When was the last time you were in bed with a fever? “Fever” is a scary word these days of the virus. When we worked in Kenya, it almost always was associated with malaria. Malaria meant the whole body ached, the head throbbed and it was impossible to carry on normal tasks. Today fever is associated with chest, breathing, coughing and contagion. Illness can lead to separation from family by going to a place of care or at least staying in bed and it can mean we cannot carry out our normal duties.
In our text for Sunday, Peter’s mother-in-law is in bed with a fever as the house fills with company – Jesus who was the preacher at church, her son-in-law, his brother and two friends and how many others is not mentioned. She and her daughter would be expected to be hostesses. She must have felt horrible. I have heard it said that the title “mother-in-law” is about the least respectful title. There are many cruel jokes. It is ok to be a grandmother because they are loved but the title “mother-in-law” carries the sense of tension. Peter’s wife is not even mentioned. What’s that about? Today I am pondering that feeling of being inadequate to fulfill my social responsibilities and no longer needed in my role as…mother, or??, and isolated by illness. The adjectives that come to mind are lonely and helpless.
It is this emotional, physical and psychological fog that Jesus steps into. He takes her hand, not afraid of touch. He raises her up, perhaps putting arms around her shoulder in a kind of hug, and the fever leaves. We are hesitant to talk about areas in our lives where we feel weak and vulnerable but Jesus is not afraid to take our hand. He is able to raise us up. As he does, the illness leaves, the fog lifts, strength to serve returns. I find that comforting. When I am afraid, Jesus is not afraid to approach. When I am weak, he is strong. I love the song made famous, “You Raise Me Up.” May it lift your spirits to face today. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13_nXuJ6dX8