Mark 1:29-31

The Cure of Simon’s Mother-in-Law
(Mark 1:29-31)

INTRODUCTION

St. Mark who started his gospel stating: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1), is presenting another instance of Jesus proving that he is the Son of God. After the Synagogue service on a Sabbath in Capernaum, Jesus moved to the nearby house of Simon Peter and Andrew. When the inmates brought to the attention of Jesus the fever of Peter’s mother in law, Jesus took initiative to heal her though it was a Sabbath day. When the woman got the healing, she expressed her gratitude by serving Jesus and all who were present there. We, who are under the providence of the Lord shall also serve the Lord and his people.

Bible Text

(Mark 1:29) On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. (30) Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. (31) He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

 Interpretation

(Mark 1:29) On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.

On leaving the synagogue
This event is a continuation of the Jesus’ preaching and healing the demoniac in the synagogue at Capernaum in Galilee. From the synagogue Jesus headed to the house of Simon and Andrew, may be at their invitation, to have lunch and rest. Usually the synagogue services would end before noon and people would go home for lunch. The synagogue and the house were close by and at a walkable distance. Later Jesus made it as his residence while he was doing his ministry in Galilee. The remains of the synagogue and the house are still displayed for pilgrims at the same locations.

he entered the house of Simon and Andrew

Though Simon and Andrew were brothers, Matthew (Matthew 8:14) and Luke (4:38) mention the house as of Peter’s only. However Mark, who wrote the gospel under the supervision of Peter, presents the house as of Peter and Andrew. It must be because Simon Peter wanted to honor his brother Andrew also who was sharing the house with him. Matthew and Luke might have mentioned only Simon’s name because of his prominence among the apostles.

Though Simon, Andrew, and Philip were from Bethsaida (John 1:44), they might have moved to Capernaum (Mark 1:21, 29) because of their profession as fishermen in the Sea of Galilee. Bethsaida was only five miles east of Capernaum, but on the eastern side of River Jordan. It was in the territory of Herod Philip. Capernaum on the west side of the river belonged to the territory of Herod Antipas. Besides the sale of fresh fish, they used to process the fish by drying and salting for sale to distant areas. This was done at Magdala near Capernaum. So, if Peter and Andrew were fishing in Bethsaida area, they had to bring the fish for processing to the west that would incur custom’s tax (Mark 2:14). That must be a reason for their selection of Capernaum to live and to do fishing.

The well-to-do house of Peter and Andrew is a proof that they were successful fishermen with moderate wealth. Families during those days used to live in adjacent houses or attached rooms. So the house could accommodate both families of Peter and Andrew. Later it could accommodate Jesus and his apostles also to live there.

During the period of the early church, this house was used as a church. Archeologist have discovered this first century house under the octagonal church built above Peter’s house later. Many graffiti inscriptions were found on the walls of this early church like “Lord Jesus Christ help thy servant” or “Christ have mercy.” They were written in Hebrew, Greek, and Syriac languages.

with James and John.
James and John, who were called along with Peter and Andrew (Mark 1:16-20), were following Jesus wherever he went. They have been learning from the actions and teachings of Jesus. They were welcomed along with Jesus to all places Jesus visited and lived.

(30) Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her.

Simon’s mother-in-law
The mention of Simon’s mother-in-law is clear evidence that Peter was married. Why the mother-in-law was living with Peter is not clear. May be Peter had moved to his wife’s house in Capernaum from his native place in Bethsaida for his occupation.

Peter’s wife was believed to be accompanying Peter in his missionary journey. St. Paul asks: “Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Cor. 9:5). The tradition is that Peter’s wife also became a martyr for Jesus and it happened before the crucifixion of Peter and she died with his spiritual support. According to Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius, Peter’s wife was led away to death in the sight of Peter. He empowered her saying: "You remember the Lord." The names of Peter’s wife and her mother are not mentioned because the focus was to be on Jesus than these minor characters.

lay sick with a fever
The fever that Peter’s mother in law had was a severe one according to St. Luke (Luke 4:38), the physician. So it could a malignant one. That was the cause of worry for Peter and the family to bring to the attention of Jesus for a miraculous healing.

They immediately told him about her.
As usual, Mark uses the term “immediately” to indicate that the sickness of Peter’s mother-in-law was brought to the attention of Jesus as soon as he reached at the house.

(31) He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

Oftentimes, Jesus healed by his word. Luke reports the same miracle saying, “He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her.” (Luke 4:39). However Mark, who presents actions of Jesus more than his words, records the care Jesus provided to the sick person. When Jesus touched the sick lady, fever immediately left her. That shows it was not an ordinary recovery but a miraculous one.

she waited on them.
This is parallel to the angels ministering Jesus after his 40 days of fasting and temptation in the desert (Mark 1:13). The sick lady was perfectly well that she could minister to Jesus and many others present there.

Message

1. When Simon Peter and Andrew invited Jesus to their house, they received a miraculous healing for Peter’s mother-in-law. When we invite Jesus to our lives or house, we also will receive grace from him.

2. Immediately after Simon’s mother-in-law got the healing, she began to minister to Jesus and those who were present there. Let us also express our gratitude to God by serving the church and the people who need our care.

3. Peter, his brother Andrew, and extended family and neighbors were living closely in adjacent houses as the archeologists have excavated and exposed today. Let us live in harmony and be loving and caring for one another.

4. Peter’s house became an early church for Christians in Capernaum. Peter’s wife became a missionary and martyr along with Peter. When Jesus is hosted in our house it will become a holy place and the people who dwell in it will be sanctified.