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Matthew 14:13-21

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. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (verses 13-14)


This is one of those scripture moments we shouldn’t rush past too quickly. There is a sighting here into Jesus’ emotions as he withdraws for privacy and solitude in light of the in-breaking news of John the Baptist’s death.

It’s reading between the lines, but Jesus must have been deeply grieved, for many reasons. (1) John and Jesus were cousins (first, second, third or other), their mothers being related in some way – John’s death was a family tragedy. (2) John had been significantly used to inaugurate Jesus’ own ministry, witnessing the descent of the heavenly dove and announcing Jesus as “the Lamb of God”. (3) The sheer evil of this brutal murder would grieve Jesus’ heart. (4) Most importantly, Jesus shared in the Father’s plan to send John into the world as his messenger, preparing the way, turning people’s hearts back to God, playing a crucial role in this central act of salvation history – certainly he would mourn the world’s heavy-handed rejection of his own messenger. So Jesus grieved.

Later he would put it into words: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matthew 23:17).

Here, in Matthew 14, he simply withdraws for solace. But the grief is real.

Yet, as always, he keeps his eyes on people. Seeing the crowds, compassion rises. His heart encompasses grief for John, yet also anguish for the world and deep-seated compassion for the masses.

I’m reminded of the upper room, on the night before his death, when Jesus turns to his disciples and says, “Let not your hearts be troubled …” What amazing compassion and sensitivity, for Jesus himself had more cause to be troubled than any other (indeed, we know he felt it, since John tells us – John 13:21). Yet, he presses past his own trouble and cares for his friends in the midst of theirs.

This is the heart of the Saviour, the Lord of all, with infinite capacity to bear our wounds and carry our sorrows. Feeling deeply within his own being the brokenness of the world, yet his eyes see our grief, his heart embraces our need, he reaches out on our behalf and takes action to heal and to save.


O Lord, I praise you for the greatness of your heart. Greatness that feels to the very depths. Greatness that stretches out to encompass the whole world, through time and space. Yet a heart that also encompasses me. With confidence, then, I come to you today. Meet me in my need. Praise you, my Lord.


Reflect: What need, in this moment, do you bring to Jesus’ infinite heart?


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