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Meals with Jesus
Dinner with Peter's Mother-in-Law

Meals with Jesus

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Dinner with Peter's Mother-in-Law 

Read : St Mark 1: 29-34, St Luke 4: 38-41: Simon Peter's mother-in-law is healed, and serves Jesus 

We don't know her name. She's just described as Simon Peter's mother-in-law, that figure so beloved of comedians! Have we ever given any thought to the fact that Simon Peter was even married far less had a mother-in-law? 

Both Mark and Luke's gospels only give us 3 and 2 verses respectively recalling this account of her healing and subsequent action, sandwiched between two other accounts of healing which are more dramatic. In Luke's case this brevity of account is interesting considering he was a physician. Note though how much is contained in these few verses. Do you remember in your English class at school having to précis lengthy passages of text. This is a great example of that. It gives us all the necessary information in a very precise form without losing the main points of the narrative. 

  • Who she was - although nameless, she was known to Jesus
  • Where she lived - in the home of Simon Peter and Andrew
  • Her circumstances - she was ill with a fever
  • Those who were present
  • Their actions
  • The results of these actions

A fever is a symptom of an illness. It basically results in a high temperature and if this is not alleviated can result in serious complications and even prove fatal.  

In the time of Jesus, there were no antibiotics or the various drugs we have to help bring down the temperature. Things we take for granted, like cheap and simple Paracetamol, which we can pick up in the supermarket for a few pence.  

The disciples having already witnessed the healing of the man with the unclean spirit, asked Jesus to come to her. Jesus took her by the hand, lifted her up and the fever left her. 

She was healed! 

What happens next I hate to admit, makes me slightly annoyed. But should it? Am I reading my own prejudices into this gospel story ?

Simon Peter's mother-in-law gets up from her sick bed and prepares them a meal! In one Bible version of this account it states she 'bustles around the house taking care of them'. As one who believes in the rights of women and equality this is too much! Why can't they get their own meal? Surely this doesn't portray women in a positive light? Yet again, 'chained to the kitchen sink'!  

However . . . if she was around today what would her explanation be of her action? Was this really an expression of her subservience and oppression or was she setting an example to us all of what the truest response to Jesus can be?  

Many of today's medical charities benefit from those who have been healed or helped and wish to say 'thank you' and give something back to those who have helped and supported them through often very difficult times. 

They run marathons, hold coffee mornings, take the ice bucket challenge, work in a charity shop, they may even set up a charity to help and support those who are in the same position as they have been. Basically they give service.  

We often refer to some careers by this. We talk about the Civil Service, the Prison Service, Military Service, the Police Service and the National Health Service. For many of us however, the word service makes us think of domestic service. 

The viewing public are fascinated by period dramas concerned with those in domestic service e.g., Upstairs Downstairs, Downton Abbey. Often when we think of a servant, we think of someone carrying out menial tasks and working long hours for very little recompense, not to mention often being poorly treated.  

In the film Gosford Park, Dame Helen Mirren plays the part of the housekeeper in a large country house. She gives her definition of what it takes to be a good servant. 

"What gift do you think a good servant has that separates them from the other? It's the gift of anticipation. And I'm a good servant; I'm better than good, I'm the best; I'm the perfect servant. I know when they'll be hungry, and the food is ready. I know when they'll be tired, and the bed is turned down. I know it before they know it themselves."

Despite her thinking she is the perfect servant, this description surely only applies to Jesus. In Mark 10: v 45 we read, "For the Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many." He is referred to as the suffering servant and paradoxically the servant who became a king. Jesus is the ultimate servant. He knows our every need even before we know it ourselves. He gives us His hand, He lifts us up and when Jesus heals us, he equips us to carrying on serving others in order that we can imitate Him and show His love. 

Recently, I was at the funeral of a wonderful woman. The crematorium was packed with people of all ages. Mary was 78 years old but never seemed that age.  

Always full of energy and life - laughing, joyful, and full of love for others. She'd never had a great academic career or a highly recognised, well paid job but the reason so many gathered at her funeral was to celebrate and give thanks for a marvellous wife, mother, grandmother, sister, cousin, friend, neighbour, fellow worker, who gave so freely of her time, showing hospitality and encouraging others. Helping so many at home, work, and in her church.  

Most importantly, she always did everything in such a considerate and uncomplaining fashion. A life, full of amazing service to others.  

Interestingly, her husband told me she had been asked to consider becoming an elder in her church, but felt this was not where she was called to serve. 

Peter's mother-in-law understood the value of service. She imitated Jesus in serving Him and others. She is a great role model for us as is my friend Mary.  

We have all been given different skills and talents. It's important that we recognise these and respond to Jesus love by using these and serving others.  

How will we serve Him? 

Maggie Romanis, 2017


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