The Healing of Simon’s Wife’s Mother

READINGS

LUKE 4:33-39
33 And in the synagogue was a man having the spirit of an unclean demon; and he cried out with a great voice, 34 saying, Ah! What is it to me and to Thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Art Thou come to destroy us? I know Thee, who Thou art, the Holy One of God. 35 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Be speechless, and come out of him. And the demon, having thrown him down in the midst, came out of him, harming him not. 36 And astonishment came upon all, and they spoke one with another, saying, What a word this is! For with authority and power He orders the unclean spirits, and they come out. 37 And the report of Him went out into every place of the region round about. 38 And He rising again out of the synagogue, and went into the house of Simon; and Simon’s mother-in-law was beset with a great fever, and they besought Him for her. 39 And standing over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her; and° immediately she stood up and ministered to them.  (Kempton Revision of the Word)

ARCANA COELESTIA 5715.
A large four-sided opening appeared, falling away at an angle down to a considerable depth. At the bottom I saw a round opening which then lay open but was soon closed. A vexatious heat rose up from there, being a collection emanating from various hells. It arose out of various kinds of evil desires, such as pride, lack of sexual restraint, adultery, hatred, revenge, quarreling and fighting. These desires present in those hells were the origin of the heat that was rising up. When it acted on my body it instantly caused a sickness like that of a burning fever; but once that heat ceased to come into me, this form of sickness instantly departed. When a person falls sick in this way he has contracted his sickness from the life that is his; in his case an unclean sphere corresponding to the sickness attaches itself and is present as the cause from which the sickness springs. To enable me to know for certain that this is the case spirits from many hells have been present with me. Through them the sphere created out of emanations from them has been communicated to me; and as that sphere has been allowed to act on the solid parts of my body, I have been seized by an ache, pain, and indeed the corresponding sickness. But these feelings departed the instant those spirits were driven away. And to leave me in no doubt the experience has been repeated a thousand times.

SERMON
In our story today Jesus has just been involved in casting out an unclean spirit of a man in the Synagogue.  The process of cleansing the mind of affections and ideas that stand opposed to the life the Lord seeks to establish in us is really what a spiritual or religious life entails.  Everything on the outer plane of life is representative of inner spiritual realities these being the things that cause what is more external to come into being.   In the Scriptures we are constantly moving between different aspects of the mind these being the will and the understanding.  We can learn to recognise those things belonging to the life of the will by getting a feel for what in Scripture represent such things as affections, motivations, emotions, and loves and those things that belong to the understanding such as speech, thoughts, teachings or doctrines, opinions, and ideas.

Things to do with the will in general can be said to be on a more internal level than those things to do with the understanding.  This is because the things of the will touch on the more intimate areas of a person’s life.  What we love is so intertwined with our very life and sense of who we are that the two can’t really be separated.  This is in contrast with much of what is found in our understanding faculty such as our thoughts on a matter, opinions, the ideas we hold, along with all the facts held in our memories and the conclusions they support.  The value of the various things we hold in our understanding will be in proportion to the degree that they are able to support what we love.  It is much easier to have our opinion changed than change what we love.  So the way our minds are organised has to with the closeness, or degree of intimacy a thing has in relation to the real core of who we are.  Things of a higher value are those held more deeply or closer to our heart.  This is why spiritually when the idea of height is used in the Word it refers to what is more internal.  So when we find the Word speaking of someone arising or going up we should take it as indicating that spiritually the Word is referring to something moving from what is more external to what is more internal or closer to the heart of the matter.

Our reading today opens with the statement…

“Now rising from the synagogue, Jesus entered into the house of Simon.”  Lk 4:38

Jesus as we know represents the Word and He being found in a Jewish synagogue is representative of a deeper understanding of the Word being present in its literal sense.  This is because a synagogue is where the Word was read and taught, and the Jews represent our external level of mind that reads and understands the Word literally.  This is the starting point of everyone’s relationship to the Word, for in the literal sense are plain teachings of what’s required of a person if they are to become spiritual, the Ten Commandments being a clear example of these.

But of course the spiritual life is all about application of truths to life and not just knowing about them.  The deeper meanings found within the literal sense, what we in the new church call the spiritual sense, are opened up only to the degree that a person is capable to applying them to life and so remaining in them.  This is illustrated in the sequence of events connected with our story today.  The casting out of what is unclean in general represents the use of our understanding of what is good and true to identify what is evil and false in our life so that it can be cast out.  By the casting out of the unclean spirit by the Lord is represented the process whereby our external thinking is brought into order through looking to have principles or truths from the Word govern our emotional and intellectual life.

And while our understanding of this might be relatively external our willingness to be faithful to that level of understanding opens up the possibility for the Word to move deeper, or if you will, for our perception to be opened further so that we can perceive a deeper level of meaning and application in the Word.  This is described in the text today as “Now, rising from the synagogue, Jesus entered into the house of Simon”.  Now Simon means hearing and hearing, the Heavenly Doctrine teaches, corresponds to obedience.  So we see here that the Word or the Lord’s love for the salvation of the human race works on a more inward level of our natural mind as we look to live in obedience to our understanding of truth through the practise of the Word.  By Jesus “rising from the synagogue” and entering into “Simon’s house” we have a description of movement from one place to another which in spiritual terms means a change of state related to our perception of the Word and its application to more interior states of life.  For the Word to go from the “synagogue” to “Simon’s house” is for our perceptive faculties to be opened in a movement from the external meaning of the Word to its more internal application.

“Simon’s house” represents a deeper part of the mind than “the Synagogue” does within us.  A Synagogue being a public place is something more external than a house which has a greater personal level of intimacy for people.  A house in the spiritual language of Scripture corresponds to the essence of a person, to their life or will for a house symbolises the things it contains, where our most intimate and dearest affections are expressed.  Simon’s house represents states related to those affections for the Word and spiritual things found in those who are looking to the Lord as the Word.  Such affections are related to “Simon” or our willingness to hear the Word through obeying the challenges it makes on our inner life.

It is the presence of the Lord in us through the truths we have taken into our life that enables us to recognise those things that are destructive so far as a spiritual life is concerned.  As we are faithful in a little so more is given for us to see in the course of living a spiritual life.  Such a life is a life of “shunning evils as sins against the Lord” by looking to the Lord or Word.  Evils arise out of the natural man from the loves of self and the world.  These are what prevent us from seeing the Lord in His Word, but as evils presenting on a more external level are acknowledged and repented of so those that are more deeply hidden can be exposed.  But there must be a genuine desire to have such things exposed, and such a desire will only be present if there is an acknowledgement of what the Word teaches concerning the nature of the proprium or self; that it is nothing but evil and falsity.  Make no mistake this is one of the most difficult things for anyone to really admit and come to terms with.  There is something in us that will go to great lengths to maintain an attitude of denial of this truth rather than accept it, and while such denial remains so too do the evils.

This desire to see in ourselves what the Word declares is there manifests as an appeal to truths to shine their light on our inner life.  In our story from the Word today this is captured by those present interrogating the Lord regarding Simon’s wife’s mother who was beset with a high fever.  Women in Scripture relate to those things to do with the affections, so we know that Simon’s wife’s mother having a fever must represent a good affection unable to fulfil its use due to the detrimental effects of the love of self.  This evil love is described as a fever for heat corresponds to love and where that heat is destructive in nature, like a fever is to the life of the body, so it corresponds to the presence of a destructive or evil love.  Self-love is a desire to be in the first place, to rule over others rather than serve them.  This desire, the Heavenly Doctrine states, is the source of every evil.  When active those true affections for what is good become debilitated beset with a spiritual fever.

The difficulty of course is that when this love is active we can’t see its true nature.  We act and do what we do in the belief that our motivations are pure and it is unthinkable for us that our actions could be motivated under the influence of evil spirits flowing into our love of self.  The fact is that when it comes to our self we are incapable of seeing the true nature of our proprium or sense of self.  This is why we need the texts of Divine revelation.  These form an impartial, objective, critique of the inner nature of the natural mind in which our sense of self is rooted.  Without the truths provided by the Lord in the Heavenly Doctrines we are incapable of seeing that what we call truth is actually false and what we feel as good is actually evil.  And if this statement appears to have no meaning for us then it only goes to prove the point.

However once we accept what the Writings teach concerning the nature of the self then we can begin to take truths and reflect on our thoughts and motives and discover their quality.  In the Heavenly Doctrines the Lord provides what is of a higher order from which to think and so be able to view what lies on a lower mental plane.  These truths act to carry a light into our darkness.  The declaration of such truths means that we have access to knowledge of the self lies that is able to bypass our own reasoning which would have us believe that we always act from what is good and true.  It creates, as only the Word can do, the possibility for a new world, a new kosmos or order of being, for a new creation to come into being, for now we can, if we so choose, interrogate the Word to discover what evils are active within the self that prevent heavenly qualities becoming more fully expressed as our life.

Thus those in Simon’s house who are said to beseech the Lord represent those who investigate the Word with a view to self-examination and in looking to the Lord as the Word so the Word is given its true place and value in our life and…

“…standing over her, He rebukes the fever and the fever leaves her.”

For the Lord to “stand over her” describes a state in which what the Word teaches concerning the nature of the self is accepted – and it is this that sees those evils that bring on this spiritual fever that inhibits the expression of true affections for what is good dealt with for we read that…

“…instantly rising, she ministers to them.”

So may it be for each of us…

Amen

About David Millar

My passion revolves around supporting people to engage with the Lord's Word, or Divine truths in the form of sacred texts, to cultivate an intentional spiritual practice. Through the works penned by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) we find that the Biblical texts contain a deeper meaning that, once understood, enables them to be applied in ways that open the human mind to the realisation of its spiritual potential. The goal of the Divine Life is to free each and every human being from the pain of self centred living and bring them into the experience of all that is heavenly through the promotion of what is genuinely good and true. The material shared here is offered in the pursuit of that aim.
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