February 8, 2015
I came across a book this week
that made me think of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law.
It’s called “Being Dead Is No Excuse:
The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral.”
(Some of you could have probably written it!)
From the Table of Contents, it seems quite thorough;
everything from funeral home etiquette to recipes.
Doesn’t it strike you a bit odd that the poor woman is lying in bed with a fever,
is finally healed by Jesus,
and instead of taking it easy, she’s up and serving them in the same sentence?
Apparently being “nearly dead” is no excuse either!
When Lazarus is raised from the dead,
does he go and make dinner?
I’ll save you the time in looking it up.
The answer is ‘no’!
According to John chapter 12, after he’s raised,
Lazarus reclines at table and eats with Jesus.
Maybe Mark means to say that she was healed so completely,
that she was able to go back to her regular life immediately…
By and large, the women in Mark’s gospel are not simply stereotypes.
When we hear that Simon’s mother-in-law serves them,
the word he uses for ‘serve’ relates to diakonia – our word for deacon comes from it.
Jesus has 4 disciples at this point; she becomes a 5th.
When Jesus heals Simon’s mother –in –law according to Mark he ‘lifts her up’ or “raises her up”
- the same word he uses for the resurrection – Jesus too is raised up.
After Simon’s mother-in-law is healed (I really wish she had a name here)!,
the house becomes a ‘household of healing.’
As soon as the Sabbath is over,
as soon as the sun sets, people come from all over the city to be healed.
An older translation says that “the whole world was pressing up at the door.”
“The whole world was pressing up at the door,”
looking for healing.
Everyone was looking for healing.
For some it might have been for a sore foot or an aching back.
Others might have had leprosy or maybe fevers of their own.
There were a host of physical illnesses Jesus was healing.
And yet for the ‘whole world’ to be at the door,
the people must have understood that Jesus brought the possibility of other forms of healing too.
Perhaps some came for healing of their relationships;
and others came for healing of their anxieties or jealousy.
I imagine some were surprised to see their neighbors at the door…
those neighbors who looked like they had it all together:
a prosperous business, healthy children, large number of livestock …
And yet “The whole world was pressing up at the door…”
so they were there too – those who obviously needed healing
and those who not-so-obviously needed healing.
There’s a story about a woman whose son died.
Her grief was so great
that she finally went to a wise teacher to ask for help in her healing.
The teacher told her to go from house to house
until she found a family that had never experienced grief.
She did this, and as we might guess, she never did find such a family.[i]
You know what I think?
I think one of the most healing things that happened in Capernaum
is that the people looked around and saw that they were not alone.
They looked around and saw,
“the whole world was pressed up at the door.”
Some biblical archeologists are convinced that they have discovered the
2000 year old remains of Simon Peter’s house.[ii]
It’s not hard to imagine that once people learned
of the healings which took place there,
the house changed.
“In the years immediately following Jesus’ death, (according to these archeologists),
the function of the house changed dramatically….
It became a place for communal gatherings,
many think the first Christian gatherings.
The house’s main room was completely plastered over from floor to ceiling
indicating it was no longer being used as a residence.
Instead of finding household cooking pots and bowls at the site,
they found large storage jars and oil lamps
(as one might use in church rituals.)
But most convincing was that
there were more than 100 pieces of graffiti scratched into the walls.
Most of the inscriptions said things like,
“Lord Jesus Christ help thy servant,”
or “Christ have mercy.”
Sometimes the inscriptions had crosses drawn next to them.”[iii]
It’s mostly supposition, but it seems to many that Simon Peter’s home,
this household of healing,
became a gathering place of the church.
You know, the image of a hospital isn’t a bad metaphor for the church.
That’s not to say that you should come on Sundays when you have the flu.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t vaccinate your children.
That’s not to say that prayer takes the place of medical care.
But the image of the hospital reminds us that all of us are in need of healing.
Sometimes our need is visible,
and sometimes it’s not.
Recently I’ve come to appreciate the work of social worker Dr. Brene Brown.
Brown gave a TED talk on vulnerability in 2010 and it went viral.
(She’s been interviewed by Oprah so you know she’s big!)
Now she goes around the country speaking and writing.
One of her themes is the high cost of trying to pretend all the time that we’re in control.
The cost of putting up a shield,
protecting ourselves from the judgment of others.
She writes, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” [iv]
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”[v]
Too often in our western context,
we’ve become ashamed of needing help.
We’re embarrassed by being sick.
If we heard Jesus were healing at a house next door,
we might show up after dark just as the crowd did,
but for us it wouldn’t be because of the Sabbath,
but so that no one else would see us!
Mark says that after Jesus did all this healing,
he went out to a deserted place to pray.
I don’t blame him one bit!
They were coming one after another,
none of them had appointments,
(and none of them had insurance!)
The butcher was there,
the rabbi was there,
the farmer and his wife,
men and women, young and old,
“the whole world was pressing at the door.”
Each week we offer prayers for healing.
Maybe today include your own name…
Everyone is in some kind of need…state it, claim it.
You are not alone.
The whole world was pressing at the door!