When Jesus entered Peter's home, he saw his 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 serve him. - Matthew 8:14-15 (NRSV)
I know a family whose children—four strapping young men—still live at home. None of them knows how to spread peanut butter on bread. When their mother was hospitalized for surgery, the most pressing question they asked was how soon she’d be allowed to come home. They were starving.
Not all men are useless in the kitchen. And, thank God, not all men regard the women in their lives as indentured servants. So when Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, we shouldn’t automatically assume he did it just so he and the guys wouldn’t have to cook for themselves.
Still, it wouldn’t surprise me if there was momentary panic when Jesus and his disciples arrived and found her in bed. And it wouldn’t surprise me either if Peter’s mother-in-law had gotten up from her bed to serve them even if Jesus hadn’t healed her. It might’ve been the last thing she felt like doing, but she wouldn’t have been the first mother, or mother-in-law, to ignore her own aches and pains to tend to scraped knees, bruised egos, broken hearts, and rumbling tummies.
Be grateful if you’ve been on the receiving end of such selflessness, even as you lose any patience you might still have for the bad old idea that certain people were born to serve and others meant to be served, some destined to make sandwiches and others to eat them.
Don’t let us regard the service others do for us as their duty and our right. Bring in the day when we all serve each other equally in freedom, justice, and joy.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.