When Simon Peter’s mother-in-law lies in her bed ill with a fever, so is prevented from fulfilling her role of serving a preparing a meal. This task falls to the senior woman in the household, and it is not a burden as we would see it. Instead, it is an honor and a privilege for a person to be the one in charge of hospitality to those who visit the house, especially when that house guest is Jesus himself. Many woman today might negatively react to this stereotypical task for a woman, but an understanding domestic gender roles in first century Palestine reveals that this was a matter of honor, not of servitude.
When we look at how Jesus heals her and that she began to serve them, we see how Jesus has not only healed her but also restored her to her proper position in society. This healing was a physical healing, but we should also understand that is was also a social healing. As we continue to walk through Jesus’ ministry, we see that he is continually healing. This healing is never only about the physical ailments, but quite often about restoring the dignity and honor of a person in society.
The Greek word aphiemi occurs a number of times in the opening chapters of Mark, with it’s uses varying widely.
- It is used of the fishermen who leave work and family in order to follow Jesus (1:18, 20).
- It is used of the fever that leaves Peter’s mother-in-law (1:31).
- It is used of Jesus not allowing the demons to speak (1:34)
- It is used of Jesus/God forgiving sins (2:5, 7, 9, 10).
This word then seems to denote a drastic change from what was before to the present. It is a “letting go” of something in order to move on. Neither family, job, sickness, nor sins are to control our present life. They are all “left behind” when we encounter Jesus.
So when Simon’s mother-in-law was in the presence of Jesus, she was healed. Her life was never the same again. She had been shown love and honor in his presence and was first restored to right standing in society through both physical and social healing. She was able to let go of what had been before and to move on to new life as one who had now encountered Jesus.