Peter’s Mother-in-Law and Others Healed (MT 8:14-17 & 4:23-24, MK 1:29-39, LK 4:38:44)
The most dominant themes in this passage is Jesus’ authority in teaching and his authority over disease and the spirit world. The miracles show that Jesus’ authority over both spirits and disease is not incomplete or the result of chance. They point to the nature of the times and the identity of His person.
The instantaneousness of the healings shows in another way the totality and consistency of this authority. The main point that Luke is trying to communicate is that we focus on Jesus’ power, which liberates humanity. That some of these healings involve supernatural forces implies a most fundamental liberation – one from the power of evil.
Last week in the passage about Jesus’ authority to teach being confirmed by the healing of a demon possessed man followed the structure of teaching, exorcism, and healing. Our passage today goes in reverse order, it goes healing, exorcism, and then preaching.
In this part of the passage, we see that Jesus had come to Peter’s house and saw that Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Jewish law forbid touching of a person with a fever. However, Jesus healed with a touch. The touch of Jesus did not defile the healer, but healed the defiled (Carson, 1995). The instantaneousness of the healings shows in another way the totality and consistency of this authority.
We see that when people had heard about this miracle that they waited until night and then brought their sick to Jesus. The reason they waited until night was because it was the Sabbath. Jewish law prevented people from traveling very far on the Sabbath. In Matthew 8:17 we see that Jesus did these miracles in order to fulfill the prophecy, “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases”, which comes from Isaiah 53:4.
When Jesus casts out demons, it shows that the kingdom of God is advancing, driving back the power of the enemy over people’s lives. However, the people come to Jesus, not because they recognized his dignity and function, but because it is rumored that a miracle worker has come in their midst. Jesus has come to preach repentance and the nearness of the kingdom, but the people think only of relief from pain and affliction. They fail to perceive the significance of Jesus’ conflict with demonic power.
Though it was late and the sun was setting, Jesus did not miraculously perform an instantaneous “group healing” but paid individual attention to each person. In compassion and grace Jesus extends to them authentic healing, but it is not primarily for this purpose that he has come. In the morning, Jesus withdraws from the village and the clamoring crowds.
Before going to preach to others, Jesus deliberately withdraws from the people to return to an area that is remote.
Why would Jesus withdraw from people wanting to worship him?
I believe that Jesus withdraws for two reasons. First, is because the crowds had found him to be useful. Jesus does not want to be worshiped because He is useful. The crowds followed and worshipped him because He was useful in the healing of the sick. Who would not want to follow a guy like that. However, God does not want to be worshiped because of what He can do for you, but because He is the only thing in this world that deserves to be worshiped. God wants to be worshiped because He is God, not because he can make you feel better.
The second reason I believe that Jesus withdraws from the large crowds is so that He can prepare himself to go and minister to others. Jesus’ mission was to come and proclaim that the Kingdom of God was near. His healings were evidence of His teachings and his authority, not just to heal people. His purpose is not to heal as many people as possible as a manifestation of the kingdom of God drawn near in his person, but to confront men with the demand for decision in the perspective of God’s absolute claim upon their person. (Lane, 1974)
Our passage today has shown that Jesus’ ministry is a mixture of authoritative teaching and healing. The healings are meant to give proof to the teachings, however, many hyper-focus on the miracles rather than His teachings. Jesus Christ, the anointed one, has great authority and power. His power extends into the hidden world and rules cosmic forces. Such power can free a person from the evil forces that affect live. It is teaching in action, an illustration of his power. Jesus is no mere moralist. Neither is he merely a great motivator or psychologist. He is one with authority to defeat the evil forces that can dominate humanity. Jesus can deal with the evil one and restore people. (Bock, 1994)