11 March 2013

Luke 4:38-39

"Immediately she got up and began to serve them" (v. 39)


In chapter 4 of Luke's Gospel we learn about the early days of Jesus' ministry in Galilee, and in particular the contrasting reception he receives in Nazareth (verses 16-30) and Capernaum (verses 31-37). In the former, the place where he grew up, he is initially listened to in amazement (verse 22) but this quickly turns to questioning doubt. And then things turn very ugly as those that knew him best try to kill him by throwing him off a cliff (verse 29).

This is contrasted with the much more positive welcome he receives in nearby Capernaum. Again Jesus starts by teaching in the synagogue and again he is listened to in astonishment (verse 32). However unlike in his home town, Jesus finds the people receptive to what he is saying and perhaps as a result he is able to bring healing to those he comes in to contact with.

First Jesus is described as healing a man with an evil spirit (verse 33-35) and this is then followed on the same day by the healing of Simon's mother-in-law outlined in today's passage. It is not as detailed as the parallel account in Mark 1:29-34, but it is striking in its simplicity. Jesus rebukes the fever as if it were an evil spirit with the instant result that the fever leaves her (verse 39). The most startling demonstration of how she has been restored to full health is the way she immediately gets up to serve her guests.

The suggestion that a sick woman was not given any time to rest or recuperate after recovering from an illness seems insensitive to us now. However the fact that her immediate response to encountering Jesus is to serve him is set in contrast with the earlier response of Jesus' previous friends and neighbours who wanted to lynch him. This gives us a foretaste of the opposing reactions that different groups of people will have as they respond to Jesus' ministry as we read more of gospel story.

To Ponder

  • How spontaneous are we in our response to encountering Jesus?
  • In what ways can we serve God?
  • Pray for those who are ill, that they may know God's presence as a visitor at their bedside.

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.