Summary: Fifth in a series on the miracles of Christ, here Jesus heals Peter’s mother in law.
The Miracles of Jesus
Miracle # 5
“Jesus Heals Peter’s Mother–In–Law”
After casting out a demon of the possessed man in the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus went directly to house of Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, they were accompanied, according to Mark, by James and John.
“The picture of Jesus in this miracle contrasts with that in the miracle accounts which immediately preceded it. There, Jesus was described as a figure with immense authority displayed both in his teaching and in his casting out of a demon. In this miracle, Jesus seems more of an ordinary man. He walked home from synagogue with his friends. He went into the house where he was staying, ready to eat a meal. When Jesus learned that Peter’s mother in law was sick, he sent in to see her. These are all ordinary acts – the acts of a common man. And then they remind us that while Jesus was truly God, he was also fully human.” [Larry Richards. “Every Miracle In the Bible.” (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Pub, 1998) p. 175.]
This miracle is told in three of the gospel accounts and because each writer adds some details of what happened in that room, I want us to read all three of them.
“Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. (30) But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. (31) So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them. (32) At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. (33) And the whole city was gathered together at the door. (34) Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him.
“Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. (15) So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them. (16) When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, (17) that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: "He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses."
Now I want us to examine at some length the account in Luke 4:38-41, “Now He arose from the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. But Simon’s wife’s mother was sick with a high fever, and they made request of Him concerning her. (39) So He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. And immediately she arose and served them.”
So once inside the house, Jesus was told that Peter’s mother-in-law was ill. Jesus was taken in to see the patient and in Mark’s account, he went up to her without a word, took her by the hand and raised her up. Luke states that Jesus “rebuked” the fever. These accounts do not conflict. Each writer chose to emphasize different details of the story in order to emphasize a different characteristic of Jesus. The Greek word for “rebuked” (epetimesan) is the same word that is used to describe how Jesus cast out the demon in the synagogue (Luke 4:35). This word has a technical meaning, it indicated a commanding word spoken by God or by his spokesman, by which evil powers are forced to submit.
Mark says she was suffering from a fever, and Luke, who by tradition was a doctor, called a “great” or “high” fever. There were three kinds of fever that were common in that day. First, Malta fever, was characterized by weakness, anemia and a wasting away. It lasted several months and usually ended in death. A second type was an intermittent fever, which is similar in nature to what is today known as “typhoid fever.” And the third type, was mosquito-born malaria, bred in the plains where the Jordan River meanders into the Sea of Galilee, which was a problem for the lakeside towns of Galilee.
Luke who was trained as a physician, as a man of science he used a technical term (Megalo) for a violent fever. We do not know the cause of this fever but the facts that it was high and the fact that the woman was too sick to get up suggest an extremely serious and perhaps life threatening illness. The demands of every life in that time did not allow most people the luxury of going to bed whenever they felt badly.