Matthew 8:14–15 (ESV) — 14 And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.
Spurgeon helped me to see through my flawed perspective on the text and recognize the deeper spiritual truths that are present there. While time prevents us from covering every point that Spurgeon did in his sermon, I would like to bring to your attention something of what is expressed by this small tangent in the text.
In typical Spurgeon fashion, he begins early in the sermon bringing out the spiritual consequences of the passage. His effort is to make the text relevant to his audience and force them to see that there are truths here for them to learn as well. He starts this process by comparing the fever of Peter's mother to the fever that dwells in each and every one of us: sin.
What would the fever represent? Those who are in a fever represent spiritually those who are on fire with sin. . . .
Those who have a fever in their souls are hot after sin, dried up with ill desires, inflamed with evil lusts. What unhealthy energy many even show in the indulgence of their passions, or in the pursuit of their ambitions: they are so inflamed with their desires that their life is consumed. . . .
These fevered people are frequently very restless. It is one effect of the fever that the man cannot lie long together either on this side or on the other, but turns to and fro. Even his sleep is broken; neither by day nor by night can he find rest. He is dried up, and feels as weak as if he were brought into the dust of death and utterly dissolved. . . .
One symptom of a fever is that a man loses appetite for that which would be good for him. Some of our unconverted friends have no taste for the gospel; we cannot easily induce them to come to hear it. . . .
On the other hand, a fevered patient often feels a great thirst, which he cannot by any means allay. He longs to drink and drink again, and with all his drinking the heat is not abated. Sometimes the sick man has an appetite for what he must not taste, he craves after the most injurious and even unnatural things . . .
But the worst point in the case of the sinner is this, that this fever of his will prove fatal. This son, daughter, husband, or wife of yours will perish through the fever of sin, if it be not cured.1
Spurgeon goes on to describe several points based upon this comparison. I want to focus upon two of them. First, he describes the healing of the fever as the equivalent of a believer being healed by Jesus of his sin. What is the response or the reaction of the one cured of his fatal fever?
Thirdly, it is plainly taught in the text that STRENGTH TO MINISTER COMES WITH HEALING. “Immediately she arose and ministered to them.” Fever causes extreme weakness, and when it leaves the patient, he is for a considerable time greatly debilitated. The cures of nature are slow; but when Jesus cures, he does it at once. Though he uses only a touch and a word, yet he cures so perfectly that no weakness remains. The woman did not lie in bed a week or two, and feed upon nourishing diet, and so recover her strength; but there and then she arose from her bed, girt her garments about her, and went about the duties of the household. . . .
The moment the Lord Jesus Christ saves a soul he gives that soul strength for its appointed service. . . .
I want to call your attention to this, that her service was immediate service, rendered on the spot, without delay. Some of you have been converted during our late special services; let me bid you serve the Lord at once, even as the Lord has served you. “What, get to work directly?” Yes, immediately; for there is something very beautiful about that which is done by new converts. Oh, the beauty of that first look of love! Oh, the sweetness of those first notes of praise! Oh, the power of those first sentences of testimony! . . .
I would not have a converted person wait a week before trying to do something for Jesus. Run as soon as you find your feet.2
Does this not betray an ulterior motive of the part of the church however? She just wants people to be saved so that she can press their talents and gifts into their service? It may perhaps, except for what Spurgeon makes clear in his final point:
THE DESIRE TO MINISTER ALWAYS ARISES OUT OF HEALING. Here was a woman, a poor woman, an old woman, a widow woman, one who had just been sick, and she desires at once to minister to Christ, and she can do it, and she does do it. How think you, was she moved to this? Was not it that strength naturally suggests activity as soon as ever you get it? . . .
And then the gratitude for this strength impels you to activity. How can a man be still when Christ has spoken for him and delivered him? . . . Can you ever be silent for Christ now that the Lord Christ has redeemed you from the curse of the law and the penalty of sin? I tell you, if you can be quiet and do nothing for Christ, I am afraid you have never tasted of his love and grace. . . .
Once more, I think I may say that those who are healed by Christ are sure to do something for him of the right sort, because their former habitudes will assist them. I do not mean by this that sinful activity can ever help us into holy activity, but I do mean this; that we can turn our old habits to account for Jesus. I believe that Peter’s wife’s mother was a particularly nice old lady. There is rather a prejudice against a wife’s mother, and if Peter found it the proper thing to have her living in the house, I am sure she was a specially good woman. I have a picture of her in my mind’s eye,—a dear old soul, always busy and happy. . . .
As for you, young men who have been so restless, so vigorous, so dashing in sin, it seems to me that this habitual energy ought to be placed under consecration to Christ. A horse that has no mettle in it is easily managed; still, a horse with a little mettle, though he may kick, and plunge, and do a great deal of mischief, is all the better horse when he is broken in. If he be under proper management, if he answers to the bit, you like the mettle. So it is with a man when he is converted. If he had mettle in him that led him to kick and plunge when he served the devil, if he did so much mischief and damage against the kingdom of Christ, he is the very man to pull well in Jesus Christ’s chariot.3
The same goes for all who are converted into the kingdom of God. We are not pressed into a service for which we are unwilling or not well equipped. Instead we are called to serve in the capacity that God has created us for. Instead we are able to minister by use of our particular gifts and for our particular calling.
I also love the final point that he makes about the most stubborn of people. It is often these who are the most zealous in their opposition to Christ that upon conversion are most useful to God's kingdom. Look at the apostle Paul who persecuted and attacked Christ's church before he was saved. How great was the impact that he made for God's kingdom once he finally submitted to Christ! Let us pray boldly for those in our lives that we see enslaved by the fever of sin. Perhaps God will grant them repentance, and they will be used mightily for his glory.
Let us together thank God that he healed us, and resolve to serve him for our pleasure and the good of his kingdom.
1 C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 31 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1885), 219-221.
2 Ibid, 225.
3 Ibid, 226-228.