A PRIVATE MIRACLE
And immediately, when they had come out of the synagogue, they went, along with Peter and John, into the house of Simon and Andrew. Peter’s mother-in-law was in bed with an attack of fever. Immediately they spoke to Jesus about her. He went up to her and took her by the hand and raised her up, and the fever left her, and she attended to their needs.
In the synagogue Jesus had spoken and acted in the most amazing way. The synagogue service ended and Jesus went with his friends to Peter’s house. According to Jewish custom the main Sabbath meal came immediately after the synagogue service, at the sixth hour, that is at 12 o’clock midday. (The Jewish day began at 6 a.m. and the hours are counted from then.) Jesus might well have claimed the right to rest after the exciting and exhausting experience of the synagogue service; but once again his power was appealed to and once again he spent himself for others. This miracle tells us something about three people.
(i) It tells us something about Jesus. He did not require an audience in order to exert his power; he was just as prepared to heal in the little circle of a cottage as in the great crowd of a synagogue. He was never too tired to help; the need of others took precedence over his own desire for rest. But above all, we see here, as we saw in the synagogue, the uniqueness of the methods of Jesus. There were many exorcists in the time of Jesus, but they worked with elaborate incantations, and formulae, and spells, and magical apparatus. In the synagogue Jesus had spoken one authoritative sentence and the healing was complete.
Here we have the same thing again. Peter’s mother-in-law was suffering from what the Talmud called “a burning fever.” It was, and still is, very prevalent in that particular part of Galilee. The Talmud actually lays down the methods of dealing with it. A knife wholly made of iron was tied by a braid of hair to a thorn bush. On successive days there was repeated, first, Exo.3:2-3; second, Exo.3:4; and finally Exo.3:5. Then a certain magical formula was pronounced, and thus the cure was supposed to be achieved. Jesus completely disregarded all the paraphernalia of popular magic, and with a gesture and a word of unique authority and power, he healed the woman.
The word that the Greek uses for authority in the previous passage is exousia (GSN1849); and exousia was defined as unique knowledge together with unique power; that is precisely what Jesus possessed, and that is what he was prepared to exercise in a cottage. Paul Tournier writes, “My patients very often say to me, `I admire the patience with which you listen to everything I tell you.’ It is not patience at all, but interest.” A miracle to Jesus was not a means of increasing his prestige; to help was not a laborious and disagreeable duty; he helped instinctively, because he was supremely interested in all who needed his help.
(ii) It tells us something about the disciples. They had not known Jesus long, but already they had begun to take all their troubles to him. Peter’s mother-in-law was ill; the simple home was upset; and it was for the disciples the most natural thing in the world to tell Jesus all about it.
Paul Tournier tells how one of life’s greatest discoveries came to him. He used to visit an old Christian pastor who never let him go without praying with him. He was struck by the extreme simplicity of the old man’s prayers. It seemed just a continuation of an intimate conversation that the old saint was always carrying on with Jesus. Paul Tournier goes on, “When I got back home I talked it over with my wife, and together we asked God to give us also the close fellowship with Jesus the old pastor had. Since then he has been the centre of my devotion and my travelling companion. He takes pleasure in what I do (compare Ecc.9:7), and concerns himself with it. He is a friend with whom I can discuss everything that happens in my life. He shares my joy and my pain, my hopes and fears. He is there when a patient speaks to me from his heart, listening to him with me and better than I can. And when the patient is gone I can talk to him about it.”
Therein there lies the very essence of the Christian life. As the hymn has it, “Take it to the Lord in prayer.” Thus early the disciples had learned what became the habit of a lifetime–to take all their troubles to Jesus and to ask his help for them.
(iii) It tells us something about Peter’s wife’s mother. No sooner was she healed than she began to attend to their needs. She used her recovered health for renewed service. A great Scottish family has the motto “Saved to Serve.” Jesus helps us that we may help others.
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