“Now when Jesus heard this he went away from there privately in a boat to an isolated place. But when the crowd heard about it, they followed him on foot from the towns” (Matthew 14:13 NET).
Jesus had just received news of the death of John. We know from Luke 1:36 that their mothers were related, so it may not be speculating too much to suggest that Jesus and John may have known each other as children. Being close in age, if there had been family gatherings they would probably have ended up together.
More important than the family connection was their spiritual connection. John was the one to prepare the way for Jesus through his preaching in the wilderness. He was the one to immerse Jesus. They were both proclaiming the imminent arrival of God’s kingdom. But John had been arrested and finally Herod had executed him (Matthew 14:1-12).
When Jesus was on earth he was a human. He had the same emotions we have. News like this would have affected him, just as it would us. Being Deity did not exempt Jesus from fully experiencing life as a person. He had just received news that a relative and colleague had died, perhaps someone he had been close to. What did he do?
Jesus wanted time to get away from everyone. He took his disciples and they privately went to a place of solitude to be isolated from the crowds that were constantly around him. He needed time to grieve, rest and prepare to continue his work.
But that was not to be. The crowd heard that he had left and walked around the lake to be with him again. It was a large crowd that followed him – not counting women and children there were about 5,000 men, which means there could easily have been double or triple that number of people (Matthew 14:21). So much for getting away! A small town had joined him in his planned solitude! They were waiting for him when he arrived.
Most are familiar with what happened next. Despite his need to be alone, “as he got out he saw the large crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14). He needed time, but they needed his time. He saw their need, felt compassion, and healed those who were sick. Evening arrived and they were without food, so he ended up feeding this large crowd with five loaves and two fish, the lunch of a boy. But he still needed time to pray alone.
“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, while he dispersed the crowds. And after he sent the crowds away, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:22-23).
We, too, need to spend time alone with God. As we talk to God in prayer we also need to listen to him as we read and study his revealed word.
Sometimes in our busy lives it is hard to find time to spend alone with our Father in heaven. Too often this may end up being neglected because we simply cannot find the time.
Notice that Jesus did not “find” the time – he had to “make” time to spend alone with his Father. Even when it was interrupted by the crowds, he still needed this time and made time after the day was over to be alone with God.
If this was important for the son of God, how much more important is it for us as we live our busy, hectic lives? Let’s ensure we have time each day to recharge ourselves through reading God’s word and talking to him in prayer.
Readings for next week:
17 July – Matthew 15
18 July – Matthew 16
19 July – Matthew 17
20 July – Matthew 18
21 July – Matthew 19