Do you know why Simon Peter denied Jesus three times? Because Jesus cured his mother in-law. Hahaha! There are few good theological jokes and the previous attempt is not one of them.
Some look at today’s reading of Jesus curing Simon’s mother-in-law as validation of women’s subordinate role in society and in the church because immediately after Simon’s mother in-law is cured, she rises and waits on Jesus (or as some see it, waits on the men). While this interpretation may have been popular in the past, it certainly is not very accurate, thoughtful or theological. It is an example of how sometimes we look at the Gospels through our lens of wants and desires. We look to Gospels for ways to validate what we already believe and then bend the Gospel to support what ever belief or desire we have.
Today’s Gospel has nothing to do with gender or women’s role in the Church. It is about the proper response of anyone after being cured or made whole by Jesus. Our default way of being is service to the Lord and others (Example: washing of the feet at the last supper in John’s Gospel. “Love as I have loved you”). In Simon’s mother in-law’s case she is physically sick and unable to do the serving that every disciple, male or female, is supposed to do. While her illness and debilitation is physical, spiritual and emotional illness can keep us from acting like disciples as well. Jesus comes on the scene and desires to take away all that keeps us from serving or acting like a disciple.
Throughout history, the Gospels have been used to validate or encourage subordination of people by gender, race or belief. The Gospel is often used as a weapon to somehow prove selfish things, that are completely opposite of the Gospel when taken as a whole. In this case, it should be noted that the women, in all four Gospels are the ones who generally “get it” or understand Jesus, where most men fail to understand or respond to Jesus. Instead of using the Gospels to divide, suppress or in any way denigrate others, we should remember the basic premise of Jesus’ mission, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Rev. James Kirby