In the span of one day, we see how Jesus responds to the intense low and extreme high moments of life. He seeks solitude.
In Matthew 14 we read of the death of John the Baptist. John was the cousin of Jesus and only six months older than him. He had prepared the way for the Messiah and baptised him in water. John and Jesus would have grown up together and been very close. In Isaiah 53:3 we are told that Jesus was acquainted with grief and I imagine he was deeply grieved at the news of John’s death. His response to loss and grief, is to seek solitude. Jesus withdraws in a boat to a desolate place by himself (v.13).
When the crowds hear where Jesus has gone, they follow him on foot and as he comes ashore, he sees the great crowd and has compassion on them and heals the sick. In the evening, the disciples come to Jesus and tell him to send the crowds away to the villages to buy food, but Jesus tells them to feed the people. The disciples ask him how they are to feed so many with just five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus tells the crowd to sit, then he blesses the food, breaks the bread and tells the disciples to feed the people. They eat until they are satisfied. Those who ate were about five thousand men, plus women and children (v.14-21).
In the depths of despair and sorrow at the loss of his dear cousin and friend, Jesus seeks solitude which enables him, out of compassion, to minister to the pressing needs of the people. Again, notice Jesus’ response after an intense time of ministry, as he is surrounded by crowds who are desperate for his attention. He seeks solitude.
Once the disciples had gathered twelve baskets of leftover food, Jesus makes them get into a boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, so he can dismiss crowds. “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray (v.22-23).
When our souls are overcome with grief and sorrow and our hearts are breaking at great loss, let’s learn from Jesus and seek solitude with our heavenly Father, that we may regain strength and perspective. And when it feels like everyone is grappling for our attention and time, when life is busy and full and the demands from the crowd feel overwhelming, let us too seek solitude in the one who is our Prince of peace. He will calm the storm within and give us wisdom to see a way through.
© 2021 by Ruth O’Reilly-Smith