Way to Go, Ma!
Read Luke 4:38-44 in your Bible.
Image by James Best, (C) 2020,https://www.behance.net/gallery/90621713/Sermon-Illustrations-2020
I’m sorely tempted today. On the one hand, today we recognize the ladies in our lives: it is our Mother’s Day service. So a mother-in-law joke or two is sort of on-topic. On the other hand, today is Mother’s Day, so mother-in-law jokes are less appropriate.
Here are a couple holiday-appropriate stories. On a Mother’s Day morning, two young children told their mother to stay in bed. As she lay there looking forward to having breakfast in bed, the smell of bacon floated up from the kitchen. But she waited and waited and finally could stand it no longer. She went downstairs to discover her children finishing up plates of bacon and eggs and toast.
“As a surprise for Mother’s Day,” one of them explained, “we decided to cook our own breakfast!” I assume she was surprised!
On another Mother’s Day another family decided to surprise grandma with breakfast in bed. Unfortunately, the surprise was spoiled for when they got to grandma’s house they discovered she was still in bed, feeling ill.
As they were making their exit, a young granddaughter stood beside grandma’s nightstand, not budging, her eyes fixed on grandma’s dentures soaking in a glass of water.
The mother said, “Honey, we’ve got to go. What’re you looking at?”
The little one pointed to the glass and said, “The tooth fairy will never believe THIS!”
Now we’re ready to go on to Luke 4:38-44, where Simon Peter’s mother-in-law played a supporting role.
CONTEXT: Jesus had just made a big appearance in a synagogue at the Jewish Sabbath (LKE 4:31-37). It was there He cast a demon out of a man. The amazed witnesses spread word about Jesus THROUGHOUT THE SURROUNDING AREA.
In chapter five, Jesus will begin calling His twelve disciples, do a couple more dramatic healings, and teach on the subject of fasting. We are clearly at the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry and He got off in dramatic fashion. Our passage is an interlude of sorts. Here we see Jesus using His healing power on a personal scale, healing Peter’s mother-in-law, then on a public scale as all kinds of sick folk were brought to Him, and finally defining His mission as preaching. We can see how these three brief incidents set forth a summary of what Jesus’ ministry was all about.
Jesus’ mission centered on preaching and included healing.
1. What a Mother-in-Law Peter had! (38-39)
Jesus and Simon (whom Jesus would call to ministry in 5:10) left the synagogue for Saturday dinner. Maybe something equivalent to our Sunday dinner?
Simon’s mother-in-law was sick at the time: she had a HIGH FEVER. In 1 Corinthians 9:5, Paul wrote that Simon Peter was married. The fact that his mother-in-law lived with Simon may imply that her husband was dead. In that case, she no longer had a home of her own and had to come under some other male’s headship.
As most people lived in single-room homes, a contagious illness was a threat to everyone who visited the house. On this occasion there was more than family involved: Mark reported the whole city had gathered outside the home. One reason Jesus acted promptly was to allow the safe use of Simon’s home.
Luke was a physician and accordingly, he gives us a little more information than Mark or Matthew: Luke tells us her fever was HIGH (a serious condition) and the miracle Jesus used to heal her. All Jesus’ healings used different methods and means. He did not want anyone to think that the healings happened because of certain words, gestures, or some kind of medicine. The healings were neither magic nor medicine.
In this case, however, Jesus’ method was similar to what He’d done earlier in the synagogue: there He’d rebuked the demon and it left. Here he rebuked the illness the FEVER in Simon’s mother-in-law and IT LEFT HER. Luke alone adds the detail AT ONCE to give more evidence to the supernatural, miraculous nature of this healing.
It is a small detail, but Luke recorded that Jesus BENT OVER HER to speak the words of rebuke. He was not intimidated by her illness, Jesus got “up close & personal.”
Once healed, Simon’s mother-in-law got up and showed hospitality to Simon, Jesus and all who’d come along. Whatta gal! She might have wanted to rest, but instead she got up and went to work feeding Simon’s guests.
2. What a healer Jesus was! (40-41)
WHEN THE SUN WAS SETTING means the Sabbath was over; people could travel without breaking the Law and Jesus could heal without breaking the Law. Word spread fast and people took advantage of having a healer in their midst.
Jesus healed ALL the people brought to Him, in their VARIOUS KINDS OF SICKNESSES. First, we note Jesus did not discriminate between persons (He healed the ALL) or between diseases (VARIOUS KINDS). On this occasion Jesus healed by LAYING HIS HANDS ON THEM. On other occasions He would use other methods.
On the other hand, He cast out demons with a REBUKE. Ironically, it was the demons who were the first to testify Jesus was the SON OF GOD. Jesus silenced them and cast them out with a rebuke (as he had cast Simon’s mother-in-law’s fever). His word alone was sufficiently powerful to overthrow Satan’s minions from these people.
The fact that Luke reported a difference between SICKNESSES and DEMONS implies that not all illness is an affliction from the devil. People of his time assumed illness was caused by evil spirits or the patient’s sin, but this is not always true. Unfortunately, that error persists among Christians to this day.
Why did Jesus silence them? This happens a lot in the Gospels, especially in Mark. It is called the “Messianic Secret.” Early in His ministry, Jesus wanted people to focus on His message and not get distracted on deciding whether or not He was the Messiah. Jesus sought to exert control on public opinion in order to make it most powerful just prior to His arrest, trial, and execution. This was intended to force the hand of the authorities. Jesus managed public opinion to leverage His own death! Since that week was about three years away, He wanted to keep things chill at this time.
Another reason for the “Messianic Secret” was an attempt to limit the size of the crowds following Him. Big crowds would inhibit Jesus’ movement and ministry. Worse, they might force the issue too soon. In John 6:15 we read that Jesus withdrew from a crowd because He knew they intended to make Him King by force. Jesus wanted no earthly crown and He did not want to put His people in harm’s way by inciting a riot! Jesus was in control.
3. What a preacher Jesus was! (42-44)
Every preacher must withdraw regularly to A SOLITARY PLACE to prepare for preaching and recover from preaching. In 5:16, Luke explained this practice: BUT JESUS OFTEN WITHDREW TO LONELY PLACES AND PRAYED. This aspect of a preacher’s life is like juggling, trying to keep the “balls” of time for people, time for study, and time for self all in the air at once. When these three demands get out of balance, troubles ensue.
THEY TRIED TO KEEP HIM FROM LEAVING THEM: this is the opposite kind of reaction Jesus got from the people of His hometown, Nazareth, when He preached in their synagogue (Luke 4:28-30). It was also the kind of situation He was working to avoid.
Jesus responded by telling them He hadn’t been called to Capernaum only, but had to preach to THE OTHER TOWNS ALSO. Jesus’ mission was to TEACH THE GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD. The KINGDOM OF GOD is a key teaching in Jesus’ ministry. Of the 64 times this phrase is used in the New Testament, 31 of them are in Luke. In His teaching, Jesus said that the KINGDOM OF GOD arrived with Him and that it was also not fully present until the end of the age. The Kingdom exists spiritually in everyone who follows Jesus. It will exist physically in the New Heavens and the New Earth.
Luke did not mention Jesus’ healing ministry at all in verse 43. This omission may imply that His healing ministry was secondary to His preaching, though it was clearly His healing power that the people wanted most.
Jesus left them and kept His word: HE KEPT ON PREACHING IN THE SYNAGOGUES OF JUDEA. (The name JUDEA was, confusingly, used as the Roman name of the province where Jerusalem was located and in a more general sense for everywhere in Palestine where Jews lived, including Galilee.) Jesus was sent first to the Jews; in Matthew 15:24 He said, “I WAS SENT TO THE LOST SHEEP OF ISRAEL.” He met the people where they were, where they gathered for worship.
Jesus’ mission centered on preaching and included healing.
We have observed the good example set by Simon’s mother-in-law, who, when healed, rose from her bed of sickness and set to work to provide for her son-in-law and his guests. Though she is not named, her example has been preserved throughout the ages. She set a very high standard of love and service.
In this set of verses Luke provided us with a set of situations that summarize the earthly ministry of Jesus. He was public and private, personal and communal. He ministered healing, deliverance from evil, and preached the Kingdom of God. Writing the book of Acts, Luke quoted this same Simon Peter’s summary of Jesus’ ministry, re-affirming the truths we have observed in this passage from his Gospel: “HOW GOD ANOINTED JESUS OF NAZARETH WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT AND POWER, AND HOW HE WENT AROUND DOING GOOD AND HEALING ALL WHO WERE UNDER THE POWER OF THE DEVIL, BECAUSE GOD WAS WITH HIM.” (Acts 10:38)
Zondervan Bible Commentary, “Luke,” Laurence E. Porter.
The NIV Application Commentary, “Luke,” Darrell L. Bock.
The Bible Knowledge Key Word Study, “The Gospels,” Darrell L. Bock, Ed.
One Perfect Life, John MacArthur.
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8, “Luke,” Walter L. Liefield.
The Daily Study Bible Series, “The Gospel of Luke,” William Barclay.