Summary: Travel with me to Peter’s mother-in-law’s home in Capernaum, a place of miracles and rest for Jesus.
There are two great stories in the Bible about mothers-in-law. In the Old Testament we read about Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi. In the New Testament we read about Peter’s mother-in-law, laid up with a high fever. Both of these ladies were great women of faith.
This miracle gives a rare glimpse into the family that was courageous enough to accept Peter into their inner circle. Mrs. Peter must have been a resourceful woman to marry the rough-handed, loudmouth fisherman whose name she bore. What faith it must have taken for her mother to allow her to marry Peter. Our sympathy for these courageous women is magnified when we realize how challenging it was for Jesus to have Peter on His team!
Mark tells us that Jesus had cast a demon out of a man in the synagogue in Capernaum. After the service concluded Peter, Andrew, James, John and Jesus walked over to the home of Peter’s mother-in-law. Her home was just a few blocks from the synagogue. Excavation in Capernaum revealed a home protected by a round wall. The wall indicates that the enclosed building was an important pilgrimage site. Preserved graffiti on the walls of the home claim that the home belonged to Peter’s mother-in-law.
The men came into the home and found Peter’s mother-in-law in bed with a fever. There were three types of fever that were common in that day. Malta fever was characterized by weakness, anemia and wasting away. It lasted several months and usually ended in death. Intermittent fever was similar to what is known today as typhoid fever. Mosquito-born malaria, bred in the plain where the Jordan River meanders into the Sea of Galilee, was a problem for the lakeside towns of Galilee. Peter’s mother-in-law was in a life-threatening condition. Dr. Luke, using medical terms, tells us that she had a “high” fever. (Luke 4:38)
Jesus merely touched her hand and the fever was dispelled. He raised her from her bed and, without any convalescence, she began to wait on her guests. What an amazing woman! Her story does not end with her hospitality to Jesus. It was just the beginning of a life made immediately available to Jesus and His ministry. Her home became His home. Whenever Jesus was in Capernaum, He always had a place to stay. But there was more: she had been healed on the Sabbath. As soon as the sun had set and three stars were clearly visible in the night sky, people began to bring the sick to her courtyard to be touched by Jesus. Mark tells us the “whole city” gathered at her door (Mark 1:33). Late into the night miracle after miracle took place. Diseases were defeated, demons were denounced and all of these miracles were, in Matthew’s words, “to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.” Matthew 8:17
Her priorities were changed. Possessions no longer held the same place in her life. Her home became a safe haven. Time and time again the sick and oppressed were brought to her door. I have always been fascinated by the story of the paralytic who was lowered through the roof into the room where Jesus was. What kind of homeowner would understand the kind of desperation that would drive someone to break open the roof of a stranger? Mark tells us who that homeowner was. It was Peter’s mother-in-law! She understood desperation. Helping a paralyzed man get into the presence of Jesus was more important to her than keeping her roof intact! (Mark 2:1-12) Like her, we need to open our hearts and homes to help people find Jesus.