After leaving the synagogue He entered Simon Peter’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him about her. Then He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. [Then He took her by the hand and lifted her up]. Immediately she got up and began to serve them. As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to Him; and He laid his hands on each of them and cured them. Demons also came out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that He was the Messiah.
At daybreak He departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for Him; and when they reached Him, they wanted to prevent Him from leaving them. But He said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” So He continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea. (Luke 4:38-44, NRSV)
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In today’s short passage, we find the first “in person,” physical healing performed by Jesus. And what we discover is that it started a frenzy throughout the whole town - they wanted to keep Jesus for themselves.
But what strikes my complete attention is how similar, yet contrasting this grouping of miracles are with yesterday’s exorcism.
Notice the similar choice of words that Luke uses: Jesus “rebuked” the unclean spirit and now we see Him “rebuking” a fever.
In both instances, the words of Jesus change the reality of humanity. His proclamation and will shifts the life-threatening effects of sin and the overwhelming powers of evil.
Yet what screams out to me are the obvious differences between these two back-to-back occurrences.
Yesterday’s showcased Jesus’ authority. It began in a very public and crowded synagogue, yet ended with the focus on one man. Today’s proclaimed Jesus’ mission. It began in a very secluded home, yet ended with the focus on the masses.
In fact, this miracle originally took place in the intimate home of a dear friend. From what we know about Jesus, Peter was one of His closest disciples. So here in this home, Jesus is not merely the Rabbi who teaches, He is Jesus - the friend.
And behind the closed doors, we see something extra-ordinary happen. A “high fever” is rebuked.
In this day, when a fever was labeled “high” or “heavy,” it was characterized by weakness, anemia, and a complete wasting away of the body. The sickness lasted several months and usually ended with death.
But with the spoken word of Jesus, these effects left without any trace of symptoms. We know this by what Peter’s mother-in-law did immediately: “She got up and began to serve them” (Luke 4:39).
Before we move on, we have to sit with this.
Here is an elderly woman, dying with a high fever. Her strength was obsolete and her purpose seemed to be fading. Most likely, she was living with Peter and her daughter because she could no longer care for herself.
Yet instantly, her strength was regained. Her mobility renewed. And her purpose reinstated. And because of Jesus’ miracle, she was able to...serve.
Get this: The work of Jesus - the transformative work of Jesus - is not for the sake of our health. It is not for the sake of our family’s health. In fact, it is not for the sake of us at all.
The transformative work of Jesus is for the sake of His name. It is for His glory. His will. And His plan.
And we see this lived out by Peter’s mother-in-law. She understood something grand: her life, once transformed, was for the sake of glorifying God. And in this instance, she glorified Him by serving them.
And this is where Jesus’ mission is discovered - the good news of the Kingdom of God is for all people, for the sake of the Father. Jesus chose to heal so that more and more might do His work with Him.
It is the hidden miracles that occur behind closed doors that make way for the most beautiful work - the miraculous ministry of Jesus through us.
And her mobility came at just the right time. For outside of their home came man after man, and woman after woman, and child after child.
They needed all hands on deck for they level of hospitality that was about to literally knock on their door. As the passage states, while the sun was setting, all of those who were sick, lame, or possessed came to Jesus.
If you think about it, the opportunity to proclaim His greater mission was now at their doorstep. And how He chooses to heal the crowd deepens our understanding of this mission.
Unlike the exorcism, He does not heal to show His authority. Unlike the jars, He is not showing His goal of transformation. Here, He heals to depict the way in which His mission will be completed: by mercy and grace.
Nowhere in Jewish tradition can you find Rabbi’s laying hands on the sick. They prayed, they interceded with offerings, but never physically touched the diseased.
Jesus teaches here that His mission is of tender mercy and rich grace. He comes close to the hurting. Draws near to the sick. And with His personal touch He brings comfort and spreads His glory.
What a miracle.
Today, recognize that the work of Jesus in you is for the purpose of spreading the good news of His Kingdom - for His glory. And remember that His miraculous ministry through you will always include mercy and grace.
Ask yourself: Who are you coming close to? What tender touch do you offer this world? How can you draw nearer to others?
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Greg, Declare Glory