Simon’s Wife’s Mother
As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
How many bad jokes have you heard about mothers-in-law?
Actually I prefer the wording of the old King James Version, which refers to the woman in question as “Simon’s wife’s mother.” Even as a child I can remember that this homely little detail impressed me every time I heard or read again the story of that busy sabbath day in Capernaum.
Maybe my early childish impressions were strengthened because I had two grandmothers, and one of them lived with us (or to be more exact, we lived with her). Somehow I never thought of either one of them as being the mother-in-law of one or the other of my parents: They were just Mamaw and Grannie. Since both of my grandfathers had died before I was born, I felt especially blest in getting to know both of my grandmothers.
When my parents were first married, they lived with my father’s mother. Only a few months before I was born, they moved out to a place of their own. Then the sudden tragic death of my mother’s father made it seem necessary that they move again to live with my mother’s grief-stricken mother.
Thus for most of their married lives, my parents lived with one or the other of their mothers-in-law. Both of these grandmothers were dearly loved; both of them were devout followers of Christ; both of them tried to be helpful, tried to make the best of things during their declining years. And yet – I saw first-hand how hard it can be to live in the same house with a mother-in-law.
Did Simon ever resent his mother-in-law’s presence? Was she more of a help in the household, or more of a burden? Apparently there were a lot of people at Simon’s house, for the verses quoted above indicate that his brother Andrew also lived with him.
The following Scriptural meditation assumes that Simon’s wife’s mother was basically a helpful person to have around the house, especially considering the backbreaking work and odd hours that were facts of life for commercial fishermen on Lake Galilee.
My wife and I have had the privilege of viewing the ruins of a synagogue in Capernaum — apparently not the same one where Jesus healed a demon-possessed man one sabbath day, but very likely built over the ruins of an older house of worship. Excavators have also uncovered nearby the ruins of a fisherman’s house and a fisherman’s boat. Could these have been Simon Peter’s? The Bible seems to suggest that Jesus and James and John had only a short walk from the synagogue to get to Simon’s house.
Even though Simon’s mother-in-law may have tried to be as helpful as possible, yet when she fell sick, the care of her must have become an added burden on younger members of the household. This fact, as well as their familial love, must have been the reason why they told Jesus about the sick grandmother. And Jesus promptly healed her.
That evening, after sunset had marked the end of the sacred day of rest and worship, multitudes came to Simon Peter’s doorstep for the healing touch of the Master. Can’t we imagine that the grandmother, her strength miraculously restored, was bustling around the house, keeping the wheels turning during an unusually busy time? Can’t we imagine that she continued to help her busy daughter during those months and years when Simon, now renamed Peter, was out on the road with Jesus and the rest of the Twelve?
As you read the following Bible-based poetic meditation, remember – and pray for – all of the grandmothers and mothers-in-law whom you know.
A widow in Galilee
has little to call her own.
But Simon has been like a son to me:
I’ve never felt lost or alone.
My daughter is Simon’s wife.
That means she’s often awake
all hours of the night, for such is their life:
They harvest the fish of the lake.
So when she is tired, I try
to keep the children away.
I sweep and I cook; I croon lullaby,
to help her get through the long day.
The sabbath’s our day of rest.
We go to the synagogue.
But one week a fever burned in my breast;
I sweated and moaned in a fog.
And then I felt a strong clasp –
firm fingers enfolding my hand.
My fever and pain all fled from that grasp
as though by God’s own command.
I’m up! I serve as before!
Our Simon has a new name!
I’ve learned that when Jesus comes in the door,
a household is never the same.
O loving God, in Your mercy bless all grandparents and parents-in-law — those who are helpful and those who need help. Amen.
Copyright © 2015 by Perry Thomas