Much was lost in the fall, and we have to live with the consequences. You see, I’m pretty sure mankind didn’t wrestle with illnesses in the Garden. I’m fairly confident that mankind worked and got tired. But my guess is that it was a satisfying end of the day tiredness – the kind of weariness that brings a contented smile as opposed to a discontent sigh. Mankind was put in the Garden to cultivate it – to maintain a relationship of give and take. And then sin; and then consequences. Outside of the Garden we must deal with diseases; energy sucking sickness that leaves us bone weary; illnesses that besiege and oppress. Outside of the Garden we are under attack.
And Jesus came to inaugurate the renewal. It just makes since then that we see him setting the captive free; those oppressed with illness and demon possession. And in Luke 4:38-41 that is exactly what we witness. Jesus is in Capernaum and he had recently cast out a demon in the synagogue. He rises up, leaves the synagogue and enters the house of Simon. Simon? Wait a minute, we haven’t been introduced to Simon yet. It seems likely that Luke doesn’t feel the need to explain which Simon because he is confident that his readers will know. He is in Capernaum and if it was a different Simon (Simon being a common name) Luke would have given us an explanation. Simon’s mother-in-law is distressed with an intense, probably life threatening, fever. Now, if Simon’s mother-in-law had been in the Garden she would not be in bed all lacking of energy. This fever is the result of the fall.
I’m not sure what Simon and the others expected Jesus to be able to do, but they clearly believed that a man who had authority over a demon might be able to do something about a fever. And well, yes, he can. He rebukes the fever and the fever leaves her. The language is very similar to the language used with the demon. This has led some to think that Luke either believed that illness and demon possession were identical or that he confused the two. Maybe we are intended to see that illness and demon possession are the result of the same event – the fall event. Just like fever would have never happened in the Garden, demon possession was also not a Garden thing. Jesus came to set the captive and the oppressed free. That means the sick and the demon possessed. Simon’s mother-in-law is immediately healed. No lingering exhaustion. She got up and started serving. It’s what she is used to doing. She didn’t use almost dying from a fever as an excuse. As soon as she is healed she serves. And maybe there is a message here. Jesus came to release so that we can work. The goal is not to be healed, freeing us so to lounge around.
News travels and as soon as the sun sets, which ends the Sabbath, the people bring their sick and demon possessed to be made new by Jesus; to be set free. And Garden life bursts out in Capernaum; life free of all manner of oppression. Luke emphasizes that Jesus healed them each by laying hands on them. This is not the only way Jesus healed people, so maybe it was a chosen method that demonstrated not only his authority but also his compassion. Picture the people approaching Jesus one at a time, being set free with the touch of the Lord. Was there joyful pandemonium? Simon’s house must have been rocking.
The demons shouted out “You are the Son of God” as they were cast out. Jesus rebuked them and didn’t allow them to speak because they knew he was the Christ. But what exactly is the problem here? Maybe a couple of things. They know he is the Christ, but do they truly acknowledge him? And what kind of witness is a demon anyway? Would people be confused about Jesus’ allegiance. After all, Jesus will be accused of casting out demons by the power of Satan. Their witness did him no favors. It may have also been about timing. Jesus was not ready for people to know he is the Christ. Without the context of the cross, their definition of Messiah will be flawed. The main point is that Jesus had the authority to set the captive free; to command the demons to silence; to drive illnesses out of post Garden bodies.
In short, Jesus inaugurated the beginning of Garden renewal. And he is still working Garden life. He is still setting the captives free. I don’t think we are intended to take from this that every person will be set free from illness. I believe we are to see the Garden being renewed. And no matter what we endure because we live outside of the Garden, we serve the Lord of the Garden; the one who commands Garden life. And this is true in the midst of illness. Demons know and shudder at his name. He is the Lord of lords and the King of kings. He is making you brand new so that you can work. Work then. Grace, Walter