You’ve heard plenty of mother-in-law jokes…. but this is no joke. Mine was the best.
Fannie B. Carpenter was a loving mother and grandmother (Grannie Fannie), the consummate pastor’s wife, the most hospitable hostess, a great cook, a faithful and loving disciple of Christ, a bold witness, and a voracious reader and student of Scripture. I have memories of her sitting at her dining room table with two or three commentaries and her scratched up, much-used Bible, all open before her. She was never too old to learn.
Fannie B. shared with me her love of God’s Living Word. Many were the times that she handed me a book and suggested that it would be good reading. That was code for… read it buster… I’ll ask you about it next week! I was never disappointed by her selections. Some of my most prized possessions are books from her library. Each highlighted, underscored, and filled with her notes in the margins.
She went to heaven in 1989 after an eighteen-month battle with kidney cancer… renal cell carcinoma. Today she’s, no doubt, at the feet of Jesus!
Peter’s mother-in-law must have been dear to him too.
At the onset of Jesus’ ministry, He traveled with Peter and Andrew, John and James, two sets of brothers, all fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. At Capernaum, Jesus and his earliest disciples went to the synagogue on the Sabbath Day (Mark 1:21). “As soon as they left the synagogue, they went into Simon and Andrew’s house with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law was lying in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once” (Mark 1:29–30).
“Hi honey, were home!” Peter’s wife didn’t greet her husband with a kiss but shared a serious problem. Peter’s wife’s mom was sick… so sick, with such a high fever, that she was curled up in bed. A fever probably meant that there was an infection. And in the first century, long before the advent of antibiotics, infections would often lead to death. Indeed, the diagnosis was grim.
Years later, Peter wrote to the dispersed church. As he penned that epistle, I wonder if he recalled that Sabbath Day in Capernaum. “Cast all your cares on him, because he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7). Knowing that his mother-in-law desperately needed the Lord’s healing touch, he cast his burdens, his deepest needs, on Jesus. He and his young bride pleaded with Jesus, “Please heal her! Drive the fever away! You are our only hope!”
Jesus “went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her” (Mark 1:31). The last time I was sick with a fever, I didn’t just jump out of bed. I drug myself to the living room where I fell into the Lazy Boy for some much-needed rest and recuperation. Peter’s mother-in-law was instantly and miraculously healed. She danced to the kitchen and immediately “began to serve” (Mark 1:31).
Later that evening, “the whole town was assembled at the door, and (Jesus) healed many who were sick with various diseases and drove out many demons” (Mark 1:33-34). Where was mom? I suspect that Peter’s mother-in-law, like Fannie B., would have been busy serving, feeding, welcoming, loving… Grace had set her free!