Peter’s mother-in-law is Jesus’ first woman disciple. Although we don’t know her name, the early Christian communities remember her service to Jesus.
As soon as Jesus left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her at once. Jesus came and took her by the hand and lifted her up.Mark 1.29-31
The Greek verb ēgeiren means to lift up. The same verb describes God raising up Jesus to new life in his resurrection.
Peter’s mother-in-law responds to Jesus lifting her up by beginning to serve him. The word in Greek is diēkonei, the word that later names the office of deacon. Jesus defines serving in the saying, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10.45). Peter’s mother-in-law gives her life to serving Jesus and the new community he is gathering.
The women who stand at a distance and witness Jesus’ crucifixion have three characteristics that identify them as disciples. They followed and served Jesus and came with him from Galilee to Jerusalem (Mark 15.41). Peter’s mother-in-law may be among these women.
The power of a name! At the sound of our name, we turn. Mrs. Peter’s mother is not named in the gospel, but looking at the picture, you wonder if that even bothers her. What do you see her doing? We know from the passage in Mark that she got up from her sick bed to serve Jesus and his followers. But what else does the illustration tell about her? Tell all you see in the art and what it says about this woman.
As you sit with the reading and the picture and get to know this woman, give her a name, this woman who has been nameless for centuries. What do you name her? What name do you give yourself? Pray this prayer to conclude your time.
Pray for unknown women who serve. Those who built, and still build, our parishes, serve the funeral lunches, make homes for their families. Name them. Honor them. Whose willingness to serve do you imitate in your life?
First woman to follow Jesus,
we know your famous son-in-law Simon Peter.
We wish we knew your name,
you whom Jesus took by the hand and lifted up.
May we find purpose as you did
in serving Jesus and his community of disciples.
Holy woman, full of grace as we are, pray for us.
Sustain us as faithful disciples who welcome all to our tables.