her illness, a severe fever that had her bed-ridden, sounds at least as severe as the COVID-19 virus that is afflicting so many right now. But how wide was the impact of this illness of Simon’s mother-in-law? It was just a matter that affected the household, no one else. It was not of any greater significance. The others who were at the synagogue would not even have known anything about it. But it mattered to those in that household and so “immediately they told Him about her” (Mark 1:30).
Of what significance is your suffering? Oftentimes people who are sick don’t want anyone to know. They don’t want any fuss to be made. They won’t call their relatives or the pastor. They may not even let others in the household know how badly they are suffering. What does it matter? The world must go on. Our individual problems are of little account in the grand scheme of things.
But it all matters to Jesus. “immediately they told Him about her. And He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them” (1:30-31). The suffering of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law mattered to Jesus and was worthy of His attention, His care, His healing power. He went to her. He took her by the hand. He lifted her on to her feet. And by the almighty healing power of life that resides in Jesus, the eternal Son, she was immediately and fully healed so that she could show her thanks and praise in service to Christ and to her household. But who cares about that either?
He who casts out demons before those gathered at the public synagogue, also raised up a mother-in-law in a private house. And the Holy Spirit has inspired even this account of private healing to be recorded in Holy Scripture so that generations around the world might hear what Jesus did for Simon’s mother-in-law and what she then did for Him. There were other times later when Jesus had crowds following Him around that He went into a house to heal someone or raise someone from the dead, but even though the divine restoration was given in private everyone found out about it. In this case, no mention is made that the word immediately spread. Instead it seems like things just went back to normal for the household. “She began to serve them.”
The healing of Simon’s mother-in-law was not done so that the people would come and crowd around the door to see Jesus that night. The whole city gathered at the door because of what had happened earlier at the synagogue. She was not healed to increase Jesus’ popularity or to draw anyone else to Christ. She was healed because God is love and Jesus’ love is not just for spectacular show, but is simply because He is love. He saves not so that other people will know Him, but so that the person He saves is saved. He does it out of love for them. Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law because she needed healing and He comes to heal.
Perhaps you, suffering quietly in your home, will come to believe Jesus has love for you because of this little quiet incident with Simon’s mother-in-law, but that is not why Jesus restored her either. He did it out of love for her. And it may be that you see Jesus caring for you and the salvation that He brings to you, through this quiet incident in the back room of the disciples’ home, but Jesus coming to you is not just a mirror held up to a long-time past event. Jesus comes to you in your private suffering for the same reason He came to Simon’s mother-in-law. He cares for you like He cared for her. He loves you like He loves her. He saves you as He saved her, not so that everyone the world over will hear of it, but because He is love and His love is for you.
Jesus is concerned about you for your own sake. Aside from anything else, He loves you and comes to heal and restore and save you. He doesn’t need His name to be spread abroad. He doesn’t need to be acclaimed in public for what He has come to do for you. He has simply come because you need Him and He will heal and lift you up simply out of love for you. Your suffering is not insignificant to Him. Your problem is not too small. Your world is not so closed in that He won’t bother. He comes to bring healing in the public synagogue, where the whole city is gathered at the door, and in the privacy of a home where no one else knows of the affliction.
In the midst of a great many healings, exorcisms, and public appearances, something happens in a quiet back room in Simon and Andrew’s home that is important but not sensational. A quiet healing for an individual that has no farther reach than the members of the household itself, is worthy of the attention of Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy One of God. And yet, it is significant for each one of us, for we also suffer in quiet solitude and need to know that Jesus has come for each of us, no matter how insignificant we might be.
Nowhere else in the New Testament, not in the rest of the Gospel of Mark (which he reportedly based on Peter’s preaching), nor in the two epistles of Peter, is there any other mention of his mother-in-law. There are no other anecdotes about her. She isn’t praised for her faith or thanked for her service. She is just quietly in need of Jesus in these two little verses of our Gospel reading, and Jesus is there for her. And when she is healed, she quietly begins to serve them.
It is not quaint humility that has us regard our problems as too small to bother the Saviour of the world. It is a false understanding of who He is. It is a demonic temptation, a misbelief that leads to despair. If you believe that Jesus is too big for you, too great to meet the need of your petty suffering, than you discount His great love. You minimize His care and compassion. You confess that this God is not your God. He has not come to save you.
During the season of Epiphany we hear over and over again that this Jesus of Nazareth is King of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-12), the Son of God (Mark 1:4-11), the Holy One (Mark 1:21-28). He is all of these things. He is all of these things for the whole world and for you, not for one but not the other. He is Messiah of Israel because He is the Messiah for Simon’s mother-in-law. He is the Saviour of the world because He is your Saviour. His greatness and magnanimity mean all the more that He is yours, not less.
In our Old Testament Lesson, as Isaiah praises the greatness of the LORD to His people, he has to remind them that it is because of His greatness that He stoops down to be their God. “It is He who sits above the earth and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness... The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength... they who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:22-23, 28-29, 31).
We all get weary and fall exhausted, young and old, physically, mentally, spiritually. But Jesus of Nazareth is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He gives power to the faint and to the one who has no might He increases strength. He doesn’t do it so Olympic athletes will run faster in a stadium filled with people from around the world. He does it because He loves the one who is weak and faint, the one who needs His life and love. He has provided salvation for the whole world in His own suffering and death and risen victorious from the dead so that it is available to everyone and anyone, to you, just as it was to Simon’s mother-in-law.
He is the Shepherd of Israel, who while leading the whole flock carries the lambs in His arms and goes after the one who has gone astray. He tends each one who has need. He takes away the sins of the world, and He cleanses you from every spot and stain. Just because He is the Saviour of all, does not mean He hasn’t come to save you, rather, that is exactly what it does mean. He is the One who enters into the quiet back room of your home to answer your cry for help, to heal your diseases, to cast out your demons, to forgive your secret sins.
If you think that it’s not worth bothering Him, then you are denying exactly what He came to do. He came to save you, to heal you, to restore you, to strengthen you. Cry out to Him. He will answer. Let others cry out for you in their prayers. He will answer them. This is why He came out, to be the Saviour of all.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.