Today’s story seems very appropriate since we are right in the middle of a terrible and I would even dare to say devastating flu season. The CDC says that we have had a total of 49 of the 50 states who have claimed widespread flu activity. Just the other day the CDC said that Oregon is seeing fewer cases which now brings the state count down to only 48 states. They also claim that we still have ‘weeks’ more of flu season before it will finally be behind us.
The highest recorded count of hospitalizations from the flu was the 2014-2015 flu season and it hospitalized approximately 710,000 people, and the CDC says that we ‘appear’ to be on par for reaching that number this year, though we are a ways off before that number is counted and shared.
Everyone I talk to say that they have either had the flu or know someone in their family who has had it. We have had half of our office staff out because of it, myself included. In fact I am still suffering from a lingering cough because of it.
One of the most common conversations I have had with people when we have talked about having the flu isn’t about the actual flu itself and how sick someone feels, but more about how disruptive the flu is on our lives. I was talking with some friends and they were telling me that everyone in the house had it at some point and they attempted to quarantine each person as they had it, even when some of them overlapped with the flu. The family told me that it was probably one of the quietest two weeks in their house, and while that seems nice on the surface, they told me it was one of the strangest parts of the flu passing through their family.
They shared with me how they didn’t sit down and eat together as a family because at least one person was quarantined to their bedroom . There wasn’t as much going on in the house as they all tried to recover or avoid the flu. It was disruptive for the whole family and their usual family dynamics essentially stopped while they attempted to get rid of the flu from their house.
I can totally sympathize with them too. I told you that my family went through this as well when the new year hit. Bekkah didn’t get the flu but she had a nasty cold. She stayed in the bedroom while she was sick and we avoided interacting with her too much so that Aubreigh and I could stay healthy. Then I got the flu and I moved myself into our guest bedroom so that I was out of Aubreigh and Bekkah’s way because even though Bekkah was sick I didn’t want to give her the flu on top of having a cold.
Now Aubreigh was devastated. She was the only healthy one left for about a day or so and she could no longer hang out with me because I had the flu, and she couldn’t get too close to Bekkah because she had a cold. She just wanted someone to hang out with her. Since a cold isn’t as bad as the flu she got to be in the bedroom with Bekkah, but not on the bed with her.
Well the next day Aubreigh started to get a fever which meant the flu, so then Aubreigh shifted back to hanging out with me since we both had the flu now. Since we both had the flu she could cuddle and be as close to me as she wanted which made her very happy. In fact I think on some level she was glad to have gotten sick because she was feeling rather excluded being the only one who was healthy.
It was at that point in time when I was sick with the flu, Bekkah had a cold, and Aubreigh was healthy that we were all secluded from one another and it was the strangest thing in the world. When we finally were healthy again and started to hang out together, we just sat down and talked because we hadn’t seen each other in over a week. We finally reunited together as family even though we never left the house.
Simon’s mother-in-law must have felt the same way having a fever and who knows what else symptoms might have accompanied it. And there was no medicine to help alleviate the symptoms or help her feel better. Whatever she was sick from was probably very scary for her and her family, and because she was sick she would have been cut off from the rest of the family so that they didn’t get sick, but also because she was unclean by being sick, so they weren’t allowed to be by her even if they wanted to risk being sick.
Jesus has just left the synagogue where we learned last week that he preached and cast out a demon from a man, and now he shows up to Simon and James’ home and finds their mother in this sickly state. She had a fever, and Jesus’ seeing her like that grabs her by the hand and lifts her up. That word that we get in our text today says lifted her up, which sounds appropriate in the context, but there are many other translations that read “raised” instead of “lifted”. The reason why that is significant is because the Greek word that our text says is lifted is actually the same word that is used to talk about when Jesus was raised from the dead. Mark chose to use the same word for raising up Simon and Andrew’s mother-in-law as he did for the raising up of Jesus from the dead.
Jesus didn’t just lift this woman up from out of bed so that she could simply serve Jesus and the disciples. Jesus raised her up from being sick and cut off from her family and from society, so that she could fully participate in a life that is full of people and full of being connected to one another. She was raised up and began to serve them. It sounds weird that the moment she is healed she began to serve Jesus and the disciples, but she was doing what was right and expected of her. She was likely the head of the house and it was customary and expected that when someone enters your home you would offer them food and drink. You would show hospitality to your guests. That’s why we also hear in the gospels of stories of people offering a bowl for Jesus to wash his feet, or when Mary does it with her hair. These are signs of hospitality to someone who enters your home. Simon and Andrew’s mother-in-law is now well enough to do what is customary. She is now able to be back into the fold of society because Jesus raised her up. She was reunited with her family and friends.
Because Jesus cast out the demon in the synagogue, which I mentioned we heard about last week, people throughout the city start to bring all kinds of sick people, including people possessed with demons. Jesus shows us in the synagogue that he came to preach and cast out demons, and at Simon and Andrew’s house we see that Jesus also came to heal and to raise up.
Today we see that Jesus raised up Simon and Andrew’s mother-in-law and she was able to serve. We have looked at those words already, but let’s look at them again in a different way. I did say that the word for raised is the same word used when Jesus is raised from the dead, and it is also used for other healings in Mark’s gospel. When we talk about Jesus specifically being raised from the dead we refer to that as his resurrection. When we talk about Jesus ministry we often talk about how Jesus came to serve. In fact later in Jesus’ ministry in the gospel of Mark we see that in Jesus says that he came to serve not to be served.
It seems so simple that Jesus raised up this woman from her fever and that she began to serve them ,and yet, with that simple healing we see the very essence of the reason why Jesus came into this world. Jesus came into this world to offer and show us what it means to live a resurrection life and what it means to serve our neighbor.
In a resurrection life we are reunited with Jesus and with one another. We no longer have to worry about those things that ail us, because Jesus has raised us up to be a part of the family of God. We are raised up and given the opportunity to serve in the name of the one who came to serve us and show us the way to God. Then we see that Jesus didn’t just stay in one place, he didn’t just stay put but he went out to all the surrounding area proclaiming the message and casting out demons as he went.
Our story today is a microcosm of what it means to live a life with Jesus and what it means to live a life in the joy of the resurrection. Whatever ails us, whatever tries to draw us away from living a full and complete life, whatever tries to separate us from our family and friends, cannot win over the power of Jesus raising us up and reuniting us with each other. We don’t ever have to worry about being quarantined or separated or cut off from one another, because Jesus has brought us all together to be one family of God. God has lifted us up, Jesus has raised us up and because of that great gift we have the opportunity and privilege to serve in his name. We get to share that story of how Jesus raised us up and how that gift and blessing is available to anyone and everyone.
Live fully into your resurrection life knowing that you have been raised up by the greatest servant of all, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.