“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”Paul, Ephesians 5:1, 2
There can be no doubt on the Biblical picture of human life that we were meant to be inhabited by God and to live by a power beyond ourselves. Human problems cannot be solved by human means. Human life can never flourish unless it pulses with the ‘immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe’ (Ephesians 1:19). But only constant students of Jesus will be given adequate power to fulfill their calling to be God’s person for their time and their place in this world. They are the only ones who develop the character which makes it safe to have such power.
– Dallas Willard, The Great Omission
38Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. 39So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.
40When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. 41Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ.
42At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. 43But he said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” 44And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.Luke 4:38-44
Simon (who has yet to be renamed Peter by Jesus) invites Jesus to his home. His mother-in-law has a fever, not something life-threatening, but Simon asks Jesus to help. Jesus’ response demonstrates that there is no matter too trivial for his interest, nor should we be afraid of asking for his help in the little things as well as the large.
It is unwritten, but Simon’s nascent faith in Jesus (he presumably just met him at the temple or somewhere else he was teaching or healing) is the basis of his request and very likely Jesus’ positive response and action. It is likely that Jesus’ healing of Simon’s mother-in-law was just as much about reinforcing and increasing Simon’s faith as it was about the healing itself. Simon (to be renamed Peter, “the Rock”) goes on to become one of the three disciples Jesus invests most deeply in and perhaps his most passionate follower (we will see his initial call to follow Jesus in tomorrow’s encounter).
As affirmed elsewhere in Scripture repeatedly and vividly evident in Jesus’ life, God responds when approached in faith, even if that faith is embryonic. A big question we should look at as we read through Luke is what is Jesus attracted to – what kind of people, what kind of attributes?
We will see elsewhere in Luke how one’s faith in him is one of the key things Jesus immediately responds to, along with humility, a desire to learn and follow his teaching, and a willingness to respond to his call to action (to repent and become his disciple).
After healing Simon’s mother-in-law (and, it appears, partaking in a meal served by her), Jesus is approached by many with sickness and demons and, “laying his hands on each one,” heals them. Again, we see that Jesus’ natural sense of action that accompanies his teaching involves restoration/healing and freedom from oppression – this conforms completely to his reading from Isaiah 61. The people see this and naturally gravitate to Jesus.
In following Christ, our own lives – guided and empowered by the Spirit – should very much have the healing and restoration of others as a central focus. Love of neighbor in action. This is not limited to the visibly broken (e.g., the homeless, addicted, poor, etc.), though we should of course take very seriously Jesus’ teaching to serve them as if we are serving him.
We should recognize that each person God has put in our path – even those with trappings of great success and little visible brokenness – are deeply in need Christ’s healing and freedom; healing from the emptiness, doubts, insecurities, fears, etc. of a self-dependent life and past wounds and broken relationships; freedom from culturally-acceptable bondage to accumulation, consumption, approval, success, status, etc. as the essence of our identities.
As we live lives of healing love, people will in turn be attracted to the “aroma of Christ,” just as they gravitated to Jesus; this brings God glory and may represent steps on a path to faith for those attracted.
As noted by Dallas Willard in the excerpt above, God will give us power to be miraculously used in healing and liberation in others’ lives if our character makes it “safe” to do so. We become “safe” as we are more and more transformed into his image as disciples, as God’s will becomes united with our will (versus the default setting of our disordered will alone).
“At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place . . . “ Rather than hanging around after the healings to receive glory from the crowd, Jesus withdraws to be with the Father in prayer. Jesus spent his life investing in and loving others, but he constantly seeks time alone with the Father for rest and being “refilled” with the Spirit’s power and direction. We should do similarly.
The people try to keep him with them, but Jesus keeps moving: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” Jesus stays completely focused on the mission he has been given, which is to bring a message that will be both accepted with amazement and rejected with anger and, ultimately, violence attempting to silence the messenger. To fulfill the Father’s mission, Jesus more often than not does the hard thing (more sacrifice and risk) instead of the easy thing (seeking his own comfort and safety).
“By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew. My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight, they will be life for you, an ornament of grace around your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.”Proverbs 3:19-26
“I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”Psalm 9:1, 2, 9, 10