The 5th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B, February 7, 2021
Rev. Misa Furumoto
On the Sabbath day, after attending a service at the synagogue, Jesus and his disciples went to the house of the brothers, Simon and Andrew. They were the fishermen of Lake Galilee who followed Jesus first, as Jesus called them to become fishers of men. Simon was named Peter later on. So along with other disciples, they took Jesus to their house, maybe to have lunch, we don’t know. When they arrived, they noticed that Simon’s mother-in-law–yes, Peter had been married–was suffering with a fever. So, they at once told Jesus about that. Jesus went to her right away, took her hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them, the Gospel says. Wow! I remember when I was in the seminary and studying this passage in a class, a student said that Jesus must have been so very hungry that he couldn’t help healing her and lifting her up. It caused a laughter.
Anyway, I think there is an important message in this couple of sentences. “Jesus came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.” Let us explore these verses in detail this morning.
There are four things talked about here. First of all, Jesus came to Simon’s mother-in-law. It was not that she asked Him to come. As He heard about her from people who loved her, Jesus approached her by himself. Yes, Jesus heard people’s prayer. Most of us pray God every day, but are we not praying just for ourselves? It is very important to pray for others. Jesus will hear you, and He will come to those whom we pray for. Let us pray hard for people who are now crying in the dark and people who have not met Jesus yet.
Secondly, Jesus took her by the hand and lifted her up. Jesus always touches the sick directly. The day was the Sabbath, which was very important day for Jewish religion. The Sabbath for Christian religion is Sunday, but in Judaism, it starts after sundown of Friday and ends at sunset of Saturday. According to the law, people were prohibited to do anything other than worshipping God. Even if people were sick, doctors could do nothing, there was no emergency room. Healing on the Sabbath was against the law of Moses. Jesus broke it. He took a hand of Simon’s mother-in-law who had probably been delirious from fever and lifted her up. The word “lift up” in Greek means not only physically getting a person up but also to raise and to resurrect. Jesus had lifted up many, many people who were suffering; and He himself had been lifted up, raised by God from death.
All of us are those who were touched and raised by Jesus. You may think, “No, I’m still sick, I’ve not been healed.” Jesus touches your soul, maybe or maybe not your bodies that will corrupt someday. He touches our hearts, gives hope and power to live, He raises us up.
This is my personal story. 9 years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. When I heard that from my doctor, I felt literally driven to the depth of despair. I just couldn’t think but I would die. And yet, Jesus came into my heart, and He raised me up. The tumor was always there till I got a surgery, and I still have a fear if it may reappear someday. But I know for sure that Jesus comes to me and touches me whenever I cry, whatever happens.
Thirdly, it is that “the fever left her”, and not the fever went down. It left her. In Jesus’ time, it was thought that all the diseases were caused by some evil something, many times thought as demons. What would we think it is in present days? Yes, Covid-19, we may think it as the same way. But more likely, is it not a dark cloud of anxiety and fear which becomes bigger and bigger in our heart. Again, when I was fighting with my breast cancer, I wasn’t feeling any pain, but I could feel that a huge dark cloud was staying in my heart and I could not put it away. It was something I couldn’t control. However, when Jesus came and took me by the hand and lifted my heart up, the dark cloud left me. If I didn’t know Jesus then, even if the surgery went successful and my body got fully recovered, the dark cloud had stayed in my heart. I believe so.
Lastly, Simon’s mother-in-law who was lifted up by Jesus and whose fever left her “began to serve them.” You may think that it is terrible to let an old woman who has just recovered from illness move and cook for the guests. But she served. She couldn’t help voluntarily serving God and people because she was filled with gratefulness and joy.
We should be like her, too. We met Jesus. He knows all the pains, sufferings, fears, and anxieties in our hearts, and walks along with each one of us, and helps us to remove those dark clouds. He takes our sins away, and help us to be with God, our creator. Why can’t we do something for Jesus? We must feel that we can’t help serving God and people.
This morning, through this small healing story of Simon’s mother-in-law, God let us know how He meets us in the darkness of despair, how He heals us and lifts us up. We now know how we should live from now on. Let us give thanks and praise to the Lord.
In the names of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.