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The bible is the historical record of God’s mighty deeds. It’s the written witness to God and his interactions with his creation. And Peter’s no-account mother in-law made it into the bible. Here she is in the cosmic story of what God is doing in and with the world. Wherever in all the universe God and his mighty deeds are proclaimed, there is Peter’s mother in-law, sick with fever. And who is she that she should find her way into the bible? How does she rate that nearly 2,000 years later we’re hearing about her? Well, quite frankly, she’s no one, and she doesn’t rate. In fact, she is of such little account that we’re not even given her name.
It’s kind of odd and a little bit surprising that this morning we are hearing about this no-name woman who is sick with the flu. Just before this, Jesus had come preaching that the kingdom of God was at hand. He announced to all who had ears to hear that he himself brought the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. And walking beside the sea of Galilee, Jesus calls Simon-Peter, Andrew, James, and John to walk away from their fishing careers to go with him. He calls these men away from their work to be His for His work. Then on the Sabbath, Jesus and these four, freshly called fishermen went to the synagogue, where Jesus began teaching. And all the people gathered there were astonished, because Jesus spoke with authority. And immediately in the synagogue there was a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus? Have you come to destroy us? I know you are the Holy One of God.” And Jesus answers, “Quiet down, and come out of him!” The demon tried to hold on, causing the man to convulse, but he was no match for the word of Jesus. By simply speaking the words, Jesus cast the demon out of the man.
From the blazing power that drives out an unclean spirit, Jesus now stoops down into the dim house of Simon-Peter and Andrew, accompanied by James and John. Into Peter’s unremarkable, lowly, little world enters the one who preaches about His coming as the coming of God’s kingdom; the one who calls men from their work to be His own. Here is one more powerful than the unclean spirits. And what does Jesus do? Jesus goes to Peter’s mother-in-law to check on her. Nothing gives him pause. To the bed and the feverish woman, He comes.
There is nothing more important in all the world than for Jesus to be there for this sick woman. With the fate of the universe in his hands, He is there just for her. He took her by the hand and lifted her up. The fever left her. The woman doesn’t have an ecstatic moment or let fly with a sound of joy or some exclamation to mark the event as anything special. She simply puts the coffee on. But from that day forward she was never the same. She knew to whom she was precious. She, Peter’s old, no account mother-in-law, with all her crackling aches and pains, was precious. The kingdom of God had come to her with this man, the one the boys had brought home with them and their other friends.
Peter’s no-name mother in-law made it into the bible. It’s kind of odd and a little bit surprising. But we aren’t hearing about Peter’s mother in-law this morning because she is somebody; we’re not hearing about her because she is so important or rates so highly. Peter’s mother in-law made into the bible because Jesus is who he is.
Jesus’s identity and mission were laid on him at his baptism. When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove, and the voice of God spoke, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The baptism of Jesus echoes and fulfills what the prophet Isaiah had preached: “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Chosen One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.” Jesus is the Servant of God promised from of old. He is the One sent by God to set things right, to bring the rule and reign of God to earth. Jesus is the Servant of the Lord, anointed with the Holy Spirit to bring restoration and renewal: forgiveness of sins, release from the captivity of sickness, disease, and sorrow, and resurrection from the dead.
Peter’s mother in-law made it into the bible because Jesus is who he is. He is the Son of God and the Servant of God. He is the one who comes to set things right, to stoop down and serve the lowly and the little—even Peter’s no-account mother in-law. Only to those who are of no-account, who are in need, who can do nothing except receive from Him does He come as Servant. No strength or worthiness of your own. Only the compassion of the One who comes, who raises you up to gladly be His disciple no matter what your unworthiness.
The kingdom of God comes to this lowly, no account, old woman, and it comes upon little, no account you, because the Holy One of God who was there as a servant for Peter’s mother-in-law is among us also as Servant. That’s why Our Redeemer Lutheran Church exists. It’s not because you worked so hard to organize it and to build it. Our Redeemer doesn’t exist because of your doctrinal purity or because of your fidelity to tradition. Our Redeemer doesn’t exist because of your best efforts or mine. As the psalm says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Our Redeemer Lutheran Church exists simply and solely because Jesus, the Servant of God, has, in his compassion, stooped down to serve us.
If you search the bible, you will not find yourself in it. Unlike Peter’s no-name mother in-law, you are not in there. But you have been taken up into the story of God and his dealings in and with the world. That’s what your baptism was all about, and that’s what Our Redeemer Lutheran Church is all about. At the baptismal font, the mighty deeds of God broke into your life, as God’s Servant stooped down to claim you as his own and to promise you all the riches of his kingdom: deliverance from sin and all of its consequences, resurrection from the dead, and everlasting life. The kingdom of God came upon you in this man who came to serve. And there in your baptism Jesus made it known that you too are precious. And he made it known to whom you are precious—precious to him and to God, his Father.
We are here this morning not because of who we are or because of our best efforts. We’re here this morning because of Jesus and who he is—the one who comes as God’s Servant to set things right, to renew and restore. The one who comes not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. That’s why what we do here is called the Divine Service. Did you know that’s what it’s called? The Divine Service? Some people call it worship, some people call it liturgy. But it’s the Divine Service. Jesus, the divine Son of God, comes among us as servant, to serve us with his words of forgiveness and life and to serve us his body and blood. Everything that happens here begins with Jesus; it moves from him to us, and then from us back to him. He serves us with his gifts, and we receive them and extol them in prayer and praise.
And there is nothing more important in all the world than Jesus, the divine Son of God, present among us as servant. Not a building or a sanctuary, not your favorite order of service or your favorite hymns and hymnal. The most important thing in all the world is for Jesus to be here for you with all of Himself—God’s Son and God’s Servant, come to serve Peter’s no-account mother in-law and come to serve no-account you; come to give you the work of his life, his death, and his resurrection. And that’s just what he does. He forgives you all your sins and he promises you everlasting life and eternal salvation. He is here FOR YOU at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church as servant.
Jesus went through the streets of Capernaum to that humble house and was at that modest little table there. Peter’s mother-in-law must have been thinking, “If only I had known you were coming…” She would have certainly given the best she could provide—her most favorite recipes; her best baking. But Jesus comes not to be served, but to serve and to pour himself out for you. And that’s just what Jesus does this morning as he serves you his best. When you eat that bread and drink from that cup, Jesus serves you his body and blood as a sign and pledge that the death he died, he died for you. When you eat that bread and drink that wine, Jesus serves you his body and blood as a sure and certain pledge that his resurrection and life will be your resurrection and life. At ORLC, the kingdom of God comes among you in God’s Servant, Jesus—his Words of forgiveness and life; his body and his blood. By God’s grace, you, too, are precious, worth the giving of His body and the shedding of His blood.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
29 And immediately [Jesus] left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.