January 31, 2021

Healing Peter's Mother-in-Law

While in Capernaum, Jesus healed the mother of Peter’s wife who was severely ill with a fever. Once healed, she immediately began to serve Jesus and those who were with him. This story shows the great redeeming love of the Savior for this faithful woman, Peter, his family, and all of mankind. 

To better understand the significance of this miracle, let’s first look at the life of Peter and his household. Peter’s family lived in the small fishing village of Capernaum near the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Peter was a fisherman by trade who owned possibly at least two boats and worked with his brother Andrew and several partners (Luke 5:1-7). The family lived in the center of town only a short distance from the synagogue. In 1968, archeologists believed they found Peter’s dwelling when they discovered the remains of a first-century home. Because two ancient Christian churches were later built over the site, there is a strong likelihood this is the very home where this miracle took place. The home was typical for Capernaum with multiple dwellings clustered around an L-shaped courtyard. Here in this home lived Peter, his wife, his wife’s mother, his brother Andrew and likely others (see Mark 1:29-31). As it was customary for a son to care for his own parents, the fact that Peter is caring for his wife’s mother shows an added measure of devotion by Peter for this woman.

3D model of Peter's home in Capernaum by Ethan Fullmer

The story takes place shortly after Jesus begins his ministry. According to Luke, the healing happens even before Peter was asked to leave his family to be a disciple of Christ. Previously, Jesus had been in Nazareth where he declared to those in the synagogue that he was the Messiah. This angered the elders and Jesus was run out of his hometown where they wanted to throw him off of a cliff. Because he was rejected, Jesus left the angry crowd and traveled to Capernaum to teach the people there. On the Sabbath day, Jesus teaches at the synagogue near Peter’s home where the people are astonished by his words and his power. A man who is possessed with a demon begins to shout. Jesus casts out the evil spirit without harming the man. Word quickly spreads of the Master’s miraculous power. 

According to the oral law prescribed by Jewish leaders, healing was not to be done on the Sabbath if the person’s life was not in immediate danger. The leadership saw Jesus as breaking this “tradition” by healing this man; however, Jesus had not broken any of the commandments.

It is at this point that Peter and Andrew let Jesus know that the mother of Peter’s wife is sick with a fever. Luke, who is likely a physician, describes her as being oppressed and greatly suffering from her condition (Luke 4:38). In short, she is very ill indeed. 

Jesus, James, and John enter Peter’s home. Jesus approaches Peter’s mother-in-law “And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up” (Mark 1:31). 

Jesus takes Peter's mother-in-law by the hand by James Johnson

By holding her hand and raising her from her sickbed, Jesus is breaking a cultural norm. According to the Jewish leadership, touching a woman to whom he is not related could make a man ritually unclean. Jesus, however, is not concerned about the traditions of man. With the Savior’s touch, the woman is instantly healed, “and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them” (Matthew 8:15).

Like Jesus, this faithful woman, now healed, breaks tradition by preparing a meal on the Sabbath. To avoid cooking on the Sabbath, Jewish women would often use what is known as a Sabbath warmer. They would prepare the food on the previous day and stoke the fire before sunset. The prepared food would then be placed on a shelf above the fire keeping it warm on the Sabbath. Additionally, guests were not normally entertained in one’s home on the Sabbath. However, this woman’s first thought, once free from her illness, is to show her gratitude and devotion to the Lord by serving Jesus and others.

Jesus has done much more than just heal this sick woman. He has now provided a way for her to help take care of her daughter and the household. This loving act ensures that these women will be cared for in Peter and Andrew’s absence when they leave their fishing nets and families to become disciples of Christ. 

Jesus Heals Peter's Mother-in-Law by John Bridges

At the close of the Sabbath day, which would be at dusk, Mark records that the people “brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. And all the city was gathered together at the door.” (Mark 1:32-33). It is interesting to note that the home that was discovered in 1968 has an open area on the street entrance to the courtyard, allowing for a large group to congregate outside the home just as Mark describes. They appear to wait till sunset, the end of the Sabbath, to be healed so as to not break the cultural norms surrounding the Sabbath day. The Savior has compassion on them and blesses each one.

When we read this story in the Bible, we may ask how it applies to our own lives. How can we follow Peter’s mother-in-law’s example? Do we accept the healing touch of our Savior? Are we willing to show our gratitude for him by serving the Lord and others? Even if it means shedding cultural traditions? Do we look for opportunities, especially on the Sabbath day, to minister to and lift those around us? 

The story of Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law shows us how she and her daughter have become witnesses of Christ as the Messiah. In a single day, they have seen him heal someone in their congregation, their own family, and those in their community. While they don’t leave with Peter and Andrew to preach the gospel, they too have answered the call to follow Christ and make great sacrifices as the men in their family leave. They too now stand as a witness that Christ has come to save all the world. 

Just as Christ healed this faithful woman, he can heal us. He will comfort us. He will mourn with us. He will free us. All we need to do is heed his call, “Come, follow me.”

Script written by Heather Ruth Pack


2 comments:

  1. I am blessed. Thankyou Brother.

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  2. The Bible said traditions void my words...As Jesus followers we should be able to do for others just as Christ did in Love. In matthew14:13 when Jesus heard about Paul's death He still healed the people. That's because of LOVE. We have to always as a Believer do the same. Thank you JESUS!

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