category: Advent

Advent Devotion: Day 18

Wednesday, December 14

Zechariah 8:1-17; Matthew 8:14-17, 28-34

In today’s Gospel text, Matthew recounts for us a day in the life of the earthly Jesus, a day full of healings, exorcisms, and wonders. Peter hosts his teacher for the evening in his own home. Almost hidden away in the shadow of miraculous events and powerful words of wisdom we find a healing narrative, occupying barely more than a sentence of text: “When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him” (Matthew 8:14,15 NIV).

While Mark and Luke offer some additional details, we know little about the event. We don’t know the name of Peter’s mother-in-law, for example, nor do we know the precise nature of her illness. And yet, in this briefest of narratives the good news shines through with brilliant clarity.

Jesus must have been exhausted by the day’s events. Undoubtedly, he was ready for the brief respite an evening meal would provide. But the evangelist tells us that Jesus’ attention was immediately drawn to the woman lying in bed with a fever. Whether there was an exchange of words, we do not know. We know only that Jesus had compassion on her condition, such that he extended the divine grace of healing that restored her to health and vitality.

The narrative doesn’t stop there, however. We also catch a glimpse of the woman’s response: “She got up and began to wait on him.”

When we encounter the grace of God one of two responses is possible. We can turn our backs. Or we can open our hearts in a response of welcome and gratitude. Peter’s mother-in-law chose the latter. And that gratitude was given expression in simple acts of service by preparing a meal and attending to the needs of her guests.

Advent is a season of hope and expectation. But hope for what? Certainly, as believers our hope is that the grace of God that comes through Christ will continue to manifest itself in our lives, much as it came to Peter’s mother-in-law that evening in Galilee. And to what end? The clue of the biblical text is that the grace of God comes to us for a reason. It has a purpose. As Paul writes in Romans, we were buried with Christ in baptism so that “we also might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

Peter’s mother-in-law understood something of what it means to walk in “newness of life.” It meant turning her attention in gratitude to the needs of others, specifically placing herself in service to the one who healed her. This Advent, as we turn our thoughts to the hope of redemption of Christ, let us ask ourselves, “To what end?” What are the acts of service that we can give ourselves to in response to the touch of God’s grace that brings us healing?

Ben Leslie
Professor of Christian Theology
Executive Director, Doctor of Ministry Program

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Advent Devotion: Day 19

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