In this week’s reading, Jesus and the first four disciples have gone to Simon Peter and Andrew’s home. When they arrive, they discover that Simon Peter’s mother-in-law is ill with a fever. Simon Peter tells Jesus, who lifts the woman up from her sick bed, and she is healed by the time she is standing up. And the woman serves the men.
Do you notice this? Simon Peter has a mother-in-law! That means he has a wife! In 1 Corinthians, we read that his wife sometimes accompanies him on missionary journeys. There is no record of them having children, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have any. Peter is like us, a real person with a family.
Unfortunately, there is no record of the names of either woman. I like it when people have names, so let’s give a name to the mother-in-law so we can talk more easily about her. Let’s call her Susanna.
The story says that after Susanna is healed, she begins to serve them. The Greek word used is diakoneo, and its meaning connects what she was doing to our word deacon. Mark’s use of the word diakoneo tells us that she was not “just” cooking and cleaning for them as any woman of the time would.
When the Sabbath has ended, friends and neighbors in Capernaum bring many people to Jesus and he heals them and tells them about the good news of God’s reign coming near to them.
Jesus knows they can’t stay in this one town; they have to travel to other places to tell more people the good news of God’s reign. The disciples are only focused at this moment on the healing and casting out of evil spirits. Jesus gets their attention by healing people, but he has a greater purpose. Jesus is focused on sharing the good news.
… Some Christians believe that God is a punishing God, and we have to do lots of good things to earn God’s favor in order to make it to heaven. Some people believe that God doesn’t love everybody – that people who are different, in skin color or homeland or sexual preference, are sinful and God can’t possibly love them.
In contrast, Lutherans believe that we are all sinful and at the same time we are all forgiven through Jesus’ extreme love for us. Because we already have a place in heaven, we are free to not worry about earning it. We can love and care for those in need because we want to be like Jesus, not because we want to earn brownie points from God.
Our message that Jesus loves us is, in a way, radical. The question becomes, since we don’t have Jesus’ power to reach out and heal people with just a word or a touch, how do we get their attention?
We get their attention by noticing those around us and speaking with them. Are they heart-sore? Have they been hurt by church people? Have they never even been to church? Have they ever heard that Jesus loves and forgives them, no matter what? It’s up to us to hear them, and share the good news of Jesus with them.
Now, I know that this is the place where the demon of self-doubt enters in. “I can’t do that.” “I’ll say the wrong thing.” “I don’t know enough Bible.” And so forth. So, remember how many times Simon Peter messes up. Jesus still loves him and includes him and depends on him.
It doesn’t matter if you mess up trying to share the good news. All it takes is your belief in Jesus, and your trust that Spirit will put the words in your mouth when you need them. All you have to do is open your mouth and Jesus will cast away the demon of doubt. You will speak words, and the person you are speaking with will hear what they need to hear – because Spirit is working in them at the same time.
Remember how I spoke about Simon Peter’s wife and his mother-in-law Susanna? They learned about the coming reign of God from Jesus, and they went on to teach others about it. It helped, I am sure, that Susanna had some direct experience of her healing. She and her daughter became the support team for Simon and Andrew as they went out and told others their stories. They knew they were called and sent to share the good news of Jesus with others.
When you were baptized and confirmed, you were called to love Jesus by serving his people. You were called and sent out to share the good news. If you think about it, you will find lots of stories in your past and present about how Jesus has been good news for you. Your stories will help you connect with those who don’t know the Jesus you know. Your stories will help you share Jesus with those who need to know him better.
I hope you will take some time this week to look back and find some places in your life where Jesus’ presence was good news for you. Celebrate those moments and share one or two of them with someone you know.