Jesus Heals Peter’s Mother-in-Law
In my previous post here, it was stated Matthew wrote his book to reinforce and strengthen the faith of the Jewish Christian followers in Israel. They were under attack and going through persecution and were considering leaving Christianity to return to Judaism. Matthew’s book lays out Jesus’ credentials to the throne of David. The third proof which I’ve entitled “His Credentials” looks at the miracles Jesus performed as proof of his claim to be the Son of God. The first group of miracles shows he is Lord of the Outcast and begins in Matthew 8:1.
We skipped the first miracle, Jesus healing the leper, and started with Jesus healing the centurion’s servant. The article can be found here. In this article we’ll look at Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. This miracle is briefly described by Matthew in Matthew 8:14-15.
Apparently Jesus had made Peter’s house his home base for his ministry. He returns here after healing the centurion’s servant. Upon entry into Peter’s house he finds Peter’s mother in law in bed with a fever. What was the first century attitude toward women in general?
Women’s status and freedoms were severely limited by Jewish law and custom in ancient Israel, as they were in essentially all other cultures at the time. Generally speaking:
- Unmarried women were not allowed to leave the home of their father without permission.
- Married women were not allowed to leave the home of their husband without permission.
- They were restricted to roles with little to no authority.
- They could not testify in court. (It is interesting to note that women were the first witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the gospels were made up, who would use women as the first witnesses? Certainly not someone fabricating a story!)
- They were not allowed to talk to strangers.
As we see above, women’s status was not much better than that of a slave and Jesus approaching her or touching her would be frowned upon by the Jews yet Jesus does it anyway. A couple of additional points to consider.
- In the first century medical science was primitive. A person with a fever was known to be contagious but with what type of disease or illness? Contact with a feverish person could spread the infection and further the illness among the Jews.
- Her illness may have been connected with the woman’s monthly cycle. By touching her Jesus would become ceremonially unclean and unable to worship.
With all of these attitudes toward woman and the possible spread of disease Jesus ignores it all and touches her and heals her. What was Jesus’ general attitude toward women?
- He ignored ritual impurity laws: Mark 5:25-34. Why could Jesus do this and remain pure? Hoses 6:6 which Jesus quotes in Matthew 9:13 is the key.
- He talked to foreign women: John 4:7 to John 5:30.
- He taught women students: First century rabbi Eliezer wrote, “Rather should the words of the Torah be burned than entrusted to a woman…Whoever teaches his daughter the Torah is like one who teaches her obscenity.” Jesus taught Mary, the sister of Martha, in Luke 10:38-42.
- He expressed concern for widows: Luke 2:36, Luke 4:26 and others.
So Jesus overturned centuries of Jewish tradition and societal norms to be available to women. He continued to show he was available to the outcast and Peter’s mother-in-law would have been considered an outcast, especially during her illness.
Notice that Jesus not only heals her but he also restores her strength. She gets up from her bed and began to wait on him. Matthew 8:16 states Jesus continued to heal all types of illnesses, diseases and heal the demon possessed.
Jesus is also concerned about you. There is a God Who Really Cares For You.