“When Jesus heard what had happened [John the Baptist beheaded by Herod], 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
Oh, Jesus, how you love! You wanted to get away. You received the news of John’s brutal death and you wanted to be alone. It would have been painful enough had it happened to anyone you knew. But this was your cousin. The one who shared so closely in the miracles and mysteries surrounding your birth. And he was martyred laying the groundwork for your ministry. So, you wanted to get away. To be with your Father.
What was on your mind? Would you have cried out, “Why, God?” like we would? Why him? Why in this manner? Would it have sent a chill through you as it whispered a hint of the violence and horror ahead for you? Whatever was on your mind, you wanted to step aside.
But when you arrived at your “solitary place,” no solitude greeted you; a needy crowd did. They were there ahead of you, waiting for you. Crowding up, pushing toward you. Each one wanting your full attention, begging for your touch. You were there, exhausted, confused perhaps, wanting some room to grieve, some time to cry. But there they were.
And, you had compassion. You weren’t irritated. You didn’t stamp your feet and demand your time. You didn’t send your disciples to disperse the crowd. You had compassion — you loved them — and healed their sick. Into the evening. Even when you had an easy out, when you could have sent them home for dinner, you continued to minister; teaching, touching, meeting their needs; staying until evening when they returned home to their beds. Even then, you sent the disciples on and lingered to dismiss the crowd yourself.
Only when they were gone did you finally get the solitude you were seeking. You must have been so exhausted and drained from the day’s ministry and so heavy in your grief. And now you could rest. But you didn’t seek rest like we would. You didn’t fix a bowl of ice cream and pop in a movie to help you unwind. You didn’t schedule a spa day. You didn’t collapse into sleep. You went up on a mountainside and prayed. You knew, didn’t you, where your power came from?
Teach me, Lord, where my power comes from. Teach me to come to you for my rest and my strength. Teach me that you are more refreshing than my self-indulgence. Teach me that my power comes from you alone. The power to love like you did — even when I’m sad and tired and confused and people are all up in my face. Oh, this is how you loved.