Lent – 4th reading for discipleship reflections

James DouglasUncategorized

Back to the discipline!

The reading is: Mark 1:29-31

I love this short encounter Jesus has with Simon/Peter’s mother-in-law (we never meet Peter’s wife, interestingly). She’s in bed with a fever, which in that time could have meant anything from a heavy cold to any number of potentially fatal illnesses. That Jesus is told about her the moment he steps through the door suggests this wasn’t a routine thing. He goes to her bedside, takes her by the hand, lifts her up and the fever leaves her. Cool! (see what I did there?)

Then the feminist in me does a double take, because the moment she’s healed, Simon/Peter’s mother-in-law begins to serve them. It looks like the patriarchy that was par for the course in that time is just being asserted – ‘now that you’re up, we’re hungry; what’s for lunch?’ That’s certainly one way to read the story, but I think that the word ‘began’ implies something more profound than a single expression of domestic servitude. In John’s gospel, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet as a sign of how they are to serve each other. Peter won’t have a bar of such domestic servitude and objects, but Jesus tells him that this is the way with disciples. I think that in telling this story, Mark is saying that Simon/Peter’s mother-in-law became a disciple. Having seen her son-in-law abandon a perfectly good fishing career to follow this itinerant preacher I imagine she would have been pretty resentful of Jesus, but this encounter shows her who he is and begins her journey of faith, which involves mutual service.