Jesus, today I am captivated by your merciful heart towards the crowds that you healed, attended to and then fed. I have never seen before or taken note of the context to this passage of the feeding of the thousands.
Today I saw for the first time that you Jesus had just heard the devastating news of the gruesome murder of your cousin John the Baptist by Herod. The context therefore for the feeding of the thousands was one of your own grief.
“ when Jesus heard this, he withdrew… To a desolate place by himself.” (vs 13)
Jesus, your very human need and desire was to be alone to be with the father to process, to lament, to pray, to be restored emotionally. So, Jesus you can empathize with those who suffer terrible news. You know the desire to withdraw, to be alone, to want to lament in prayer, to want to process alone, to need some space from others to think.
Today I am struck again Jesus by your humanity. Thank you Jesus for being so truly human and therefore being so truly relatable, one who can empathise with me with us in our grieving and our pain in our shock at the news we were not prepared for. Truly God and truly man hallelujah, the wisdom and the plan of God I worship you.
But today I noticed the Jesus desire to be alone is thwarted! The crowd work out where Jesus has gone and they follow him. So that by the time Jesus arrives at the shore on the other side (his intended place of solitude) there is a demanding crowd before an emotionally drained Jesus. Now I know that in my sinfulness I would’ve felt irritated at that moment. In a display of self-centred justification I probably would’ve dismissed the crowd on the basis of my own emotional needs. But not my Lord.
“He had compassion on them and healed their sick”
This Greek word “splanchnizomai” means to feel great affection, love, compassion for someone or in some situation. It was Jesus’ heart of compassion that overwhelmed his own need for space to process his emotions and grief. Jesus’ heart disposition was more towards the love of others than love of self.
And so when a conflict arose putting love of self against the love of others, Jesus loved others at the expense of Himself. No one would’ve expected this response of Jesus, and no one would have surely demanded such a response of compassion from the Lord. Rather, it would’ve been totally justifiable for Jesus to dismiss the crowd so as to tend to His own personal needs.
I don’t believe anyone would have demanded or denied him the right to personal space – if he had asked for it in the context of His grieving. As a result Jesus actions can’t be explained by social pressure. Scripture is clear – we are not in doubt regarding the motivation in Jesus heart that overcame his personal need. Jesus wasn’t responding to social pressure or expectation when He denied His own needs to minister to the needs of others.
Scripture is clear, It was his heart bursting with deep compassion and affection for the crowd of 15 to 20 thousand who were sick and oppressed who were desperate and in need…It was his heart that just beat for the opportunity to set captives free, to push back the curse of sin and its affects to let his kingdom blessing breakthrough into the lives of these people. It wasn’t that Jesus’ personal need to grieve had evaporated. We know this because once Jesus had fed the crowd, Jesus “went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When the evening came he was there alone.” (Vs23).
So Jesus need to grieve had not changed or dissipated. Rather, Jesus delayed His need, He inconvenienced Himself to first serve the needs of others. He did this for two reasons I believe;
- Because of his incredible heart of compassion for others
- Because of his commitment to the mission of the Godhead – the announcement of the kingdom and the resultant pushing back of the curse of sin, so that at every opportunity blessing would come to the people he came into contact with.
Jesus, may I become more and more like you.