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. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
(Matthew 14:13-14 ESV)
When Jesus heard Herod thought He was John the Baptist come back to life, He withdrew from Galilee. Galilee’s population was over 3,000,000. It would have been difficult to find a desolate place to be alone. So Jesus left there via boat.
Jesus did not leave because He was afraid of Herod. Jesus was God; He’s afraid of no man. He left because Herod would try to kill Him. But it was not yet time for Jesus to die. He still had more work to do, notably training His disciples.
When you’re Jesus the crowds will find you and sure enough they followed him on foot and met him when He went ashore. The great crowd numbered about 5,000 men. If the women and children were counted the crowd could easily have been in the 12,000 – 15,000 range or even much more. Jesus is at the height of His popularity here.
But notice that He did not teach these people. They did not come to learn. They wanted miracles. So He healed them because He had compassion on them.
In about a year these very same people would be the ones who would turn their back on Jesus because He didn’t meet their expectations of the Messiah by overthrowing Rome. They would be chanting “Crucify Him!” in the streets. Jesus knew this. Yet He had compassion on them in this moment.
Jesus had been looking for a place of peace and quiet. Instead, He found a selfish crowd who didn’t care about His needs, only their own. Yet He did not consider these people to be a nuisance. Instead He cared for them.
This is a great truth of the Bible. Despite our evil ways… despite our whining… despite our selfishness… God cares about us [Psalm 103:13-14, 121:3; 1 Peter 5:7]. He’s never too busy to meet with us in prayer. He’s never unwilling attend to our needs.
The life of a Christian should be similar. We must care about the people around us more than we care about ourselves. We live in a hurting world that needs to know Jesus. When we resent others or view them as an intrusion into our lives we give the impression that God also does not care. Such people are likely to find the comfort they seek elsewhere, perhaps in alcohol or sex. But such things don’t heal a wounded soul. They only destroy it further.
While we are human beings who have our own needs that must on occasion be attended to, we must never be so consumed with ourselves that we are anxious to rid our lives of other people. Once we were saved our lives stopped being about ourselves.
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