As I was reading in Matthew 14 and read about John the Baptist being beheaded, I was struck by Jesus’ reaction. It says, “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.” Matthew 14:13-14
My heart goes out to Jesus in this situation because I understand the need for solitude at times, especially when wanting to grieve and/or process something major. John was not only Jesus’ cousin but he was the long prophesied forerunner, the one who was to prepare the way for the Messiah. Jesus had great respect for John and always spoke to him and of him with honor.
Here we find Jesus, in the kind of situation where you just need to withdraw and process. Jesus wants to grieve and put this sad news into perspective while communing with His Father; but the crowds are so eager to have more that they follow him on foot. Can you imagine what this must have entailed? They must’ve been able to see him from the shore in order to follow him. Were they on a beachy part of the lake, was it rocky, was there a cliff, or even a road going around it? No matter. The crowd was desperate for Jesus and didn’t know, care or understand that He really just needed a little bit of time to process – away from people!
Jesus could’ve explained and excused Himself. He could’ve avoided the crowd altogether. But He didn’t do any of those things. He saw the crowd and He had compassion on them and healed their sick. I really believe that Jesus chose to set aside His own needs in this moment and release the kingdom on the people. He understood His purpose and having been a part of the Godhead conversation in the beginning…”Let us make man in OUR image…” He already loved so deeply that in spite of His personal human emotions, He could not turn away from the need that desperately sought Him out.
Jesus hasn’t changed one bit since that day. Though He is now returned to His original position in the Godhead, His nature and character remain the same. He is still drawn to the heart that is desperate for Him. He cannot turn away. This story reassures us of that fact. He hears our cries, He has compassion, and He moves on our behalf.
The story doesn’t stop at Jesus healing their sick though. It continues with a couple of astounding miracles (as if healing their sick wasn’t astounding enough). As evening was coming on, the disciples recognized that they had a hungry crowd on their hands. They urged Jesus to release the crowd to go into the villages to buy food. But Jesus, living in the world of everything is possible, used the moment to teach His disciples about living in His world. He blessed what they had in their hands and multiplied it enough to feed over 5,000 men, women, and children with abundance, as there were left overs – enough for each of the disciples to have a basket of their own.
Later, after Jesus finally gets that needed respite with the Father to process His loss, we see Jesus coming to the disciples by walking on the water. Another amazing miracle.
I’m going to climb out on a limb here. What if Jesus’ willingness to allow Himself to be ‘distracted’ from His own needs by compassion was the key to opening the door for the greater miracles? I don’t know for sure but I imagine it to be a possibility.
Here’s what I do know for sure. I’ve read this passage many a time, as I’m sure others have, but one day, this scenario arrested my attention and I wept because of Jesus’ willingness to set aside His own desires and needs to minister to the people. I struggle to do that in my own life and ministry. It’s compassion that’s needed. I’m assured by this story that compassion is God’s will for every believer and if I’m desperate enough for it, and follow Him along that shoreline, I will receive what I desperately need.
Clearly, Jesus never held back for any reason but always poured out what was in Him to give. He is still the same. Still willing and still able. He calls us as His followers to do the same but when we are inwardly focused, always trying to hold on to what we have, it is never enough and that desire is never really satisfied. It is only in releasing what we have that we receive more and become satisfied in His provision, whether it be emotional or physical.
Reach out to Him today. Do you see Him? Follow Him because He has compassion and will meet you there.