Simon's mother-in-law was sick in bed with a fever, and they promptly told Jesus about her.
I. THE SYNAGOGUE WHICH JESUS ENTERED. Its worship, unlike that of the temple, was not specially ordained by the Mosaic code. It was the outcome of earlier and more habitual devotions, to which the tents of the patriarchs had not been strangers. Side by side with the ornate, national ritual that enshrined the spiritual truths which, as the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us, were fulfilled in the work of Jesus Christ, this more homely worship continued. Its form sometimes varied, yet it constantly ministered to the religious instruction of the people, and expressed their devotional feeling. In such services our Lord from his childhood took part, and his apostles used them for the propagation of Christian truth amongst their fellow-countrymen. As the synagogue represented the abiding religious worship of the people, we will consider what it was to our Lord and his disciples.
1. It was a place of worship. It is noteworthy that, so far as we know, Jesus Christ never neglected the ordinary worship in which the people united. If any might have found an excuse for doing so, it certainly was he. Self-sufficient in the fullness of his Divine life, he required no help from such extraneous means. With his spiritual insight he could see the formalism and unreality of many about him, and knew the terrible extent to which false teaching misrepresented the character and the ways of God. But he did not turn from the synagogue with contempt, nor did he make the place a scene of theological strife. He himself, the Sinless One, was present there amongst a sinful people, and he devoutly joined with them in prayer and praise. The remembrance of this should serve as a rebuke to those who, in our day, neglect the sanctuary. Their spirituality may be such that they can meditate profitably in their home or in the fields; their intelligence may be so great that no human teacher can help them; yet they do not surely compare with him who was the wisest Teacher and lived the loftiest life the world has ever known, and yet went into the synagogue every sabbath day, "as his custom was."
2. It was a place for teaching. During the service of the synagogue an opportunity was given to any worshipper present to speak a few words on the interpretation of the Scriptures (Acts 13:15). Of this liberty the apostles often availed themselves. In this they followed their Lord. It is stated in ver. 21 that Jesus "taught" on this sabbath, and we do not wonder that the people "were astonished at his teaching." He showed the spiritual significance of the events in Old Testament history, which were too often merely subjects of national boasting. He drew his illustrations, not from rabbinical books, but from the lake and the fields, from the housewife's employments and the merchant's trading. And as he spoke the weary found rest, the eager seekers had a revelation of God, the anxious lost their burdens, and a hush came over the assembly as if the peace of heaven was brooding there.
3. It was a place of comfort. Help and deliverance came even to the poor demoniac, whose obscene ravings and hideous shrieks disturbed the worship and, interrupted the teaching that day. He found that the synagogue was "the house of God and the gate of heaven" to his enslaved spirit. So has many a man, possessed by sin, had deliverance wrought for him where Jesus is. The disciples also knew that comfort was to be found in worship. Hence Simon Peter was there, although he had illness at home such as would detain many a Christian from public worship. What to some would be an excuse was to him a call to the house of God, as the place of rest for anxious hearts. There songs of praise may lift us up as on angels' wings, and Christian teaching may prove as the Bread of life to our hungering hearts.
II. THE HOME WHICH JESUS BLESSED - "the house of Simon and Andrew." These two brethren appear to have removed from Bethsaida, possibly because of marriage connection with the place or for their convenience as fishermen.
1. It was a home with ordinary associations. There was nothing special or distinctive about it or about others which our Lord frequented, and in which he did some of his mightiest deeds and spoke some of his most weighty words. His presence gave sanctity to domestic associations from the time of his first miracle (John 2:2) to the hour when he made himself known in the home of Emmaus (Luke 24:29). We are not to sever ourselves from them - even Peter did not (ver. 30; 1 Corinthians 9:5) - but should rather seek to recognize and welcome Jesus amidst them. It is a happy thing when there is family peace and love such as seem to have prevailed in this home. A "wife's mother" would occupy a difficult and delicate position, but such had been her wisdom and gentleness, her sympathy and constancy, that she had now the love of all, and therefore, directly Jesus entered the home, her illness and need of help prompted the urgent and united prayer he so gladly answered.
2. It was a home in lowly life. A fisherman's house - not the stately palace of a Herod. In contrast with our Lord's humility and graciousness, how paltry seems the ambition of those who would make any sacrifice to get a stately establishment or to push their way into higher social circles! A palace often hides from the world aching hearts and wasted lives, while a cottage may be the home where love and peace are constant, because Jesus is in the midst.
3. It was a home significant of higher fellowship. The Christian Church sprang rather from the homes of the people than from the temple at Jerusalem. If it had originated in the temple, sacramentalism would have found more justification than it does in the New Testament. But the temple was not frequented by the great Teacher to the extent we might have expected. His Church met in the homes of Capernaum and Bethany. The relations between his disciples were to be those of brothers and sisters, bound together, not by law, but by love. Let us, then, try to make the Church a home, and thence the voice of our gracious Master will speak with effectual power to a weary world, saying, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." - A.R.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness.
(Quesnel.)I. A WONDERFUL PREACHER.
1. The subject of prophecy.
2. The last of the prophets.
3. Choosing a strange place to preach in.
4. Adopting an antiquated garb and manner.
II. A WONDERFUL SERMON.
1. Not the exposition of a creed.
2. Not concerning traditions and ceremonies.
3. Personal — as repentance is a personal duty.
4. Practical — as leading to visible results.
III. A WONDERFUL CONGREGATION.
1. Strangely composed — of city and country people.
2. All travelling a great distance to hear the preacher.
3. All yielding to the truth — confessing their sins.
4. All submitting to the rite imposed by the desert preacher.
(J. C. Grey.)I. THE NEED OF THE HUMAN HERALD OF CHRIST. Though our Lord came in the fulness of the time, the time was not ready for Him, so far as His own people were concerned. The popular heart was intensely cold and unrepentant. A certain measure of national disaster will bring repentance and reformation. People read chastisement in their sorrows. But without spiritual guides there comes on religious indifference. The popular heart was softened. It was prepared for the truth, and to be an honest witness of Christ's miracles. Here lies the whole philosophy of the Christian ministry. Christ could operate directly on the heart without the human instrument. But He requires of man that he go before Him, and do all that the human voice can do, and then He comes to complete the order of salvation. He gives man as much as he can do and bear in the great work of saving men.
II. THE HUMAN PREPARATION OF CHRIST FOR HIS WORK.
III. THE SUBJECTION OF THE SERVANT TO THE MASTER.
(J. F. Hurst, D. D.)
(J. C. Jones.)
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