Matthew 14: 13 & 14
When Jesus heard what had happened, He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.
Hearing of this, the crowds followed Him on foot from the towns.
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd,
He had compassion on them and healed their sick.
John the Baptist was a great man. You don’t hear much about him these days, but he played an amazing role in Jesus’ ministry. John the Baptist was actually part of the Old Testament prophesy about Jesus.
“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.”
A voice of one calling: “in the desert prepare the way for the Lord;
make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.”
These Scriptures are about John, and Jesus could not have come, and would not be the Christ spoken of in the Old Testament, if John had not come first.
John was also the first to recognize Jesus for who he was. Luke tells the story, in the first chapter of his gospel, of Mary (Jesus’s mother) while she was still pregnant, going to visit her relative Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John. When Mary called out to Elizabeth, the baby (John) leapt in her womb. If you read the rest of the first chapter of Luke you will see that the circumstances surrounding the birth of John the Baptist are as intriguing and God-directed as the birth of Jesus.
Jesus and John were related, so they must have grown up together. They were playmates. Their mom’s were very close, so you know they were very close. John was the first Christian preacher and was actively preaching the coming of Jesus BEFORE Jesus even started. John baptized Jesus to signify the beginning of His ministry. This is when God himself announced to all those present “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
So Jesus was very upset that his relative, his friend, his playmate, his fellow worker in the Kingdom, had been killed. Now, don’t ever forget that Jesus is God. He loves us all, His capacity for love is well beyond anything we can even imagine. But also remember that Jesus was human, and as a human, he had special relationships. Jesus loved John, and his disciples had just told him that John was dead.
Look at the wording in the scriptures about Jesus: “He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” Withdrew…privately…solitary…do you get the sense that Jesus wanted to be alone here? He was sad…maybe even mad…maybe even scared. Does it bother you to think of the creator of the world having emotions like this? Does it frighten you, or does it comfort you, to think that the all-powerful God knows what we sometimes feel? Jesus knew that John’s death foreshadowed his own. Jesus knew that John was in jail in the first place for preaching the truth that the ruler of the day did not want to hear. We rarely spend much time focusing on the humanity of Jesus, but I think we get a really good picture of Jesus the man in these scriptures.
We feel sad…mad…scared…we want to be alone with our negative feelings sometimes don’t we? If you have a boat, maybe you go out on your boat. If you don’t have a boat, where is your solitary place? Is it in a bottle, or a casino? Is it the internet, or your job? Is it your church? These places can all be solitary places, where we can hide, where we can be alone.
Now, let’s take a look at what happened when Jesus wanted to be alone:”Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.” Are you kidding me? If this is not symbolic of the selfishness of this world, I don’t know what is. Jesus is at his lowest emotional point of his life, prior to his actual betrayal, and we can’t even let him be alone for a minute?? It’s just common decency to give someone some room when they are in mourning. We put our arm around them, we encourage them and love on them, we give them some time for a healing process to occur. But not here, not for Jesus. We have nothing for Jesus, we want something from Jesus.
Here is where Jesus the man separates himself as Jesus the Savior: ”He had compassion on them and he healed their sick”. Jesus the man could have hidden, or struck out against them, but Jesus the God loved on them. Jesus the man could have hurt them with his words or his strength, but Jesus the God healed them. They selfishly, arrogantly, insensitively walked up to Jesus the man, and they humbly, undeservedly walked away from Jesus the God, healed and whole.
Here’s the part none of us want to hear: In John 13:15 Jesus himself says this: “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you”. I’m not making this up, it’s in red letters and everything!
We are called to do as Jesus did. Even in his pain, he reached out to us. Even in his misery, he served our needs rather than focusing on his own. Even when he desired to hide, he let multitudes come to him, and he healed them. He didn’t just do this in this one instance when John died, did he? He did this all the way up to his last breath as he allowed himself to be killed on the cross for us.
So what does this look like in your life, how do you “do as he has done for you”? Maybe when you are wanting to be alone with your thoughts, your wife needs you. It might even be selfish of her, but she still needs you…be with her. You may want to “escape” into whatever it is that consumes you sometimes, but your kids need you…heal them. It might be completely unfair of your church group to ask something they want from you…do it anyways. Jesus gave up his rightful place at the right hand of God for you…what could you give up to bring yourself closer to him?
Now…does following Jesus in this way mean sacrificing happiness here on earth, having to give up the stuff you want? This is way too big of a topic to cover in a closing paragraph, but the answer is a resounding no. Next week’s post will expand on that!