Sermon manuscript: Mark 1:29-31 – Peter’s Mother-in-law

I recently preached a sermon for a Mongolian service – it had to be translated from my English into Mongolian. The interpreter was a lady from the Mongolian congregation. Thus, the sermon is short and sweet. It is a sermon that I actually preached before at Northwest – then, it had to be translated into Burmese for the congregation I served there for a while.

MARK 1:29 – 31 [ESV]

“1:29 Now as soon as they left the synagogue, they entered Simon and Andrew’s house, with James and John. 1:30 Simon’s mother-in-law was lying down, sick with a fever, so they spoke to Jesus at once about her. 1:31 He came and raised her up by gently taking her hand. Then the fever left her and she began to serve them.”

In the beginning of His ministry, Jesus asked some men to follow Him. Jesus asked these fishermen to be His disciples. These disciples are famous because they followed Jesus. Peter, James and John were the disciples who were closest to Jesus. In the Gospels, Peter, James and John are mentioned many times. In fact, Jesus gives Peter that name, “Peter,” meaning rock.  In this story from the gospel of Mark, Peter is called by his older name, Simon. Peter says many things to Jesus; Peter is the one who made 3 denials of Jesus, and in the gospel of John,  Jesus talked to Peter after the resurrection. Jesus chose Peter, James and John so that they could spread the gospel, even after Jesus ascended back to Heaven.

But in this story, the main character is a woman who does not say anything. The story does not record any words from her. She is the mother of Peter’s wife. In fact, at first, she is lying down when Jesus and the disciples enter the house. She is sick with a fever. The disciples are the ones who have to speak to Jesus about her. Jesus comes to her, and raises her up, gently taking her hand. Because of Jesus, she is healed and no longer lying ill. Her response is important. She does not say anything. She responds by beginning to serve Jesus and the disciples.

I think this short, small Bible story is an important and powerful teaching. In this small story, we see God’s plan for us. This woman, who is not even named or quoted, sets a simple, powerful example for all believers. Jesus comes to us, and we are lying down, we are sick with sin. We cannot even ask Jesus for help. Because of God’s will, Jesus comes to us and gently raises us up to health and life. But, do we get up and serve Jesus and His disciples? Do you follow this woman’s good example?

Do we take action, because of what God has done to bring us back to life? Jesus said the greatest commandment is Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus commands us to love God with everything, with our actions, our good deeds, and not just our words. Jesus commands us to love God because God has given us life, God has given us health, God has given us strength to serve Him! Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as ourself because that is the healthy thing to do. In one action, this woman fulfilled the two greatest commandments. When she served Jesus and His disciples, she perfectly fulfilled God’s plan and purpose for her.

How can believers preach the good news with our words, and then not serve each other with our actions? How can we talk to people about the gospel, but not take care of each other with the love that Jesus has given us? How do we expect people to listen to us speak about the love of God when we do not follow Jesus’  example? We do not even follow this faithful woman’s example: getting up and serving one another. How can we expect people to respond to God’s invitation, God’s salvation, when we do not even show our thankfulness by loving our neighbors as ourselves?

So we have this small story in the gospel of Mark to set the example for us. When Jesus gives us His grace that heals us, we should serve Him and His disciples. If you want to be a follower of Jesus, it won’t be with fancy words or memorable performances, but with active service. It should be simple for us to serve one another. God has brought us all together with His powerful plan. We are together because of Jesus. He has brought us together and made it simple for us to obey His commandment by serving one another! Let us fulfill the command of God, let us follow God’s plan and purpose for us: let us serve one another.

[Note: this passage is also by no means insignificant to the entire argument of Mark. I’ll quote Dr. Kuruvilla at length:

“In all these accounts of Jesus’ increasing popularity, only this woman, Simon’s mother-in-law, is said to minister to (“serve,” 1:31) Jesus–an act of self-giving. Indeed, her story . . . is bounded on either side . . . by statements attesting to Jesus’ incredible popularity. Nobody in that idolizing crowd is mentioned as giving to Jesus, not even the disciples. Everyone is out to get, except for this anonymous woman. Amidst all who are seeking only to get from Jesus, here is one who was willing to give, because she herself had been given [sic]. It is no doubt significant that there are only two instances of [diakoneoo] (“serve”) with humans as subjects in Mark’s Gospel (1:31 and 15:41), and both times the subjects are women. A subtle jab! The narrator is pointing an appreciative finger at the example of this mother-in-law, a woman who does the male disciples one better! She is already doing what Jesus himself will later model for his disciples. The same verb [diakoneoo] is found in the statement on the ESSENCE of Jesus’ mission [emphasis added]: the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve (10:45). The narrator is implying that this woman is a true disciple, serving after the fashion of her Lord. Simon’s mother-in-law is thus a foil to both crowds and disciples, indeed, to all who might follow Jesus for the wrong reasons.” (Mark, pp. 38-39)


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learner, thinker, writer, doer - not necessarily in that order

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