1 September 2010

Luke 4:38-44

"He said to them, 'I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.'" (v.43)


From Jesus' public ministry in the synagogue (a Jewish place of worship) we turn to a much more intimate healing in the home of Simon. This is the first time the disciple Simon Peter has been mentioned in Luke's Gospel, and he comes with no introduction - as if the reader will be well aware of him already. Simon's mother-in-law was sick (and this tells us that Simon Peter was married, as Paul confirms in 1 Corinthians 9:5).

In the previous passage, Jesus has addressed a personal demon (Luke 4:31-37). Here he deals with a medical illness ("high fever" was a specific medical term at the time). In both cases Jesus deals with the problem by speaking. We are told he "rebukes" the fever, just as he "rebuked" the demon in the synagogue. Later on, Jesus 'rebukes' a storm and it calms down (Luke 8:24).

Just as God said, "Let there be light", and creation responded (Genesis 1:3), so Luke emphasises the active power of Jesus' word over all things. Simon's mother-in-law was completely healed, and so she reverted to character, and got on and made the tea!

Jesus performed this healing on the Sabbath day, but for most of the Jewish population the Sabbath was a no-go area when it came to anything that could be construed as work - even healing. And so, when the sun was setting and the day was officially ending, we get this beautiful scene as the people brought their loved ones out to Jesus to be healed. The Sabbath is over; the work of love can then begin. And note the careful details that "he laid his hands on each of them". This suggests that Jesus is the source or channel of that healing, but more than that: Jesus shows a personal concern for everyone. The laying on of hands for healing was an unusual practice, not found in the Old Testament or any rabbinic literature at that time. And not just those with diseases, but also those troubled by demons were set free by Jesus. The demons were keen to tell that Jesus was the Son of God, but Jesus, it seems, didn't want his identity to be revealed by forces of evil - or for evil purposes. His followers would discover it for themselves in due time.

And then the scene changes. Note the wonderful contrasts as Luke takes us from sunset to daybreak; from the chaos and commotion of the crowds to the clarity and calm of a deserted place. Jesus is alone, and with space to think (and no doubt pray) about his mission. And so when the crowds come, demanding more of the same, Jesus gently reminds them that he's not just there for them alone. And his mission of preaching the kingdom of God continues around other Jewish towns.

To Ponder

John Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, famously said, "Go not to those who need you, but to those who need you most." How difficult is it for those in any kind of Christian ministry to follow Jesus' example and leave persuasive demands in favour of the more pressing needs of those who often remain silent?

In today's passage, Jesus took time out to be by himself after a particularly demanding and exhausting day. In our gospel life, how important is it to find similar times for space, rest and prayer?

Bible notes author

The Revd Andrew Murphy

Andrew Murphy is married to Emily and they have two children, Phoebe (aged 4) and Benjamin (aged 18 months). Andy is the superintendent minister of the Market Harborough Circuit (a small circuit in the south of Leicestershire, and over the border into Northants). Previously, Andy’s ministry was based in Barwell in the Hinckley Circuit for eight years. And before that, he trained at the Wesley Study Centre in Durham, close to his home-town of Consett. Andy has a passion to help God’s people grow in faith, and occasionally writes hymns, sketches and songs. Spare time includes trips to play parks, watching Disney films or Postman Pat, reading Mr Men books, visiting Middle Earth, and reminiscing over the good old days of supporting Newcastle United. In the picture, Andy is the one in blue (and the snowman’s name is Olaf)!