Bible Reading Blog — January 8, 2016

8 Jan

Today’s Readings — Genesis 25-26 & Mark 1:29-34

There are many events which show up in three gospels and a few which show up in all four. Some of the biggest events in our minds are not mentioned in all four gospels (for example, the story of Jesus’ birth is only recorded in Matthew and Luke, not Mark or John). But sometimes seemingly unimportant events are repeated in more than one gospel. The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law is one of those events. This story shows up in Matthew, Mark and Luke. But what is the significance of this? After all, she only had a fever. She is healed of something that Tylenol or antibiotics might treat today. Why is this seemingly minor miracle highlighted in all four gospels? First, the inclusion of this miracle in Matthew, Mark and Luke is an indication, like many other parts of these gospels, of interdependence in the writing of these gospels. In other words, it is likely that the writers of these gospels had access to the other gospels and used each others material. There are lots of theories about how this came about but it seems undeniable that it did happen in some way. The first three gospels certainly seem to be using some of the same source material. This would mean a story like Peter’s mother-in-law, because it was in the source material, found its way into all three gospels.

A second reason this story is in the gospels is because it is a very personal story. This is Peter’s mother-in-law. In Mark, we are told that the four disciples Jesus had called in Mark 1 are there to be eyewitnesses of this healing. So they see the tender care of Jesus over one they loved. And we must not ignore the possibility that Peter’s mother-in-law may have still been living and that the early readers of the gospel of Mark may have known her. Mark does this later in his gospel when he mentions the children of Simon (who carried Jesus’ cross); Alexander and Rufus. The reason he mentioned them is probably because those who read Mark knew them. So this story is personal, and that is a probable reason for its inclusion in the first three gospels.

Finally, the story is an illustration of discipleship, and this may be a reason for its inclusion. Peter’s mother-in-law is sick. Jesus comes to her, takes her hand, raises her up. The fever leaves her and she begins to serve. Her life serves as a picture of the life of a follower of Jesus: sinners are touched by Jesus, healed and go out to serve. May we be like her.

 

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