It’s Matthew 14. To this point, Matthew has recorded Jesus doing His thing for some time now. Healings. Battling it out with the Pharisees. Teaching about the Kingdom of God. Building up and teaching His disciples. Jesus is in the thick of His public ministry. He is going 90-to-nothing, and has begun to draw large, needy crowds wherever He goes.
Then in Matthew 14 tragedy strikes. Herod the Tetrarch murders Jesus’ cousin, and God’s appointed herald for Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist. John’s disciples go and retrieve his body. Then, they come and tell Jesus that John is dead.
We know Jesus is fully God and fully man. And we know that Jesus was a compassionate person. It’s not difficult to imagine that Jesus was heart-broken. Distraught. Deeply saddened. We can only guess, but Scripture seems to point to the fact that Jesus and John shared a meaningful relationship. John devoted his life to preparing people for Jesus’ arrival. They experienced a spiritualy intimate moment in the waters of the Jordan when God audibly and visibly announced His favor for His Son, Jesus. Jesus publicly identified John as an extremely important figure in God’s salvation story. We can only imagine how broken Jesus was to hear of John’s death.
The first part of Matthew 14:13 tells us how Jesus responded:
“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.”
But the second half of this verse is what screamed out at me as I read this passage (emphasis mine):
“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.”
Unbelievable! All Jesus wanted to do was have a moment to grieve. Maybe He wanted to commune with the Father in prayer. Maybe He wanted to reflect on His memories of growing up with His cousin, John, and how their lives played out. We don’t know. Matthew doesn’t tell us because Jesus never got a chance to have His moment in peace. The crowds wouldn’t let Him alone!
How did Jesus respond to this intrusion? Did He rebuke the crowds as He did in other places? Did He miraculously remove Himself from the situation? Not even close. Look at what Matthew tells us about Jesus’ response:
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick (Matthew 14:14).
Amazing! Jesus had the right to mourn. He had the right to silence and solitude. He was not obligated to heal the crowd. If He had not exhibited compassion in this moment, surely He would have been excused. But Jesus forfeited His rights in order to serve people who needed Him. Instead of indignation, or frustration, He felt only compassion.
I was deeply convicted by this. (So much that I made sure our ym360 home office team talked about it in our weekly meeting.) I hope that you are convicted by it too.
Jesus' reaction in Matthew 14 reminds us that there is no place for entitlement in our ministries, or in our hearts.
Next time someone asks you to do something that puts you out, next time someone asks you to forego something that you rightfully deserve, next time someone catches you at a bad time or otherwise inconveniences you in some way, remember Jesus’ example from this story. Stop and make time for those who need you.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. – Philippians 2:3-7