Our lady of the Bible this week is only known to us as "Peter's mother-in-law." She is mentioned in three of the gospels, so I will post one account here, and you are welcome to read the other two for your study.
(The other passages that we'll refer to are these: Matthew 8:14-17, and Luke 4:38-44.) Each of the gospels tells the same story, but there are particular details that matter to each author and are given, to help us get a full understanding. Isn't that awesome? (Grin)
Let's dive right in!
The story begins with Jesus casting out a demon from a man possessed. This happens in the synagogue in Capernaum. Previously, Jesus had met with opposition, in fact, down-right rejection in his home town of Nazareth. They'd been so crazed there, that they tried to push Christ off the cliff! With this rejection in the rear-view mirror, Capernaum became a place that Jesus would spend a good bit of time.
The next thing we see is Jesus and His companions walking away from the synagogue, and heading toward the home of Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew. Mark indicates that they were accompanied by James and John. As they stepped into the house, Peter and Andrew must have mentioned that Peter's mom-in-law was ill. Probably they were met by Peter's wife, and the first news she uttered would have been how her mother was doing.
They took Jesus in to the room where she was lying, and in Mark's account, he went up to her, took her hand, and raised her up. Luke's account says that Jesus "rebuked" the fever. Now, before we get all excited about the differences here, I don't believe they conflict or contradict each other. They supplement each other, and add to the richness of the Biblical story.
Each of the writers was emphasizing something different, as he told the tale. Each one chose to include or leave out certain details to emphasize a characteristic or trait of Christ, or to tell more about the situation.
The Greek word for "rebuked" is "epetimesan." It's the same word that was used to describe the time that Jesus cast out the demon in the synagogue, just a verse or two earlier:
The word epetimesan carries with it the meaning of a commanding word spoken by God or by His spokesman, and evil powers are forced to submit.
Mark, who leaves this word from Jesus out of the narrative, may have wanted to point to how directly, and to the point Jesus' actions were. Most of Mark's gospel is that way -- concise, and to the point!
In the same way, while Mark simply says she suffered from a fever, Luke the physician noted it as a "great" or "high" fever. As a doctor, he wanted to call attention to the fact that it was a significant physical problem. As a doctor of that era, he commonly dealt with three kinds of fever. Malta fever was characterized by weakness, anemia, wasting away, and then death (in several months). An intermittent fever of the day was similar to what we know as "typhoid fever." The third was mosquito-borne malaria, which was a problem in the area where the Jordan meanders slowly into the Sea of Galilee. The lakeside towns had real problems with that.
So, Luke, the beloved physician who would later travel with Paul, used the technical term "megalo" which means a violent fever. We don't know the cause, but we know it was a high fever, and that she was too sick to get up. The demands of everyday life in that era meant that most people didn't have the luxury of going to bed when they felt under the weather . . . this was a serious illness.
In all three of the accounts of this miracle we have what you might call a double miracle -- first, when Jesus took her by the hand, the fever immediately was gone! Secondly, she was immediately strengthened and she rose and "served them." She was so strong and full of energy that she was able to resume her duties and offer them hospitality!
We'll learn more from Peter's mom in law next time....