Calvary Road Baptist Church


Mark 1.31



1.   In these last days there is much confusion about Christianity.  One of the overlooked developments that has swept through Christendom over the last 150 years is the view that there is no necessary connection between the new birth and serving God.

2.   It is thought by some that there are these multitudes of people who have come to Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, who will all end up in heaven someday, but who do not serve God and have never served God.  Along with those supposedly saved people, there are those select few who are truly spiritual Christians, who do all the ministry tasks, while most everyone else just comes to church and watches.

3.   This morning I want to present for your consideration a woman who debunks that nonsense by the way she lived her life.  We will look at a woman who receives only passing mention in the Word of God, but what mention is made of her shows her to be a sterling example of what the Christian life is all about.

4.   Turn in your Bible to the gospel according to Mark.  When you have found Mark 1.29, stand for the reading of God’s Word:

29      And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.

30      But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her.

31      And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.


5.   Second Timothy 3.16 indicates s that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”  So, we find in the Bible guidelines for right living.  Therefore, let us use the wonderful example of this woman to illustrate how Christians should live.

6.   There are three hinges on which this door that opens into our brief look at her life swings:



The text before us defines this case with facts that should greatly surprise a large segment of Christendom:

1B.      Take note, first, that Simon Peter owned a house

1C.    It should be a great shock to anyone with a Roman Catholic background that there is no suggestion in Scripture that the Lord Jesus Christ made Simon Peter sell his house, though it is likely that he did just that to pursue his apostolic ministry after the Day of Pentecost.

2C.    The point I am trying to make is that material possessions, in and of themselves, are nowhere shown in God’s Word to be sinful.  Though money and possessions should never be any Christian’s god, it is significant to note that God greatly blessed Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Solomon, Nehemiah and (in the New Testament) Barnabas with great possessions.

3C.    Though God sometimes grants His children great possessions, great possessions should never possess God’s children.  Second Timothy 2.4 can serve as a guide to us all concerning possessions:  “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”  In other words, never let your money, or the pursuit of money, interfere with serving God.

4C.    Then, of course, there is the first commandment, found in Exodus 20.3:  “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”  Sometimes idols in our lives can be possessions.  It is also possible that one’s career, one’s spouse, or even our children can become idols.  Since God is a jealous God, He will move against idols that we erect in our lives, to bring them down.

5C.    But a spouse, a career, a child, or such possessions as a house, if your attitude toward that person or object is correct, is not necessarily wrong.  As long as we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, everything will have its proper role in our lives.

6C.    The lesson to learn here is that the man many people think was the first pope of the Roman Catholic Church, shows no evidence of having taken a vow of poverty.

2B.         Next, take note that Simon Peter had a wife

1C.    It may not be obvious to everyone, but Mark 1.30, where it reads “Simon’s wife’s mother,” really does make it very clear that Simon Peter was a married man.  The first pope a married man?  Either the first pope was a married man, or Peter was not the first pope.  No surprise, since there is no scriptural warrant whatsoever for anyone presuming to function as the vicar of Christ on earth, as the pope supposes himself to be.

2C.    It also means that Simon Peter, in addition to having taken no apparent vow of poverty, did not take a now of celibacy.  You see, to have failed to meet his wife’s physical and sexual needs is clearly taught to be sin in the Bible, First Corinthians 7.3, 5.

3C.    As well, no one can say that Peter is married here, but that he lived a celibate lifestyle or was a widower later on during his apostolic ministry.  We know this because the apostle Paul argued very forcefully that he had as much scriptural right to marry and have his wife accompany him in his ministry as did Simon Peter.  That is found in First Corinthians 9.5.

3B.         Third, and less surprising after the discovery that Simon Peter had a wife, is the disclosure that he had a mother in law who was sick.

1C.    Simon’s wife’s mother was in Simon’s house, or in the house owned by Simon and Andrew, as Mark 1.29, makes clear.  Though this is not clear proof, it might be an indication that Simon Peter’s mother in law was living with them in the house.  At the very least we know that she was there during her illness.

2C.    What does our text reveal about her illness?  In those days, when the healing arts were in a very primitive state of development, illnesses were usually categorized into two general types:  There was a small fever and there was a great fever.[1]  Luke describes this is a “great fever” in his parallel account in Luke 4.38.

3C.    What this means in practical terms is that her life was hanging in the balance, because small fevers were ones people survived and great fevers were illnesses that were life threatening.

4C.    So the case before us is set.  On the center stage of the unfolding drama of redemption is the Lord Jesus Christ, in our text at the beginning stages of His earthly ministry in Galilee.  He has called several men to be His apostles, men who would figure prominently in the years to come.  But there, over on the sidelines, is an unnamed woman of rather minor significance.

5C.    She is the mother in law of one of the Savior’s key men, but she herself will never be a major player in the drama.  As a matter of fact, we do not even know her name.  She is the unnamed mother, of an unnamed woman, who was married to an apostle of Jesus Christ.



Notice how this unfolds:

1B.         First, there is intercession on her behalf

1C.    The context of the passage shows that the Lord Jesus Christ, along with Simon and Andrew, and two others, are returning to their house from the synagogue.  Whether or not this episode takes place on a Sabbath, we do not know for sure.  I tend to think this did occur on a Sabbath.

2C.    Presumably, as they arrived at the house and entered in, they informed the Lord that she was sick.  Luke’s phrase is “they besought him for her.”  The Greek word is erwtaw, which simply means to ask, or to request.[2] 

3C.    The word does not mean to strongly urge, or to beg, or to implore.  Though this woman was very ill, it seems her son in law and his brother really only asked the Lord Jesus to look after her.  “Is there anything you can do for her?”

2B.         This brings us to the Lord Jesus Christ’s intervention

1C.    What did my Lord do?  He healed her.  The Lord was simply told of her illness, and He intervened on her behalf and healed her.  Is it not great that the Lord Jesus is more concerned about your health than your in-laws are?

2C.    She was too sick to speak up for herself.  That is obvious.  But it may be that their concern for her was only perfunctory.  Or it could be that they thought she was a lost cause.  In any case, they did not plead for Simon Peter’s mother in law as earnestly as we see others pleading for their loved ones in the gospels.

3C.    Mark tells us, “And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her.”  But in Luke 4.39, we read “. . . he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her.”

4C.    The choice of words Luke used is very interesting.  You see, Luke says that the Lord Jesus “rebuked” the fever.  Yet only minutes before, while the Lord Jesus and these men were in the synagogue, Luke indicates that Christ “rebuked” an unclean spirit. 

5C.    Is it possible that demonic activity was back of this woman’s illness?  Could this be evidence of demonic opposition to our Lord’s ministry?  It is an interesting consideration.  Remember, however, that this same word is used in Matthew 8.26, where Christ is said to have “rebuked the winds and the sea.”

6C.    What is important for us to keep in mind is that the slightest intercession by those who knew her preceded Christ’s healing intervention.

3B.    But for what intention was His intervention?  In other words, why did the Lord Jesus Christ heal her?

1C.    You cannot say He healed her because He loved her, since many who are sick and dying are not healed by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Would you suggest Jesus does not love them?

2C.    The sentence of death was passed by God on two men in Old Testament times.  You remember them, Moses and Hezekiah.  In both cases, they asked God for a reprieve.  But God told Moses no.  In Deuteronomy 3.26 we read the words of Moses:  “The LORD is wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me.”  But when Hezekiah pleaded with God for mercy, He spared his life and gave him fifteen additional years.  How do you explain that?  You cannot say God did not love Moses.

3C.    Here is another illustration:  In John 5.3, we read that around the pool known as Bethesda “lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered.”  Yet the Lord Jesus Christ healed only one man, the impotent man, who had been afflicted for thirty-eight years.  Two questions:  First, why was that man afflicted for so long a period of time?  Second, why was it that only that man, of all those there that day, was healed of his affliction?

4C.    To be sure, Simon and Andrew, and perhaps James and John as well, asked the Lord Jesus Christ to tend to Simon’s mother in law.  But the Lord Jesus would heal many over the course of His earthly ministry, despite the fact that no one interceded for them.  So, why did He rebuke her fever?  Why did He heal her?

5C.    The reason why He does what He does, why He did what He did, is sovereignty.  Our Lord’s sovereignty is absolute, irresistible, and infinite.  He has the right to govern the universe, which He made for His own glory, just as He pleases.  He has the right, as the Potter has power over the clay, to mold and form His creatures in whatever shape He chooses.

6C.    Thus, we see here, in the healing of the mother in law who was burning up with fever, His power exercised as He wills, where He wills, and when He wills.  That is the ultimate cause that lies back of every deed He did or did not, that He does or does not, that He will or will not, ever do.



Look at the end of Mark 1.31:  “immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.”

1B.         Perhaps you are like me and you have read this passage dozens of times over the years.  And maybe, like me, one question has never before dawned on you about her response to her healing.  Where is her daughter?  Why is there no mention of Simon’s wife ministering to them?

2B.    It is likely that Simon Peter’s wife was ministering to them all along.  Thus, it is likely that Simon’s wife’s mother did not have to minister to them.  There were other hands on deck to serve.  But viewed from one aspect, she did have to minister to them.  It was for that reason she was healed of her burning fever.

3B.         Notice the character of her service to the Lord Jesus Christ and His servants.  After the Lord Jesus Christ brought her to health, which is a type of the sinner being forgiven all his sins and becoming a Christian, she exhibited three characteristics:  First, she was active enough to rise.  Second, she was energetic enough to work.  Third, she was grateful enough to serve.

4B.         She might have told the men in the room that she had been healed, much as sinners tell people these days that they have become Christians.  But what evidence would there be that Jesus Christ, the Great Physician, had healed her if she continued to lay on her bed?  The evidence was in her ministry, just as the evidence for the Christian is in his service to the cause of Christ.

5B.         Folks, there is an object lesson here for each of us who names the name of Christ.  Christians are saved from their sins to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are given our physical health to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.  By the way, even when we do not have physical health, God still enables us to glorify Him in some way.



1.   Christianity is much more than lip service.  Christianity involves activity and attitude.  So, when you have been healed of your spiritual ailment, when you get saved, get up from your bed of affliction, as Simon’s wife’s mother did.  Did you know that she is the first person in the Bible to function as a deaconess, since the verb form of the word deacon is used to describe what she did when the Lord healed her?

2.   Be active enough to rise up on Sunday evening and come to church.  Be active enough to come to church on Wednesday night.  Be active enough to come to church on Saturday night.  Engage in ministry, like that woman just up from her sick bed did.

3.   Be energetic enough to work for the cause of Christ.  Remember, Paul informed the Ephesians that we have been created in Christ Jesus unto good works.[3]  And the proof of the Thessalonian’s election was their work of faith, their labor of love, and their patience of hope, First Thessalonians 1.3-4.

4.   Finally, be grateful enough to serve.  Simon’s mother in law did not minister to them because there was no one else to do it.  Her own daughter was certainly there, and could have done the job without her mother’s help.  But her mother was not an ingrate.  She was profoundly appreciative for the Lord’s gracious gift of good health and vitality.  So, how much more grateful ought we to be who claim to have our sins forgiven and washed clean in the blood of the Lamb?

5.   I challenge you to show your gratitude in a substantial and obvious way, by living the Christian life.  Participate in our church’s evangelistic outreach every Saturday night at 6:00 PM, and stay until it is time to go home.

6.   Mark 1.31 reads, “And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.”  Has the Savior come to you?  Has He taken you by the hand and lifted you up?  Has the spiritual fever left you so that you are now spiritually whole?  Then do as the mother in law did, and roll up your sleeves and get involved in ministry.

[1] C. E. B. Cranfield, The Gospel According To St Mark, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977), page 82.

[2] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 395.

[3] Ephesians 2.10

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.