Aemilia Metella Interviews the woman who had a fever
This month, our intrepid Roman Reporter, Aemilia Metella, travels to Capernaum and meets a woman who was healed by Jesus.
I had not expected Capernaum to be so busy. This prosperous town sprang up on the northern shores of Lake Galilee and the main trade road running north and south through Judea. The town is home to many people whose livelihoods depend upon the fishing industry. I arrived in Capernaum to interview a remarkable woman whose life was saved by Jesus.
Miriam’s home was easy to find, as everyone in the town knew her. The house was larger than I expected, and I peeped through the open gate at the well-kept courtyard. A plump chicken welcomed me with a peck on my big toe.
She met me at the gate before I knocked. “Aemilia Metella, how lovely to meet you. Come in.”
The chicken ran off with a loud cluck when Miriam shooed it away. I followed her into a large courtyard where several people sat in a corner singing.
Miriam pointed to them. “The believers in Capernaum use our home as a meeting place. You will often find small groups of people singing, praying and sharing the teachings of Jesus.”
She showed me a seat at a table set out with food and drink, and pouring two cups of wine, she took the stool opposite mine.
“My daughter Rebekah said you wanted to interview me, but I can’t think why.”
“I met Rebekah and Simon, your son-in-law, in Antioch, and they told me all about you. They have read my interviews with other remarkable women and suggested I speak with you.”
Miriam shrugged her shoulders. “But I’m just an ordinary woman. Nothing special ever happens to me.”
“That’s not what they said.”
“Naomi, the lady next door, has a great story. Why don’t you speak with her?”
“Thank you. I may do that before I leave. But if you don’t mind, I would like to begin with your story first.”
“You are a persistent young woman, aren’t you?”
“That’s what makes me a good reporter.”
Miriam laughed with me, then sighed. “What do you want to know?”
“Let’s start with your life in Capernaum.”
“There’s not much to tell. I’m the daughter of a fisherman. I married a fisherman. My sons and sons-in-law are fishermen, even my grandsons are fishermen. The only one who doesn’t fish now is Simon, who married Rebekah. Jesus said he would fish for men and women, and now that’s what he does. They tell people about Jesus and help them know him for themselves.”
Some people, when opposite a reporter, don’t stop talking. It’s like they are free to tell you about themselves. Miriam was not one of those. I would have to coax her story out of her.
“I believe you were ill one time when Jesus was staying here. Can you tell me about that?”
“You know what it’s like with a fever. You go to bed one night feeling well and before the next evening, they lay you out in a tomb. Jesus, along with Simon and his brother Andrew, and friends John and James were staying here. It was the day before the sabbath, and as usual, there was much to do. The meals for two days needed to be prepared, so that we could observe the sabbath rest the following day. Not that I minded, because I enjoy having visitors.”
Miriam became quiet again, so I asked a question. “When did you become ill?”
“I was feeling a bit off the night before and thought I was just tired. But in the morning, my body ached all over and I could hardly stand. Rebekah suggested I stay in bed, and she would look after the visitors. Being the sabbath, the men went off to the synagogue, and I stayed in bed.
“What happened next is a little hazy, and I can’t remember much about it. I have been told that when Rebekah came back, I was delirious and calling for my parents, who had both died years before. When she felt my brow, it was like she put her hand in the oven, but I was shivering. Not knowing what to do, she sent my youngest son to run to the synagogue and tell Simon to come home at once. It’s so close, you can shout from my house and be heard inside it.
“Not only Simon, but Jesus, with Andrew, James and John, ran back here and into my room. Jesus took my hand, and, in my confusion, I knocked it away and punched him. How embarrassing. Though I think he has forgiven me. The first thing I remember is him helping me to sit up, and I asked, ˋJesus, what are you doing in my bedroom? What time is it? ˊ then asked him what he wanted for breakfast, only to be told that it was the middle of the afternoon.
“Simon told me that when he arrived, I was as pale and grey as anyone he has seen outside a tomb. So, I must have been ill and very close to death. After this, I was full of energy and jumping up dashed down the stairs to help everyone to their meal. Simon was so worried, he kept taking my arm and making me sit down, but I didn’t want to.
“After sunset, when the sabbath was over, many of my neighbours and townspeople came to the house to see Jesus. News of my healing had spread, and many wanted him to help them, too. There was one person I felt sorry for. My next-door neighbour, Naomi, because she could not leave her house and no one could enter, especially not a holy man like Jesus. She watched everything from her window, and I waved to her. How much I wanted Jesus to help her, but her situation was impossible.”
“Why was that?” I asked.
Miriam winked at me. “If you are such a good reporter, Aemilia Metella, you will have to find out for yourself. You can stay here tonight, and I will introduce you to her tomorrow.”
“Simon suggested I ask you about what you are doing now. He said you are continuing Jesus’s work in Capernaum.”
“Well, this house is where all those who believe in Jesus come together to worship and pray. From here, we spread his message all around the Galilee area. Many of our townspeople have gone throughout the Roman Empire, even as far as Rome. The Romans and the religious authorities thought they had silenced Jesus for good, but they were wrong. We will never stay silent.”
“Thank you for talking with me. My readers like to hear about women who met with Jesus, and they will love reading your story.”
“Oh, as I said before, I am no one special.”
“On the contrary. Simon and Rebekah were right. You are a very special woman.”
Aemilia Metella is my fictional Roman journalist whose mission is to bring to light the stories of those first women disciples, and the contribution they made to the growth of the early church.
The story of the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law is found in the Bible in Matthew 8:14-15, Mark 1:29-34, and Luke 4:38-39. Simon’s wife and mother-in-law are not named, and I have invented the names of Rebekah and Miriam to give them a personality and a voice. There is now a church situated over the house where Peter lived, in Capernaum. The synagogue is only a stone’s throw from the church. It is thought that soon after the resurrection, their house became a meeting place and later a church.
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Susan Sutherland is the author of Leaving Bethany, a historical and Biblical fiction written from the point of view of Martha of Bethany. She is currently working on the sequel, Return to Caesarea, due out winter 2022.