Images of the Savior (13â€“ His Healing of Peterâ€™s Mother-in-Law)
Immediately after he had delivered the man with an unclean spirit, our Savior left the synagogue and journeyed to the house in which Peter and Andrew dwelt with Peterâ€™s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29). From the circumstances of this visit, we may learn much of the tender compassion of Jesus, our Savior and Healer. First, we are struck with the unquestioning trust that he has already gained among those who know him best; for as soon as they found Peterâ€™s mother-in-law sick with a high fever, they had no other reaction than to bring her case at once to Jesus, so confident were they that he had both the authority and the compassion to deliver her. How encouraging to us that we have grown to know and love the same compassionate Jesus! Well has the apostle exhorted us to take our sick and feeble loved ones in prayer to him who delights to heal and forgive (James 5:14-15). This the disciples did, and they were not turned away empty. This may we do as well, for Christ loves us even as he loved them. Each one of us, who truly belongs to him, may with confidence think of ourselves in trembling wonder as â€œthat disciple whom Jesus loved,â€ so deep and personal and specific is his love for everyone whom the Father has given to him. Christ was merciful to Peter; he will be no less merciful to us.
But if we see a merely compassionate man, we have still failed to understand the greatness of this man Jesus. His compassion extended far beyond that concern which may motivate some to help others, if the cost to themselves is not all that substantial. Far otherwise is it with Jesus, who overcame sicknesses and afflictions not by summarily banishing them, but by taking them upon himself, by absorbing their harmful potency in the depths of his infinite person, and so rendering them utterly impotent at the last. And thus we learn by the Evangelistâ€™s astonishing doctrine, that, in the course of this miracle is displayed a fulfillment of the prophecy of old, that the Christ would â€œtake upon himself our infirmities, and bear our sicknessesâ€ (Matthew 8:17). Christâ€™s healing of those whom he loved was not at little cost to himself. These sicknesses were the just result of sin and rebellion, and they could only be finally taken away by One who should prove both willing and worthy to take them all upon himself, exhaust their full condemnatory fierceness, and render them helpless to plead for their existence by reason of the just desert of sin, because they had already dealt out the full exaction that sin had so long merited. In his earthly weakness and fatigue, in his giving of himself, at the expense of his physical body, to relieve others of their own physical afflictions, he had begun the task which would culminate so violently on Calvary, of taking the full and manifold effects of sin from his people, placing them upon himself, absorbing their entire, accusing forcefulness, and overcoming them at the last! Christâ€™s healing ministry was not some disinterested pittance of divine mercy, which came easily because it cost him nothing. Oh no, it cost him everything, and he poured himself into it most gladly and full of the tenderest love, even until he had poured out his own soul in death, to bring life to those who were walking in the shadow of death! Oh, let us tremble and worship! It remains for us to note what we may learn of several specific circumstances preserved for us in the various gospel accounts.
First, let us consider the manner in which Christ performed this great work: we notice at once that it was with the utmost tenderness. He might well have delivered her with a word, a command given even from a great distance, as he had done at other times (see Matthew 8:13); but no, he stood over her (Luke 4:39), he touched her (Matthew 8:15), and he raised her up (Mark 1:31). His healing was not professional, it was personal and compassionate. It is a marvelous thing to be freed from the grip of a fearful sickness; but it is more wonderful yet to be loved by the Savior of the world. For Peterâ€™s mother-in-law, the highly personal means of healing must have been more satisfying than the much-desired end. And so will it ever be with us. When we are finally brought face-to-face with him who loved us so, we will rejoice more in the presence of his love than in the absence of our weaknesses. But we must also observe, secondly, that
The healing was done with absolute authority. Christ did not plead with the disease to leave. He did not wrestle and struggle with it until he had finally prevailed. He simply and powerfully rebuked the high fever, and immediately it fled (Luke 4:39). So is it ever with our Savior, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the exalted Head, who is â€œFar above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to comeâ€ (Ephesians 1:21). Let us be confident to ask anything, no matter how great, of our mighty Redeemer; for all authority has been given unto him (Matthew 28:18), and every spiritual blessing which is his, is his to bestow upon us (Ephesians 1:3)! Truly he did ascend on high to â€œgive gifts to menâ€ (Ephesians 4:8).
Next, we note that Christ healed, not just to alleviate her physical affliction, but to signify her true reconciliation to the Father, and the restoration of her fellowship with him. This we may learn from the symbolic manner in which he laid his hands upon her, as if to signify that she was restored to his favor. How vital it is that we deliberate much upon this truth! If we seek the mere physical blessings of Christ, we stand ourselves in need of that solemn accusation, â€œTruly, truly, I say unto you, You seek me, not because you saw the miracles, but because you did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto youâ€ (John 6:26-27). So Christ ever signified to those whom he healed, first and foremost, that their sins were forgiven; and only then, in typical expression, and to seal the authority of his claim, he healed their diseases. Let us keep this always before us: Christ may well be pleased to allow us to continue in our physical afflictions for a time; but he will never banish us from the favor of his presence; and his willingness to heal Peterâ€™s mother-in-law, to us as much as to her, signifies that he is pleased to restore to fellowship those who were wandering astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls (I Peter 2:25).
Fourth, we notice that Christ healed completely. When he rebuked the fever, there was no lingering illness, no vestige of weakness from the massive ordeal which she had just undergone. She was restored to the full vigor and vitality of her health. And so we may be sure that, when Christ forgives, he forgives to the uttermost. He forgives us not so that we may be endured, but that we may be embraced. He does not merely put us on a neutral footing with the Father, but makes us, who were objects of wrath, to be objects of infinite and inexhaustible favor. This is a most precious truth.
Finally, we see that Christ healed with a purpose. Peterâ€™s mother-in-law was not healed so that she could lie upon her bed in idleness. No, she leapt up to minister, and to do whatever Christ should command of her (Mark 1:31). So too we are not saved merely to enjoy our lives in luxury and idleness. We are saved â€œunto good works, which God has before prepared that we should walk in themâ€ (Ephesians 2:10). If we have been forgiven, let us seek to â€œdo good to all men, especially those who are of the household of faithâ€ (Galatians 6:10). Let us â€œpresent our bodies a living sacrificeâ€ (Romans 12:10). For we were saved with a purpose.
We have touched upon the manner in which Christ performed this miracle; now, let us mention the effects of the same. We see first that, by the performance of this miracle, the news about who this Jesus truly is began to spread (Mark 1:32-34). Christ accomplished his mighty works to the end that â€œevery knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Fatherâ€ (Philippians 2:10-11). We are saved simply so that we might â€œshow forth the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous lightâ€ (I Peter 2:9). We are saved so that, for everlasting ages to come, we might display the riches of Godâ€™s kindness upon us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7). The ultimate goal of redemption is that Christ be glorified. And so indeed he will be, for his marvelous works of power and compassion.
But not only is Christ glorified: we who are helpless and hopeless are healed and forgiven! As the fame of Christ spreads, as the good news of who he is goes out, then people are stirred up to turn to him and be saved â€“ people who will then glorify God for his mercy! What we see in consequence of this miracle â€“ the fame of Christ spreading so that people turn to him in faith and are healed, so that they might spread his fame yet the more â€“ is but a microcosm of the goal of all of history â€“ a goal that Christ will be all-in-all and we will be flooded with the pleasures of knowing him! The more we rejoice in Christ, the more he is glorified in us. And even this is but a picture and a foretaste of the spiritual delights that would transpire through Christâ€™s completed work. The fame of Christâ€™s healing spread throughout the region, so that more people were healed. God grant that now the fame of his redemption would spread throughout the world, so that more people would be redeemed, and Christ would be worshiped by representatives of every people group under heaven!
And finally, we must observe the source of this mighty demonstration of healing power. As soon as Christ had finished with his mighty miracles, he went out to a solitary place, and prayed (Mark 1:35). From this circumstance, we may learn that Christ accomplished his great works of healing and redemption only in accordance with the Fatherâ€™s will, and through his intimate communion with him. Indeed, he alone knows the Father fully and completely, being himself God (cf. John 1:18); and he alone mediates the good gifts of the Father to us. â€œEvery good and perfect gift,â€ including Christ, who is the sum and substance of every good gift under heaven, â€œcomes down from the Father of lightsâ€ (James 1:17). What the Father has planned from all eternity, Christ truly and perfectly accomplished, even our redemption (Ephesians 1:3-7). How great the Fatherâ€™s love for us! How vast the perfect redemption wrought by Christ! Let us turn to him and find healing indeed, and so glorify his name, now and throughout eternity!