As the saying goes, “Timing is everything!” Deliver the punch line of a joke without enough pause, or too much pause, and the joke falls flat. Rush your proposal for marriage, and you may not be taken seriously. Apply for a job at the wrong time, and you won’t be hired. Timing is crucial.
You remember the age-old question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Both are correct, depending on how you view the beginning of life on earth. If you take evolution to explain the origin of species, then the egg came first. If you believe God made each species, then the chicken came first.
We need to know what time it is and be willing to go first.
What I mean is it can be all too easy to pretend we’re doing fine when we’re not. We put on our happy face mask and act like we’ve got it all together, when all we’re really doing is hiding. It’s not until we get really knocked down that we ask for help.
God will help us if we ask. As psalm 30 says, “I praise you, Lord, for you raised me up and did not let my enemies rejoice over me. O Lord, my God, I cried out to you for help and you healed me”
The psalmist cried out. He went first and then God healed. He stopped hiding. Then he got healed. You need to go first. You’ve got to be willing to see your situation, to understand your condition. Admit you need help. It’s necessary to accept we’re in need.
Of course, this isn’t easy for many. They refuse such an image of themselves. Perhaps they saw this weakness in themselves once a long time ago, but that was because of this or that reason. We’ve grown out of that stage, or we’re doing better now. It’s not an on-going need. Thanks, but no thanks.
Now don’t get me wrong, we’re grateful we don’t need God’s help. As we see it, it’s beneficial to the Lord, since we don’t have to take the Lord’s time, freeing God to take on more needy cases. We’re just here to help.
Here’s the thing, it’s interesting how quickly this whole, “I’ve got this” self-image can change. One mistake, one unforeseen error, one tragic event, one sickness, and all this self-assured, master of the universe, bigger than life showmanship disappears. Faster than a speeding bullet life changes. Taller than a building something can leap into your life. Supermen and women, we no longer are.
Practice less self-assuredness. Deepen your sense of humility. Untie the cape from around your shoulders. There is only one master of the universe.
In our story, Jesus put out his hand to Peter’s sick mother-in-law, she took hold of it, he lifted her up, and scripture then says, “the fever left her.” As to the question of which comes first, the healing or the lifting, this story tells us lifting comes first. She accepted help first, and then was healed. She was lifted up and then was made well.
The ‘sign’ of the healing’s completeness is the fact not only is Simon’s mother-in-law cured of her fever, but she is well enough to get on with the task of serving. Or to put it another way she’s healed “just in time for supper.”
We could go into whether that’s fair, that a woman healed means she has to go back to women’s work. Or we could also go into the idea she became the first deacon in Mark’s view, seeing as how he used the same word to serve here as he did for angels serving Jesus while in the desert being tempted, and when Jesus said he’s come to serve rather than be served.
Both are important ways of seeing this scripture but neither one is accurate to the woman herself. Have you ever been sick? Of course. You’ve ever been sick enough to realize how fortunate and wonderful it was not to be sick, and how much you took health for granted? I hope so.
We’ve realized how high our expectations for what was due us had become in the course of living so many days healthy and well. Perhaps we also realized how little we gave thanks for how much we had.
We’ve also come away from being sick, gotten off our sick beds, regained our appetite for food and life, been returned to our former life we took for granted, happy to be able to do anything like we could before. Being sick can be quite a spiritual experience.
Peter’s mother-in-law had a fever. She doesn’t know how this is going to end. We do because it’s in a story of good news, but her experience is having a fever with the outcome yet to be determined.
What has she taken for granted? Who has she wanted to say sorry to but still hasn’t? What has she done that she would wish she had done differently? What would she give to be healthy again? Why hasn’t she understood what a gift each day is, each person in her life is?
Our physical illnesses may reveal our spiritual weaknesses.
When you’re resting because of illness, you’re given opportunity to peer more deeply into who you are and who you aren’t yet. Take the
opportunity. Examine yourself. Give way to prayer. Turn to thanksgiving. Realize your blessings. Envision what may be. Praise God for blessings. Recommit yourself to faith.
The wise don’t wait. This is how they live.
Peter’s mother-in-law had come to this pregnant moment when Jesus walked into the room. In her eyes, he didn’t just see signs of a bodily fever; he saw signs of spiritual fervor. He reached out to her, placed his hand where she could lay hers in his, and lifted her to her feet. In that moment, her fever broke, and her fervor blessed.
Not taking anything or anyone for granted, she gave thanks she was able once again to serve. Lifted up, she lifted others. As Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
There’s no doubt this woman was one of those people we know in life who simply can’t sit still. They’ve got enough get up and go at their age to put many people half their age or younger to shame. The fact is people who serve like this make families and churches go around.
The healed woman doesn’t leave everything to follow Jesus, like the disciples who witness her healing. She doesn’t learn to cast out demons or heal others. She’s no Martha, who may be the leader of a house church. She doesn’t do anything spectacular She just serves her son-in-law and his friends.
The healed woman is nameless, and speechless, and soon to be left behind. But in her service, she understands and embodies the ideal of discipleship that Peter and Andrew, James and John, seem not to get quite right. “Everyone is searching for you,” Peter tells Jesus, urging him to return to Capernaum, to bask in his popularity as a great healer.
“Have some more cake,” says the beaming mother-in-law, ministering to Jesus, in the way she can, even if for a moment.
She’s a woman like many others, serving the way many women do.
Without someone doing this, where would we all be? Too often these servants of God are the ones first and most taken for granted.
Who gets it right? You know who.
Scripture says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in
evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
It’s been said, “Jesus heals people who need him.” But we don’t know we need him until we first know we need love, until we know we need to know how to love.
We need to know when it’s our time to either ask for help or to be the helper, to be the love needed or the one in need of love.
A dad says, “We worked patiently to help our son heal and adjust to his new life with our family. Trauma from his early days in an orphanage was fueling some negative behaviors. While I had enormous compassion for the hardships he experienced in his early days, I felt myself begin to withdraw from him emotionally because of those behaviors. Ashamed, I shared my struggle with his therapist. Her gentle reply hit home: ‘He needs you to go first . . . to show him he’s worthy of love before he’ll be able to act like it.’”
With a touch, Jesus can lift us, raising and restoring us to life. But only if you’re willing to let love lift you.
You know what’s amazing about that woman? She got up when she did. Yeah, I know Jesus lifted her up. But she got up before her fever left her. She got up first. She wasn’t completely cured or healed before she got to her feet. She wasn’t fixed and fine before she stood. She didn’t demand everything be made right first before she would do her part.
She trusted in the Lord. She had faith that if he had her hand and he helped her, she would stand and get her health. She stood first and was healed second.
She trusted first and was healed. She trusted love and she rose.
We can trust in all kinds of things and ideas and propositions and purposes and people. We can trust the Lord. But no matter what, we trust something first. It sets the stage on how we look at life and on what we value. We can trust in being mean or despairing. We can trust in being practical or perfectionistic. We can trust in our strength and smarts.
Or we can trust in love.
Trust in love first. Give the Lord a chance. Then you will be lifted up.
Can the church say Amen?