Luke 4:38-39, Peter’s Mother-in-Law
Rebuke — kind of a funny word, don’t you think? I don’t use it all that often; seems old fashion. For me, it is in the same category as the word ‘smite’. Is the past tense of smite – smote? We definitely don’t say that on a daily basis. If I used words like rebuke or smite, I’d feel like I’d have to follow it up with the word, ‘thee’.
The word ‘rebuke’ in this passage probably give the sense of a reprimand or scolding, like Jesus has taken this fever to task and is hauling it over the coals for daring to show up. But that is not the true meaning of the verb in this text. Our New Testament passages are translated from Greek and In the Greek language, the verb evpitima mean simply to command or give an order. It doesn’t involve yelling, bad tempers or derogatory language, it involves power.
This story and others in the gospels are trying to show us that Jesus is the absolute authority on multiple fronts. As the centurion says in Mark 8:9 / Luke 7:8, “For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, `Go,’ and he goes, and to another, `Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, `Do this,’ and he does it.” Talk about authority! But Jesus’ range of command is even greater than the centurion because Jesus commands both the good AND the enemy forces. There is no spirit, good or evil, nor any force of nature that is not under Jesus’ command. The only one in the entire universe with the power to say no to Jesus is us.
Why is it that when Jesus commands the forces of nature, heals deadly illnesses, and feeds 5,000 people with only five loaves and two fishes, humanity watches in awe and amazement? But when it comes time to trust Jesus’ directions with the piddley little issues in our own lives, we think we can do a better job. This Lenten season let’s make an active choice to act as if we were truly under Divine command. If a fever will obey the Lord, surely, we can too.
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