30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
Matthew and Luke’s gospels have a different temper than Mark. The crisis years of the Jewish War are further behind them. Their communities are not swollen with refugees and feeling the urgency of the moment. They are the householder faithfully plowing the ground, sowing the seed and living out the Gospel day by day. The same claim is there: God has come into the world in Jesus and he is our risen Lord who will reign over a world made new. The same mission is there, but the elements of teaching and faith formation receive greater accent, and these later Gospels attend to matters of daily life in the church and to practical questions like “How often should I forgive?” Mark is focused on this moment, not the long haul.
But what we hear in Mark is not a mere youthful exuberance or a desperate time. What we hear is this profound and stunning news that a dramatic new reality is loose in the world. Satan’s realm is being beaten back. The oppressed are being freed. The hungry are being fed. The light of a new world is shining.
It is easy to be swamped by the weariness of the world, its endless warfares and sorrows, the waste of its wraths and sorrows. But Mark’s urgency reminds us of the grace, power and urgency of our mission. For whether the kingdom of God is coming today or centuries from now – today it came to Peter’s mother-in-law. Today she was ill. Today she was in need. Today her life was diminished by fever. Today life’s woes had its grip on her – and they brought Jesus to her. Here was a healer, here was the voice that commands demons, here was the word of life that sets people free, here the anointed of God, the Christ who raises us up.
Jesus took Peter’s mother-in-law by the hand and “raised her up.” It is the same word that is used of Jesus’ resurrection. It overdoes it to say Peter’s mother-in-law was resurrected by Jesus, but she was raised into an Easter life.
She was raised into a restored life. She is returned to her place in the family and community. And though this phrase, “she began to serve them,” rings oddly for us in our time, it is important to see that she was given her life back. And her service is of special significance, for this word “to serve” is the verb of ‘diakonia’, service, from which we get deacon. It is a word of great import for us, for the Easter life, the raised-into-wholeness life, is a life of service.
Immediately, they brought Jesus to Peter’s mother-in-law, and by Jesus’ hand she is raised into an Easter life. For such a mission we should all feel Mark’s urgency. And for such an outcome, we should all feel the hand of Christ in ours.