We are again asked to consider who Jesus is revealed to be; and as we hear the words from Psalm 147, we hear that God binds the wounds of the injured, heals the brokenhearted, and lifts up the lowly. Lifts up… When Jesus comes to the house of Simon and Andrew, they tell Jesus that Simon’s mother in law had a fever… and Jesus takes her hand and lifts her up.
Jesus lifts up those who are sick, those who are lowly, just as God lifts up the sick and lowly. Acts like God… is God…
In healing Simon’s mother in law, he restores her. Fevers would be a frightening thing that could signify severe illness, illness that could mean death. And so Jesus heals her. And like many of the other healings that he performs, it is more than just physical healing, as important as that is. The healing that Jesus does is more restoration, and reconciliation. Being sick was a huge worry without modern medicine. But even more importantly, having an illness separated a person from everything that made life worth living. Family and friends might not associate with you due to purity laws; if they touched you they would be considered unclean for a period of time. If someone was ill they wouldn’t be able to earn a living. They wouldn’t be able to go to the temple to worship. It would be as if they were dead. And for Simon’s mother in law, being a woman who was sick was even worse. Women were already vulnerable, and to be sick on top of that could really mean life could be over… But Jesus, Godin the flesh lifts her up. He takes her from a place of near physical and social death and isolation and he lifts her back to her place in her family and in society; he restores her. She is reconciled to her life, and also to God. And so now she can serve, not just as she might serve every day, but serve the one who has made her whole.
When Jesus lifts us up, we are restored… we are reconciled. The good news, the gospel for us, is that because of Jesus, you and I are restored to right relationship with God. All that we have done to separate ourselves from God is forgiven, is taken away, so that we might be lifted up, brought out of the pit of our despair, raised into a loving, merciful, healing relationship with God. Restored, so that death does not have the last word; reconciled so that we do not suffer the eternal consequences of our poor choices.
And here’s the thing for us to remember; just as Simon’s mother in law served after she was lifted up, so are we to serve since we have been lifted up. The ministry of restoration and reconciliation isn’t just something that Jesus did while he was on the earth; it is something that we do here and now. As disciples, we are to make Jesus’ love and mercy known throughout the world; we are to help restore others to right relationship with those whom they love and with God. Sometimes it might be easy to see what is separating someone from God; not being able to eat or not having a roof over one’s head at night certainly has the power to separate us from God. There may be other things that need the healing of Jesus that aren’t as obvious. Things that we do or participate in that cause us to feel as though God isn’t near; these are the places where we are called to serve; we are lifted up in order to go down in the dark places where Jesus has already been to bring light and fullness of life. We are to lift up whether that is by feeding people, providing housing, clothing; maybe it’s taking an alcoholic to their first AA meeting, or visiting someone who is in jail or the hospital. It might be looking at the policies we vote on and the businesses we use, so that we can help to make sure that all of God’s people have what they need to be restored to right relationship with God and with each other.
We have been restored; we have been reconciled to each other and to God. Jesus has lifted us up out of the darkness of despair. Who is Jesus asking us to lift up in what we say and do? Who will we meet who needs to be restored, lifted up, reconciled?