So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
As I read today’s verse, I’m sitting in my office in a secular college, surrounded by a host of feminists, many of whom I consider friends. Still, I wonder how they might spin this healing to conform to their ideology. “Obviously Jesus only healed Peter’s mother-in-law to preserve the patriarchal hierarchy and put her in her place as servant rather than served.” Of course, the reason that Mark records that reaction of Peter’s mother-in-law is to provide evidence of the healing. This was not some healing in the mind–“Yes, I do believe I’m feeling better.” Jesus healed this woman so thoroughly that she could hop up and start handing out whatever one handed out to house guests in the first century.
On the other hand, as the father of three daughters, I don’t want to be seen as perpetuating the gender roles in place during Jesus’ day. I’m perfectly comfortable with women playing a broader role in our society than simply staying in the house except to run down to the well and hoss water back on their shoulders.
The real message in this healing, I believe, has little to do with gender roles, feminism, or anything that Gloria Steinem might have advocated or resisted. Instead, I’d like to draw our attention to the response of Peter’s mother-in-law to the blessings of God’s Son. Lying there, burning up with fever, she was physically delivered by the touch of his hand. And her response? She got straight to work serving Jesus and his followers.
Many years ago, I was healed from a much more serious illness, one that would result not in physical death but in spiritual death. Christ touched me, through no real actions of my own, and healed me of the curse of sin. I’d love to say that I immediately jumped out of my illness and got to work serving him, but that would be an exaggeration. My gratitude, while always present, has not always been at the front of my mind. My ministry, while never closing down, has not always been as selfless and dedicated as it should be.
Imagine what the Christian church could look like if ever redeemed person, got up and starting serving the cause of Jesus with the enthusiasm and energy that we imagine this lady showing. We’d be overflowing with home visits and evangelism activities. Classes would never lack for teachers. Budgets would never lack for dollars.
We don’t know anything more about this woman than what Mark tells us here. Perhaps her enthusiasm waned. Perhaps she rolled her eyes when Jesus and the boys strolled into the house in the future. Really, that doesn’t matter to us. Our fever has been cured. We should jump up and serve.