We’ve all had those times when we just want to get away and be alone, yet those times of personal sorrow may actually be one of our greatest opportunities to minister to others in Jesus’ Name.
Read: Genesis 26, 27, 28; Matthew 14; Mark 6
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. Matthew 14:13
Matthew tells about John the Baptist’s tragic execution ordered by King Herod. When John’s friends also known as his disciples heard about his death they “came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus” (v.13). As an aside, I’ve shared this verse at funerals where those grieving were dealing with an unexpected death, and many had no faith in Jesus. Three things are note worthy.  They came; in times of sorrow family and fiends come together and find support within loving relationships.  They did their duty and buried the body; it is difficult to stand at a graveside, but it is the right thing to do.  They went and told Jesus; our greatest hope and peace in times of sorrow is to simply go to Jesus and honestly share how what has happened impacted us.
Okay, now back to the big idea – John’s friends came and told Jesus what happened. How did Jesus respond to the news of His forerunner’s death? He didn’t offer a eulogy, comfort John’s disciples, or preach a sermon about the resurrection. Jesus did what many of us would do. He withdrew from the crowds to spend some time alone. This is one of those times we see Jesus’ humanity. Even though Jesus was God in the flesh, with knowledge of eternity and the resurrection to come, Jesus got away to grieve over John’s death.
But do you know what happened next? What happens after Jesus with his disciples set out on their boat to get away from everyone? The crowds found Him and Matthew says that when Jesus saw them he went ashore, “had compassion on them and healed their sick” (v.14). I don’t think that’s how I would have responded. I would have turned the boat around to find someplace else to just go and be alone with my friends.
But not Jesus. And the story does not end with Jesus’ healing of the sick. Jesus does one more remarkable thing. His disciples actually used the fact that it was late in the day and everyone would need to get something to eat as an excuse to send the people away. They may have known Jesus wanted to get away from the crowd, and they too were most likely grieving the news of John’s death. But what followed is the single miracle recorded in all four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Jesus instructed His disciples to take the pieces He had blessed and broken from the 5 loaves of bread and 2 two fish and feed the people. You know the story: 5,000 men, together with their families, ate dinner with 12 baskets of leftovers for the disciples to have a late night snack (yea, I added that last part about the snack).
And so what’s the point of this story? Within the humanity of Jesus we see His compassion to meet the needs of others. But Jesus’ compassion was multiplied in the lives of his disciples who were able to set out a picnic dinner for everyone rather than focus on their personal pain and sorrow.
It’s not wrong to feel the pain of unexpected tragedy and death; it’s even okay to want to get away by yourself. But even in these times of sorrow, God’s compassion can overflow through us to meet the needs of others. I need to allow the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to see other’s need and put them first because in doing so I will be more like Jesus.
Yes to Yield
LORD Jesus, I thank You that within the gospel story we see glimpses of Your humanity. In every way, even sorrow, You were “tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 14:15). Thank You for teaching Your disciples to not just think of themselves, but to share from Your compassion with others, even to meet the simple need for food. Holy Spirit empower me and give me that same compassion to not just withdraw within my own times of pain and sorrow; give me eyes to see the needs of others. And as You help me share Your compassion with them, may I have faith to know that Your love is lifting my spirit and renewing my hope.