The healing of the mother-in-law of Simon Peter (Luke 4:38-39)
(38) After leaving the synagogue he entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her. (39) Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them.
The title of the present contribution (healing power@home) summarizes an essential offer for understanding the biblical word in times of crisis. The Healing Power of God represented by Jesus, is also present in a domestic, even isolated context. It is not bound to a representative public as it is found in a church, mosque, or synagogue. Rather, it can also meet people where they might feel left alone with their fears, needs and infirmities, in their own four walls. This is especially important for us today, in the course of the corona-virus pandemic, a time of lock-down, a time in which we cannot experience the healing community of the church in its spatial and physio-social form, but only through technological mediation. God’s healing power, as the short story of Simon’s mother-in-law reminds us, can renew us even in isolation and lead us to new paths. In this regard, the short miracle tale of Luke suggests two interpretations: a Christological one, which is based on Old Testament prophecy, and an anthropological-ecclesiological one related to it.
Throughout the entire text Jesus is the acting person. It is he who leaves the synagogue and sets out for Simon’s house, where he performs a healing miracle with the power of his words. He acts in his function as the “Holy One of God” and breaks through the painful and dangerous state in which an individual finds herself (cf. Lk 4:31-37).
The appropriate human behaviour – represented by persons not specified in the text – is the “request” or “intercession” towards the power of God mediated by the “Holy One of God”. It appears that the author of the Gospel of Luke wanted to add a facet to his image of Christ that can be understood as the equation of Father and Son, because God responds to requests and intercessions through his Son. On the other hand, the present passage prepares for the fact that in the further course of the Gospel Jesus himself – in the sense of an Original Christian prayer practice – seems to be elevated to the status of an addressee of prayer, and puts this into perspective (Lk 17:15 f.; 24:52 f.) Thus, as an ecclesiological consequence, the common “request” and the asking for other people (whether in public or private contexts) is a fundamental element of Christian turning to God, which, however, must be reflected upon again and again.
The harsh and uncertain presence of the Covid pandemic in which we now live invites us to rethink our relationship with God in community. And from all that I have experienced through Zoom and YouTube, in our worship services, neighbourhood help and reading groups, we are creating a new interpretation of the church with which we can explain how Jesus could bring a “healing power@home” to the mother-in-law of Simon Peter.
Mahr, Dominik (now Dana): Heilende Macht Daheim. Die Heilung der Schwiegermutter des Simon Petrus. Ok 4,38-39. In: Ruben Zimmermann, et al. (eds.), Kompedium der Wunder Jesu. Bd. 1, Gütersloh 2013 (Gütersloher Verlagshaus), 351-357.