Mark 1:29-31, “And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and 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.”
The true identity of Jesus was made evident from the beginning of His earthly ministry through the miracles He performed. With divine power and authority, He cast our demons and healed the sick. These miracles testified to the truth that He is “the Christ, the Son of God (Cf. John 20:31). We read of one such miracle in our passage.
He left the synagogue and proceeded to the house of Simon’s mother-in-law, accompanied by four of His newly-called disciples. The location of the house where they lived is known, and those who visit Israel often visit the site of it. It is a large home with multiple rooms and kitchens, which says something about the family’s situation in the city of Capernaum. They were likely of above average wealth and influence.
Showing hospitality was especially important in that culture. We read in Luke’s gospel about Mary’s concern in preparing for Jesus’ visit to their home. And even today, mothers will go to great lengths in cleaning and meal preparation to make a home ready for guests. One can imagine the distress of Simon’s mother-in-law inasmuch as guests had arrived, but she was incapacitated by an illness.
The illness must have been quite serious. She was bedridden. She had a fever sourced in some kind of serious malady. There was, of course, no recourse, in that day, for folks like her. The body would either heal itself or the person would die. Those folks were akin to the people I’ve visited in Africa, most lacking the ability to go to a doctor.
So, there she lay, grieving her sickness though she’d rather be greeting her guests. And suffering though she’d rather be serving. And there she lay, without any hope of help, feeling sick, weak, and incapacitated.
But Jesus had come to visit, and His visit changed everything. The text says that “they told him about her” (Mark 1:30) and they did so “immediately.” It was their first and most important concern in entering the house. Put simply, they took their matter of concern to Jesus. That’s a good formula when it comes to dealing with our problems. In fact, we are exhorted to do that very thing (Cf. 1 Peter 5:7).
In this case they took their concern regarding someone else to Jesus. As most of you probably know, my wife, Laura, has stage IV metastatic breast cancer. We are well past the two-year mark in her struggle. Combined with that, her spine has been damaged from top to bottom. And if that wasn’t enough, she suffers daily from something called post-herpetic neuralgia. Over these difficult months, lots of folks in lots of places have prayed for her, and uniquely so in my recent visit to Africa. We were at a marriage conference in a place called Bukomansimbi. My uncle, Pastor Bob Emrich, and myself had done some teaching. We invited the folks to submit written questions for us to answer after lunch. Then we proceeded to deal with the questions, one by one, until we got to the very last one, as it was nearing the end of the conference. I had spoken earlier in the day of Laura’s condition, so perhaps that is what prompted the question which concerned what a spouse is supposed to do if his or her partner is suffering from a chronic illness. My partners both looked at me, indicating that I should be the one to answer that one. So, I spoke for some time, citing some Scriptures and speaking of the need to follow in the example of Jesus. And to remain faithful and to serve and to do one’s best in giving care and attending to needs, etc.
No sooner had a sat down, then the pastor’s wife of the hosting church stood up. She asked those in attendance, about 125 or so, to stand and pray for Laura. So, they gladly and immediately stood and lifted their hands to the sky, as they do, and began to pray in unison—everyone was praying. Their prayers were in Lugandan so I couldn’t understand what was being said, but the fervor in which they prayed was obvious. When the time came, as if on some mysterious cue, the praying stopped, and they all sat down.
It is a humbling thing to be prayed for like that. Those impoverished brothers and sisters all have their own set of needs and problems, but they’ve got hearts full of faith and tender concern, so when given the opportunity to care, they didn’t hesitate. They did the same thing that those early disciples did— “they told him about her!”
Now there’s a difference between what happened with Simon’s mother-in-law and what has happened thus far with Laura. Jesus took Simon’s mother-in-law by the hand and lifted her up and the fever left her. So far Laura’s experienced no healing☹ But lest we think that their prayers—or anyone else’s prayers—haven’t mattered we need to address a few things.
People have ongoingly and repeatedly “told him about her,” when it comes to Laura’s condition. So, what has He done? How has He responded? To be sure its been hard, hardest for her, but by God’s grace we’ve been well provided for. Laura’s got a wonderful team of doctors who are both well-qualified and compassionate. In unforeseen ways, He has provided all the necessary insurance/funds to pay for all her medical costs (likely now approaching $1,000,000.00). Laura’s condition is not much improved, but her attitude has been amazing. She trusts in Jesus. She reads her Bible. She prays. She doesn’t pity herself in her condition. She finds ways to serve others. She forgives as she always has.
There’s a deeper healing that matters more than just the physical. When we are sick, we want nothing more than to be made well. We’ll go to great lengths, and even spend huge sums of money, to fix our body problems. But even if a person is in perfect physical health, they can still be spiritually sick. And the spiritual sickness is of greater concern than the physical. We are all born sinners (Romans 3:23; 5:12). Jesus alone can free us from the penalty, practice, and ultimately the very presence of sin (1 Corinthians 6:11; Philippians 3:21). He can heal our souls.
Laura’s propensity to smile, as she does, and serve others, as she’s always been prone to do, testifies to the fact that Jesus has indeed heard the prayers of many on her behalf. She’d prefer, of course, that God would heal her body too, as would we all, but God has His own purposes in all that He allows and we can only trust Him, for “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). As it is, God has, by grace, well-provisioned her with a good measure of hope and peace and joy amidst her afflictions. She’s got a strong testimony!
Having been healed, Simon’s mother-in-law, promptly responded to her heart-felt desire to serve her guests. She was set free to do that which was best. Jesus is good at doing that. We need to take our cares to Him. He cares and He’s able to do something about them.