Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 8:15a “And he touched her hand,. . .”
Having healed a Gentile, Jesus now turns His focus to a Jewish family. After His strong words, “The children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12), Jesus did not want to leave the impression He was forsaking the Jews. Opening the kingdom to Gentiles did not mean He was closing it to Jews. Jesus sought to make it obvious the Gospel invitation is all-inclusive. Having no favorites, God wants all to enter His kingdom.
By healing in rapid succession a Jewish leper, a Gentile slave, and now a woman, Christ was making a statement. Race, social status, and gender do not matter to Him. None of these things puts one at an advantage or disadvantage with regard to His salvation. Jesus doesn’t limit access to Himself. People exclude themselves.
Whosoever will may come. Dad often says “whosoever” is the Bible’s most comforting word. He would rather see it than his own name, for the latter could refer to someone else with the same name, but “whosoever” for sure includes him.
Jesus touched Peter’s sick mother-in-law. The touch conveyed tender compassion and sympathy. There is huge love-value in a genuine hug or handshake.
Jesus’ touch left no doubt regarding the source of the mother-in-law’s newfound health. His touch made it obvious He was the sole cause of the miracle.
His touch revealed courage. Not many were running in to be close to a lady with fever. Jesus was fearless in making contact with people who had needs. Spiritual greatness always entails willingness to run a certain level of risk. Comfort zones are huge hindrances to attempting and accomplishing great things for God.
Matt. 8:15b “. . .and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto
Healing Peter’s mother-in-law is one of the few miracles Jesus performed in behalf of any of His close followers. The remedy was quick and thorough. Jesus cured not only the mother-in-law’s fever, but also any residual, lingering weakness.
Being blessed by God did not make Peter’s mother-in-law smug. She did not stand up with an ego-trip, expecting to hear the applause of a huge crowd. Her ability to serve provided irrefutable evidence of her healing, her willingness to serve proved she humbly appreciated it. Serving others is a tangible way to thank God.
Gratitude toward God and pride toward others cannot co-exist. True thankfulness always dresses in humility. All whom Christ honors must always be lowly. Jesus helps us, not to bloat us or make us swell with pride, but rather to help others through us. God will get His blessing to us if He knows He can get it through us.
A prime evidence of salvation is a willingness to minister to others. A natural by-product of divine regeneration is a life given to serving others. If God has worked His very life into us, it will want to work itself out through us to better the life of others; if He has given us His light, it will want to shine in people’s darkness; if He has given us living water, it will want to flow out of us that others may drink.
Jesus obviously touched this mother-in-law’s heart as well as her hand, for she immediately began serving others. The hand that was touched quickly became the hand that ministered. There was no delay. I fear many of us drown our potential ministries in a sea of good intentions. We float a boat of wistful plans while people are sinking all around us. We say we’ll serve, we’ll minister, we’ll witness, we’ll do missions. Is it too harsh to ask when we plan to do these things? Have we calendared them? How long will we wait? Satan will make sure that serving God will cause us inconvenience. If we wait for a convenient time, it will never come.
Peter’s mother-in-law worked not only humbly and immediately, but also nearby. She did tasks that needed to be done at hand. She was willing in a quiet way to personally minister to her personal Christ through people nearby. Her main desire was not the adrenalin rush found in a huge enterprise of supreme importance.
She did what she could with what she had where she was. Jesus Himself had this same philosophy. Wherever He was, ministry flowed from Him toward whomever He was with. In front of a crowd, Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, healed a leper, and dealt with a centurion. Behind closed doors, Jesus was still willing to minister. He was not one person in public, and another in private. His life was consistent on stage and behind the curtain. He did not need an admiring crowd to be at His best. All He needed was to see a need. For Jesus, missions truly became who He was, and not something He did on the side from time to time.
We usually quote the Great Commission (MT 28:19) as saying “Go ye,” but the Greek text literally says, “As you go.” Often ministry does not require us to go out of our way. Whenever we are close to people, need is usually at hand. All we have to do is open our eyes and hearts where we are, to engage people in talk about themselves. Often we refuse to really see or hear because if we did, we might feel pain, which in turn could require us to inconvenience ourselves. Thus, we decide in advance not to look or listen too closely.
Jesus, though, made people and their hurts His unfailing focus. The needs of others were never a nuisance. Even when Jesus tried to retire to rest, people would not leave Him alone. They pressed Him with their needs. Jesus was often tired, but never too tired to care or help. The only way He could ever rest was to completely isolate Himself, to distance Himself from people. If folks were within reach, He could not resist aiding them. If He came into contact with anyone in need, He felt compelled to help. Jesus was never off duty when in the presence of people. When anyone enters our presence, we are, as ambassadors of Christ, immediately on call.
Do what you can with what you have where you are. Peter’s mother-in-law did not try to fix supper for everyone in Capernaum. Had she tried to, she would have failed miserably, and ended up discouraged. She wisely focused on needs at hand. It is easy to let the overwhelming magnitude of human need paralyze us into doing nothing. The sheer weight of suffering can crush us into hopeless inactivity.
We have to learn we cannot do everything and help everyone, but we can do something and help someone. This reminds me of a story about a storm which once left thousands of starfish stranded on a beach. A man, seeing a boy throwing starfish back into the ocean, said to the lad, “You can’t save them all.” “Yes,” replied the boy as he threw a starfish into the water, “but I made a difference for that one.”
It is appropriate that all whom Christ heals should give the rest of their lives serving Him through others. Do it everyday everywhere for everyone within reach.