A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, September 15, 1872, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle Newington. *10/12/2011
And immediately she arose and ministered to them. (Lu 4:39)
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1. Peter’s wife’s mother had been sick with a great fever, and had been restored by the touch of the Saviour’s hands, and by the power of the Saviour’s word. The grace of God does not secure us from trial. The house of Peter and of Andrew, (for it was common to them both,) was a highly favoured one; the grace of God had passed by many other houses, but had selected this for its dwelling place; and yet in that abode there was great sickness, — the wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and was close to death. This was no small grief to the household, but that grief was for their lasting benefit. God loves his chosen too well to let them always live without the rod. If he loved us less he might allow us unalloyed pleasure, but the love of our wise Father is too great to deprive us of the saved benefits of affliction. Sickness came to that house not as an enemy, but as a friend; for it was the means by which Christ’s great power was revealed to that family, and through his power his love. The wife’s mother could never have been so distinguished a subject of the Redeemer’s power if she had not been prostrated with fever. The malaria from the marshes around the town occasioned her being made a trophy of our Lord’s divine energy; the worst of ills are often the black horses upon which the very best of blessings ride to us. It was no small honour to Peter that his house became the headquarters of the Saviour. The sick thronged the door; as the sun went down, and the Sabbath was over, the multitude brought people afflicted with all manner of diseases and panted to reach that favoured dwelling to lay them before the Lord. The healing power which had displayed itself within, poured out from the house like a mighty flood, and all who drank from it were restored; that house contained the springhead, and was beyond measure honoured by it. Surely for many a year that house would be one of the most notable in the town: — surely it would be called the House of the Great Physician. Not like that ancient house in Antwerp detestable because it was the den of the Inquisition, but dear to many of the healed ones and their sons, as the Hospital of Mercy, the Palace of Blessing.
2. Peter among the Apostles is singularly honoured, for everything about him was in some way or other connected with a miracle. His person — it was by a miracle that he had walked the waters; it was by a miracle that he had been saved from drowning when the Saviour stretched out his hand and asked him to stand firm upon the liquid wave. There was a miracle in connection with his boat, for it was from that boat that the miraculous draught of fishes had been taken, and it was filled so full that it began to sink, and Simon knelt down and adored the Saviour. There was a miracle in connection with Peter’s rusty sword; he cut off with it the ear of the high priest’s servant, but the Master healed the wound that his rash defender made. And here, in this case, there was a miracle performed upon his relative, — his wife’s mother was restored from a great fever by the almighty power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every Christian man should be ambitious to have the hand of God connected with everything that he has, so that when he looks upon his house he may see God’s providence in giving it to him; when he looks upon the clothes that he wears he may see them to be the livery of love, and may view the food upon his table as the daily gift of divine charity. In looking back upon his whole biography, the believer may see bright spots where the presence of God flames forth and makes the humblest circumstances to be illustrious: but, above all, it ought to be his prayer that God’s hand should be very conspicuous in connection with his relatives, so that of everyone of them it might be said, “The Lord restored her,” or, “The Lord gave him spiritual life in answer to my prayer.” My husband, wife, children, servants, all receive healing from “the beloved Physician”; may our whole household be, “holiness to the Lord,” and may all sing for joy, because the Lord has done great things for them for which we are glad.
3. The occurrence about which we are to speak this morning happened on a Sabbath day. Sabbaths were generally Christ’s great chosen field days to break down the superstitiously rigid observance of the Sabbath among the Pharisees, and because it seemed as a holy day to be particularly adapted for the display of the greatest works of the holy Saviour. It was a Sabbath day, and the poor patient was probably lying there complaining in her soul that she could not go to the synagogue, or mingle with the people where prayer was accustomed to be made. Perhaps her fever had reduced her to such a state that she was quite unable to remember Christ the healer, and unable to breathe a prayer to him. But Peter and Andrew went to him, and told him the case, and besought him to come and heal her. It is a blessing for you, my friend, even though you are sick in soul, to have saints for your relatives — to have some in the household who will remember you in prayer, and speak into the ear of Christ on your behalf; if through despair or depression of spirit you cannot pray for yourself, be happy that there are compassionate friends who will speak to the King on your behalf. One Christian in a family may bring a great blessing to it; but here were two, for Simon and his brother Andrew were both here; and if two of you are agreed as touching any one thing concerning the Master’s kingdom, it shall be done for you. The two prevailed with the Saviour, and, on that Sabbath day, when the patient little dreamed of it, the Saviour came to her lowly room, and, standing over her in infinite pity, he first spoke a royal word of rebuke to the disease, and then, lifting her up gently in his own kind familiar manner she found herself perfectly restored to health. What love she must have felt for her gracious benefactor! It is little wonder that thankfulness glowed in her heart, and being healed, she rose at once and began to serve her healer. Her ministering began from the very hour of her recovery. We are about to speak concerning that ministering. “Immediately she arose and ministered to them.”
4. I. Now, the fact that this restored woman began at once to minister to Christ and to his disciples proves, first, THE CERTAINTY OF HER CURE; and there are no better ways of proving the thoroughness of our conversion than by conduct similar to hers.
5. Suppose now, in order to prove that this woman was really restored, we were critically to examine the modus operandi of Christ, the way in which he usually worked, and show that on this occasion he operated in the regular orthodox fashion; suppose the Master had been accustomed, as he was not, to use one set of ceremonies over everyone whom he healed, and we were to say, “Well, he has done this, that, and the other, as he is accustomed to do; therefore, the woman is healed.” It would not be at all conclusive reasoning; yet this is the reasoning of a great many. This child was baptized, this young person was confirmed, and afterwards took the sacrament, and consequently this individual is regenerated in baptism, and established in grace, and so on. The ceremonies are correct, and therefore the work is done. Some may believe such reasoning; I marvel that they should; but to us it seems that there is a far better way of testing whether people have grace or not; and, moreover, if these aforesaid baptismally regenerated people and sacramentally confirmed people live in sin like other people, it appears to us that they have none of the grace of God in them, let them pretend to have received it however they may. If the woman had still been hot with fever and all the symptoms of her disease had continued in her, it would have availed nothing to have said, “This has been done and the other”; the woman would not have been healed; and if men live like unregenerate sinners, depend upon it the work of the Holy Spirit is not in them.
6. Suppose the patient had lain there and had begun to talk about how she felt, how much better she was, what a strange sensation passed through her when the Saviour rebuked the disease, and how strangely well she felt; yet if she had not risen up, but had lain there still, there would have been no evidence of her restoration, at any rate nothing that you or I could judge about. So when people tell us that they have felt great changes of heart, that they know they are renewed because they enjoy this and love that, and hate the other, we are very hopeful, and desire to believe what they say; but, after all, trees are known by their fruits, and converted people, while they will themselves know their inward experience, cannot convince us by it; we must see their outward ministerings for Christ. If their actions are holy, if their lives are purified, then we shall know, but not until then, that their nature is renewed.
7. Suppose this good woman, still lying upon her bed, had begun to say, “Well, I hope I am healed,” and had begun to express some feeble expectation that one day she would be able to exercise the functions of health, we would not have known that she was restored. Something more was needed than mere hopes and expectations. Or suppose she had leaped out of her bed in wild excitement, rushed down the street, and performed strange antics, it would have been no proof that she was recovered, but it would have made us feel sure that she was in a delirium, and the fever still strong upon her. So when we see people inactive concerning holiness, we cannot believe that they are saved; or when we see them full of empty excitement about religion, but not serving God in the common acts of life, we think them to be in the delirium of a sinful presumption, but cannot regard them as healed by the cooling, calming hand of the Great Physician, who, when he expels the fever, restores the soul to quiet and peace. The woman gave a much better proof than any of these could be. This leads us to remark that the only irresistible proof with onlookers of a person being spiritually healed by Christ, must be found in the change in his conduct, and especially in his living after this to serve Christ, and to be obedient to him. This is the test and nothing short of it.
8. When we see holy living in the man who was once a gross offender, we are quite sure that Christ has healed him, because the man begins to do what he could not have done before. Perhaps this poor fevered woman might have made some attempt to have done something for the Saviour, but the unconverted man is dead in trespasses and sin; he may go through forms of religion, but real holiness is far above and out of his sight; he cannot obey the law of God; his nature is set against it; he is unable to walk in the way of God’s commandments; therefore, when we see him doing so, we exclaim, “This is the finger of God; God has healed that man, or else he would not be able to live as he is now living.” Besides, the unconverted man before conversion hates holiness, he is disinclined to it, so that in his case, when his life becomes pure and upright, when he spends and is spent in the service of Jesus Christ, you know that this must be the work of the Holy Spirit in his soul, for nothing else could have changed his nature except the same Omnipotence which first of all created him. God’s hand is in that conversion, which is proved by the holiness of the man’s outward character. Besides this, while the sinner is disinclined to everything that is holy, we know that he especially despises the Saviour, and thinks little of his people; consequently, when a man is brought to serve the Saviour, and to be willing to do good for the children of God for Christ’s sake, there is a sure sign that a miracle has been performed in him which has touched the secret springs of his being, and altogether transformed him. The woman’s rising up to minister to our Lord was a sure sign of returned health, and the change of outward character which leads a man to devote himself to the service of Christ, is even more infallibly a proof of true salvation.
9. I want you to notice however, dear friends, for a moment, the nature of the acts which this restored woman performed, because they are symbolic of the best form of actions by which to judge concerning a person’s being renewed. Her duties were humble ones. She was probably the head of the household, and she began at once to discharge the duties of a housewife: duties unostentatious and commonplace. Many people who profess to be converted aspire at once to preaching; a pulpit for them is the main thing, and a large congregation is their ambition. They need to do some great thing, and occupy the highest seat in the synagogue. But this good woman did not think of preaching; women are always best when they do not; but she thought of washing Christ’s feet and preparing him necessary food, which was her proper business. She devoted herself to these kind but simple actions. Attention to humble duties is a better sign of grace than an ambition for lofty and elevated works. There is probably far more grace in the loving service of a mother towards Christ in bringing up her children in the fear of God, than there might be if she were well known as taking a leading part in great public movements; there may be more service for Christ done by a workman in discharging his duties as such, and trying to do good towards his fellow workmen, than if he aspired to become a great leader of the minds and thoughts of others. Of course there are exceptions, for Deborah was glorious and her name shall be great in Israel, and those who are sent by God to lead his church shall not be without their reward, but even then when they have to look for personal evidences of grace they never dare say, “We know that we are passed from death to life because we preach the gospel” for they remember that Judas did the same; they never say, “We are confident of salvation because God has performed wonders by us,” for they remember that the son of perdition had the same distinction; but they fall back upon the same evidences which prove the truth of the religion of humbler people, they rejoice in testimonies common to all the elect. “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren.” The humbler graces and duties are the best tests. Hypocrites mimic all public duties, but they cannot counterfeit the private and concealed life of true godliness; and because they cannot “do so with their enchantments” we feel like the men of Egypt, that “this is the finger of God.”
10. Remember, too, that this good woman attended to home duties. She did not go down the street a hundred yards off to glorify Christ; she, I dare say, did that afterwards; but she began at home: charity begins there and so should piety. That is the best religion which is most at home at home. Grace which smiles around the family hearth is grace indeed. If your own household cannot see that you are godly, depend upon it no one else can; and if your parents or children have grave doubts about the sincerity of your religion, I am afraid you ought to have grave doubts about it yourself. Peter’s mother-in-law ministered to Christ at home, and that was clear evidence of her being restored to health, and in your case it will be the best witness to your conversion if you serve Jesus in the bosom of your family and make your house the dwelling place of all that is kind and good and holy.
11. She attended to suitable duties, duties consistent with her gender and condition. She did not try to be what God had not made her, but did what she could. She attended to natural duties, duties which suggested themselves in a moment, and were not far fetched and fanciful. She set about doing present duties required then and there, and did not wait to serve the Lord in a year’s time. In a quiet natural manner, she pursued her calling as if it never occurred to her to do otherwise. If someone had thought it was incredible that she ministered to Christ, she would have been surprised at them. It seemed to her the most natural thing for her to do. Dear soul, I dare say while lying in bed sick there were fifty things she would have liked to have done — what housewife would not in such a case see many grievous arrears of work all around her? — but Jesus being there, no sooner did she feel her health returned than she at once arose to discharge the duties of grateful hospitality, as a matter of course. How could she do otherwise except wait upon Jesus and his friends? Now, observe, that those good works which prove a man to be a Christian are not such as he could boast about, he does them as a matter of course; he feels he could not do otherwise, and wonders that anyone else can. Is he born by God? He yearns to teach others about the Saviour; he cannot help it; his tongue wants to be talking about Jesus. Then he begins to give from his substance to the poor; it does not strike him as being at all a remarkable or extraordinary thing; he wonders how anyone cannot help being generous to real need. Now, he begins to enquire about the little children in the neighbourhood; can he get them into the Sunday School? Or he occupies himself with some other form of Christian work, and he does it because he feels it is inevitable for him to do so; it is one of the instincts of the new nature which God the Holy Spirit has implanted in him. Those natural, commonplace duties which grow out of holy instincts within, are the best evidence of a work of grace: the more genuinely natural and unstrained the better. Vain is the religion which strives for unnatural conditions, and makes much of distinctions of a needless kind. What is there in a particular garb, or affectation of speech, or separation of residence? These minister to our own conceit; true godliness does not strive for her own honour, but is content to labour among the many, to be a man among men, yet differing in nothing but character. It is up to us, as the true salt, to mingle with the masses; not to seek a proud isolation. We are men, not monks; and our sisters are women, not nuns. All that interests men interests us, we only differ from our fellow men by being conformed to the image of Jesus, while they wear the image of the fallen Adam. May God grant us grace to exhibit the Christianity of common life, the real and practical Christianity of every day. Christianity is not with hermits in their cells, nor nuns in their convents, nor priests in their cloisters; those are all cowardly soldiers who shun the battle of life, but the true faith is the joy and strength of all who love the Lord and fight his battles on the broad plains of life. True religion must be revealed in your workshops, in your houses, in the streets, and in the fields, in the nursery and in the parlour. This celestial flower reveals its richest perfume, not in the conservatories of unnatural seclusion, but under the clear sky of human life, for “as a flower of the field so it flourishes,” where God has planted it.
12. One other point before leaving this; these things become a conclusive proof of grace in the heart, when they are voluntarily rendered as this good woman’s ministry was. I do not read that she was asked to do anything for Christ, but it suggested itself to her at once, without command or request. Her work was done promptly, for “immediately she arose” and did it. She no sooner had power to work than occasion was seized without delay. Promptness is the soul of obedience: “I made haste and did not delay to keep your commandments.” I do not doubt she did her ministering cheerfully. There is all the air of cheerfulness about the words “She arose,” it reads as if with alacrity, vigour, sprightliness, and eagerness she entered into the service. That is the best service for God that is done promptly, without delay; voluntarily, without pressing; generously, without begrudging; heartily, without complaining. With us it is not “This you should do, and this you must do,” but we serve Jesus because we love to do so, and labour for him is for us a joy and a delight.
13. II. I have so brought before you the first point of our discourse, now notice the second one, which is most interesting. This woman’s ministry for Christ and his disciples showed, secondly, THE PERFECTION OF HER CURE.
14. It may not strike you for a moment, but just think. She was sick with a fever. Supposing a prophet should visit your house and restore your friend from a great fever; yet the person healed would not be able to rise from the bed for some time; fever leaves extreme weakness behind, and when the fever itself is entirely gone, it needs two or three days, and sometimes more, before the person who has been prostrated by it will be able to go about his daily work. This was healing like a God indeed, a divine work emphatically, because the woman was so healed that all her weakness vanished, and she was able to proceed to her work without difficulty. And, beloved, it is one sign of a work of grace in the soul when the converted man becomes at once a servant of Christ. The human theory of moral reformations makes time a great element in its operations. If you are to reclaim a great offender you must win him from one vice first, and then from another; you must put him through a process of education by which he gradually perceives that what he has been accustomed to do is bad for himself, and wakes up to the conviction that honesty and sobriety will be the best for his own profit. Time is required by the moral reformer, or he cannot develop his plans. He ridicules the idea of effecting anything in an hour or two. Man, the creature of time, must have time for the accomplishment of his very imperfect works, — but to the eternal God time is nothing. His miracles annihilate time. A man who is converted is cured at once of his sins; the taproot of his sins is cut away then and there, and although some of his sins linger, yet everyone has received the stroke which will prove its deathblow. Once and for all, in a moment, when a man believes and is born again, the axe is laid at the root of all the evil trees within him, sin is condemned to die then and there; and what is more, all graces are in a moment implanted in the soul, not in perfection — they will have to grow, — but they are all sown in the man in a moment in embryo, so that the renewed sinner, though he has only been born again five minutes, has within him the embryo of the perfect saint who shall stand before the throne of God; and this is one of the marvels which certify the work to be divine. For notice, beloved, those who have just been converted to God can worship God, can praise God, can pray to God, can love God, although they were strangers to these things up until then; and some of the sweetest worship that God himself ever hears comes from the hearts of the newly regenerate. Of all the prayers that strike the Christian’s ear like music, surely among the sweetest are the broken pleadings of those who have just found the Saviour. I delight in the expressions of faith of elderly and full grown Christians, — they are exceedingly instructive and precious; but, oh! that first grip of the hand, that first flash of the eye, that first tear of joy, when a soul has seen Christ for the first time, and stands astonished at the matchless vision of incarnate love! Why, there is no worship sweeter beneath the sun! The woman arises at once and ministers to Christ, and the sinner arises at once and begins to adore Christ. Did I not say that the newly converted sinner can love, and does love his Lord as soon as he is born by God? I must correct myself. He not only can and does love, but he loves beyond most others, for very seldom does men’s subsequent love exceed in fervency the love of their espousals, which is also called their first love. This standard love is implanted in us at once, all blooming and full of perfume. Hating Christ one minute, hearts have been brought to be ravished with his love the next; the men were enemies to God an hour ago, and now they could die to defend his gospel, their natures are so changed. This must be a divine work. If what was a waterflood, quenching every spark of fire, should suddenly blaze and glow like Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace, God alone could have accomplished the change. Do you ask who has turned the waters of raging hatred into the flame of holy love? Who has done it but the mighty God himself? If the iceberg suddenly becomes a flaming beacon, who can have accomplished this marvel but the Miracle Worker who alone does great wonders? Glory be to God we often see it, and he shall have the praise for it! How pure some men’s lives become at conversion, — pure at once, though before they were polluted with every vice. We may have to fight with certain sins all our lives, but a renewed man usually has no difficulty whatever with the grosser sins. For example, I have known a man enslaved to blasphemy, who probably never did since he was a boy speak a dozen sentences without an oath, and yet, after he has been converted, the profane habit has never molested him. We have known some who have been troubled with a ferocious temper which made them like demons, but from the moment of conversion they have been remarkable for their exceptional gentleness and meekness. We have known misers instantly display the freest generosity, and thieves become scrupulously honest. Although the temptation for old sin may return, yet for the most part those who have been saved from gross vices have been the greatest loathers of the very mention or name of their former abominations. Such is the work of God in the soul, that these evils are driven out at once and sent completely away, and then the man who before had been so adept in all manner of evil work becomes as much an expert in all manner of holy labour. He may not at once have picked up the technicalities of religion — perhaps it would be as well if he never did — but he gets to its bottom, its secret, and goes to work for Jesus Christ in his own fashion and way, with wonderful wisdom and extraordinary skill from the very first. Some of the best evangelists we have ever seen have been those who learned at once to evangelize, who seemed to have known it from the first hour in which they were converted to God, taking to it from inward love as the young swans take to the stream. Some of the best people who speak to others about their souls privately, began to do so immediately after they found the Saviour, and attained to the sacred art — and a blessed art it is — as though they were in a moment touched by the hand of God and inspired for the service he meant them to render. Now, what is the practical intent of this second remark but this? Just as it proved the real divinity of this woman’s cure that she was able immediately to go to work for Christ, so you young converts should hold the honour of Christ in great esteem, and prove the reality of his grace in your souls by producing immediate fruit for his honour. See if you cannot at once rise and minister to him. Be as zealous as the dying thief; he had no sooner known Christ than he confessed him, and he did the only thing he could do for his dying Lord, he rebuked the other malefactor who had reviled the Saviour. Oh, if you love Jesus, do not wait until you have been a Christians for ten years; serve him now. If you are healed from sin, do not wait for experience; with your inexperience of everything except the new birth, go and seek the good of others. Do not suppose you must be trained for this war through a long process of spiritual drill, but march forward at once with all your heart and soul, in the freshness of your newly given life. It may be you will achieve greater triumphs than some of the older ones; for, alas! some of them are dry and sapless, and have long forgotten their early days of enthusiasm. In too many Christians the peach has lost its bloom, the flower has withered from the stem; they are not now loving and earnest, but they have declined into the sere and yellow leaf of religion. Go with the dew of the morning still upon your spirit, and I do not know what great and gracious works the Lord may do through you.
15. III. Now we pass on to a third point briefly. Peter’s wife’s mother in ministering to Christ proved HER OWN GRATITUDE. Her acts of hospitality were an exhibition of her thankfulness.
16. Brethren, if we want to evidence our gratitude to Christ we had better do it in the same way as she did. There is no record of her having fallen at Jesus’ feet, and saying, “Blessed be your name”; she may have done so: the Bible does not have room for many holy expressions, though it finds space for gracious acts. I do not know that she sat down and sang a hymn, perhaps she did: good women before her have done so, and I hope they will after her; but the hymn is not recorded: Holy Scripture does not have room for all the hymns which good people sing, but it finds a corner for the actions which they perform. We have the Acts of the Apostles, although we do not have the devotional emotions, the hymns, or the pious resolutions of the apostles. This good woman proved her gratitude by tangible deeds. Did she not say to herself, “The Lord has served me; I will serve him?” It never strikes an awakened person that mere words are a fit return for the grace of God. Can you give for the Lord’s healing fruit a handful of mere leaves from the tree of talk? It looks like mockery. Give him the leaves, but wrap the fruit up within them. Let him have true action, consecrated service, for this is the best fruit from a grateful heart.
17. Observe that it is not said that she waited upon Christ before she was healed. The fevered patient is first restored, and then she begins to minister. I am far from exhorting any of you to serve Christ in your lives if your inner life is not first of all renewed by him. There must be a regenerated heart through his blessed touch, or else a renewed life may be imitated but cannot be truly possessed. First the healing, then the serving. The healing is first, but notice well that the serving follows close at its heels. If you are saved, arise and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to do his own good pleasure. Since the light is now kindled, let it shine out from you; since Christ has opened in your soul a well of living waters, let it flow out of the midst of you, as a river of water, for his service and the benefit of your fellow men.
18. This good soul knew for what purpose she had been raised up. She knew from whom she had received the healing: it was from the Lord alone. She knew from what she was restored, namely, from the very jaws of death. She knew to what she was restored, for she felt that health and strength had returned to her, and, therefore, she guessed rightly for what she was restored, namely, so that she might wait upon the Lord. You, my brother, are saved from hell, you are lifted up into spiritual life and acceptance, you are ennobled and made an heir of heaven; what was this done for except that you might minister to your Lord here, and glorify him hereafter? Our gratitude ought to teach us the divine object of grace, and we ought to take care that it is attained. The Lord cannot have saved us at such an expense as the death of his own Son, for any reason less than that we should live for him. What is the reckoning of all our grateful hearts about this? Is it not this, that if we are bought with a price, we are not our own: that if the Holy Spirit has given us a new nature, it must be that we should lead a new life, and that our new life must be consecrated to him who is its author? Beloved, true gratitude always leads us to serve, and it distinctly makes our healing Lord the object of our service; it puts him in the forefront. “She arose and ministered to them.” To him first, and to his disciples next — to the Head, and for the Head’s sake to all the members; to the Redeemer, and because of him to all the redeemed. I ask each one here present who has been healed from sin and saved from spiritual death by Christ, this question — “What are you rendering to your Lord? What are you doing for him?” Begin with him; do it as to him; do what you do in his presence, and present it at his dear feet; then I know you will be doing something for his people too: you will befriend his poor, you will seek to gather in his backsliding ones, you will visit his sick ones, you will console his comfortless ones, you will seek after his wandering ones — as yet uncalled; your anxieties will go out for his lost sheep; you will minister to him and to his chosen, to all the members of his body. What are you doing, brother? What are you doing, sister? I do not ask you now in my own name, for I am no master of yours, neither are you accountable to me, but I ask it in the name of him whose hands were pierced for you and whose heart was set abroach by the soldier’s spear for your redemption. Oh, what are you doing for him? Do you love him? If you love him feed his lambs and his sheep. If you love, serve; and if you serve, serve him first, and serve his children and his people next, and you will prove your gratitude.
19. IV. But now, lastly, this woman’s ministering to Christ proved in the fourth place THE CONDESCENSION OF THE PHYSICIAN.
20. He who healed her of the fever did not need her to minister to him; he who had power to heal diseases had certainly power to subsist without human ministry. If Christ could raise her up he must be omnipotent and divine, what need then had he of a woman’s service? Might he not have used the grand style of the Old Testament, and said, “If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the cattle on a thousand hills are mine”; but instead of this the mighty Master of all angels condescended to be waited upon by a poor female. It was great condescension on Christ’s part that he needed ministry, and great gentleness that he so often chose a woman’s ministry; he came to earth and the first garments of his infancy were wrapped around him by a woman’s hands, and here he lived until at last he died, and holy women bound him up in the grave clothes of the tomb and laid him in the sepulchre. This was a matchless marvel of condescension that he who is almighty and ever blessed should stoop from heaven to need the ministry of human beings. He has ministered to us by humbling himself to accept mortal ministry.
21. Peter’s wife’s mother was one of the despised poor, but Jesus honoured her. What was she except a fisherman’s wife, at any rate the mother of a fisherman’s wife, a poor, obscure, illiterate woman, yet Christ allowed her to wait upon him, an honour which Herodias the royal princess never had. So the Lord today should be beloved by us for his humility in allowing us to wait upon him, in allowing me, in allowing you, to do anything for his dear name’s sake. I do not wonder that Christ allowed Paul and Peter and John to serve him, but that he should allow me to do it! I am overwhelmed with astonishment about it! Do you not marvel also? It seems easy enough to believe that the blessed Virgin and Mary Magdalene and other holy women were honoured by God; but that you, dear sister, should be allowed to take a part in his service, is this not marvellous? Will you not bless him, and minister with the utmost cheerfulness because you feel it to be so great a grace?
Is it not gracious on our Lord’s part to leave room in his church for
ministry? Suppose, now, the Lord had made all his people rich: then
there would be no room for the generosity of his people to help his
poor saints, and you would not have had the opportunity of proving
your love for him as you now can. Suppose he had converted all his
elect by the secret working of his Spirit without any teaching, then
he would not have needed you in the Sunday School, nor you with your
tracts, nor me with my sermons, and we should have had nothing to do
for Christ; we should have been sighing and crying, “The good Master
has not permitted us to give him anything?” Why, on our birthdays our
little children love to give their father something, if it is only a
bunch of flowers out of the garden, or a fourpenny piece with a hole
in it; they like to do it to show their love; and wise parents will
be sure to let their children do such things for them. So it is with
our great Father in heaven. What are our Sunday School teachings and
our preachings, and all that, but these cracked fourpenny pieces?
Just nothing at all; but the Lord allows us to do his work for his
own love’s sake. His love for us finds a sweetness in our love for
him. I am most thankful that in the church there is room for such a
variety of ministries. Some brethren are so strangely constituted
that I cannot tell what they were made for; but I believe if they are
God’s people there is a place for them in his spiritual temple. A man
who was accustomed to buy timber and work with it, on one occasion
found a very crooked stick of wood in his purchase, and said to his
son as he put it aside, “I cannot tell, John, whatever I shall do
with it; it is the ugliest shaped piece I ever bought in my life”;
but it so happened while building a barn that he wanted a timber
exactly of that shape, and it fitted in so thoroughly well that he
said, “It really seems as if that tree grew on purpose for that
corner.” So our gracious Lord has arranged his church, so that every
crooked stick will fit in somewhere or other, if it is only a tree of
his own right hand planting: he has made it with a purpose, and knows
when it will answer that purpose. How this ought to rebuke any who
say, “I do not see what I can do.” Dear friend, there is a particular
work for you; find it, — and I think it will not be far off: the
exercise of a little reflection will soon enable you to discover it.
Be grateful that this is a certain fact, without exception, that
every child of God who has been healed has some ministry which he can
render to Christ, and which he ought to render at once. May the Lord
give to everyone of you to show your gratitude in this way, and while
you do it, let it always be in an adoring spirit, saying, “Lord, I
thank you I am allowed to go to my Sunday School class.” Do not look
at your work as a burden: say, “Lord, I thank you I am permitted to
do it.” “Oh God, I bless you that I am allowed to go around that
little district and call at the houses.” You Bible women, bless God
that he has let you be Bible women: and you city missionaries, thank
God that you are allowed to be city missionaries. “Oh,” one says, “I
can hardly do that because I suffer so much abuse and so much ill
treatment.” Bless God, dear brother, that he considers you worthy to
suffer for his name’s sake. You know the old story of Sir Walter
Raleigh. When Queen Elizabeth I, one day, came to a miry place in the
road, he took off his cloak for her to walk upon. Did he regret it?
No, he was delighted to do it, and half the court wished for another
muddy place so that they might be able to do the same. Oh, you who
love your Lord, be willing to lie down for Christ’s sake, and pave
the miry parts of the way by being despised for his name’s sake. You
should covet this honour, and should not shun it. Arise, and minister
you healed ones; and as for you who are not healed, may you believe
in him who is able to restore you with his touch. He is mighty to
save. Believe in him and you shall live. Amen.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Lu 4]