After worshipping God in the synagogue on the Sabbath day, Jesus Christ and at least Peter, Andrew, James, and John went to Peter's home to relax and eat. When they arrived, Peter's wife's mother was bedridden with a fever, providing Christ an opportunity to perform another act of mercy (Matthew 8:14-15; Mark 1:29-31; Luke 4:38-39). This healing occurred on the same Sabbath that He exorcised the unclean spirit, revealing His authority over evil (see the March-April 2007 Bible Study: "Exorcism in a Synagogue").
Jesus was supreme over all that God granted Him, and the Gospel accounts illustrate this by showing His power over disease. After Peter's mother-in-law's friends and relatives had spoken to Jesus about her condition, He performed the miracle of healing directly and completely. She was so wholly restored to health that she could immediately attend to and serve her guests!
1. How does this incident shatter the claim that Peter was the first Catholic Pope? Matthew 8:14; Mark 1:30; Luke 4:38.
Comment: The mention of "Peter's wife's mother" proves that Peter was married. His wife was likely still living, as Paul later asks in I Corinthians 9:5, "Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?" This indicates that several of the apostles were married during their ministries.
Erroneously, Roman Catholics claim Peter to be the rock on which the church was built, the vicar of Christ, and the first Pope. How can they maintain, then, that it is wrong for "priests" to marry? If this were a sin, why did Christ not immediately reject Peter as an apostle, since he had a wife? It seems incredible that the Catholic Church would teach that Peter was its "first Pope," a model to all his successors, yet forbid its priests to marry despite his being a married man!
Priestly celibacy is specifically contrary to New Testament teaching (I Timothy 4:1, 3). Paul instructs, "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, . . . one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)" (I Timothy 3:2, 4-5). Scripture makes no objection to God's ministers having a wife. As Hebrews 13:4 declares, "Marriage is honorable among all."
2. What important fact does Luke's account add? Luke 4:38.
Comment: It is probable that Peter's wife's mother (likely a widow) was living with them. The family and their friends were quite concerned by her fever-stricken condition. Aware of the miracles Christ had begun to perform, they pleaded with Him to intervene on her behalf.
Yet, only Luke, a physician, adds the vital fact that she had a high fever. A doctor in Jesus' day would have noted the degree of fever to assess the severity of the patient's illness. Luke would have made careful inquiry into the details of the situation before recording his account. Thus, his testimony to the miraculous power of Christ is more reliable and thus of great importance, especially to new converts and skeptics.
3. Why does Christ rebuke her fever? Luke 4:39.
Comment: When Jesus went into the room where the elderly lady lay, Luke writes, "He stood over her and rebuked her fever," another detail Matthew and Mark omit. Was he addressing some hostile power? On another occasion, He rebuked the raging wind and water to end a storm on the Sea of Galilee (Luke 8:24). "Rebuked" in this verse is the same word used in Luke 4:35 and Mark 1:25, where Jesus "rebuked" the demon during the exorcism in the synagogue. The word means "to censure or admonish." When Jesus rebuked something, evil was present, and His example instructs us that evil must be condemned if real healing is to occur.
There are times when the solutions to our problems may require rebuke or strong admonition. No one enjoys being on the receiving end of a rebuke, yet if sin has caused the problem, it must be rebuked before repentance can happen. In a larger sense, the world desires peace, but few are willing to punish evil. The attitude toward evil today is not that of condemnation but of toleration.
Even so, not all sickness is caused by sin (John 11:4). At times, God permits sickness to provide an opportunity to bring glory to Himself and His Son.
4. Why does Christ touch her hand? Matthew 8:15.
Comment: An important aspect of the miracle is manifested as Jesus lifted the woman by the hand, and the fever left her. The laying on of His hands (see Hebrews 6:2) was something He did often. He even touched lepers, though the Gospels never mention Him laying hands on a demon-possessed person. Through His hands flowed the power of the Holy Spirit, producing immediate restoration to health.
Another feature of this miracle is the way He infused full strength into the woman, enabling her to serve her guests. Her recovery did not include a period of weakness and exhaustion, which usually follows a high fever, but she at once became energetic and full of health. The restoration of her health must have encouraged great gratitude, which manifested itself in service to Jesus and the others there. This sets a pattern for all who are healed, both physically or spiritually: They should use their new strength to serve God and His people with thankfulness (I Thessalonians 5:18). Peter exhorts, "If anyone ministers [serves], let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (I Peter 4:11).