Sunday, August 17, 2008

Jesus... Withdrew?

Modern Bibles are usually printed with each writing divided into smaller sections, usually with a title to help in finding particular passages by flipping through the general area where they are found. These divisions can be helpful, but it is important to realize that context is often really, really important. When reading a particular portion of scripture, it is useful to look a little before and after that portion to see better where it fits into the whole.

Matthew 14:13 starts one of these sections in this way: "When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place." From there, the story goes on to explain that the crowds found out where he was and went looking for him, seeking help. They became tired from traveling and had little to eat. This led to Jesus miraculously feeding over five thousand people with just a few small pieces of food. Great story.

But don't slip too easily past that first sentence: "When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place."

What is it that had happened? John the Baptist had been beheaded. His head was even delivered to a royal event on a plate. This is the same John who had been born to announce the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. This is the one who had humbly said of Jesus "He must become greater; I must become less" (John 3:30).

There is plenty of other excellent, meaty stuff in here. But today I am imagining Jesus withdrawing from the crowds for a bit. He was divine, yes, but also human. He grieved the loss of one he loved. At such a time, he took the time to step away for a period of time from the many demands of his life. He honored his humanity by living within its confines of weariness and grief and all that. And then he returned, restored.

What about us? It is easy sometimes to see an exceedingly long to-do list and just try to keep working hard to tackle each of those tasks. Sometimes it feels like being pecked to death by ducks. But in times like that, God calls us to withdraw for a period of time, to seek Him and discover again who He is and who we are invited to be in Him. God, knowing our humanity and understanding our limitations, invites us into His presence to be restored before returning to the demands of life. Every day, what a gift!

No comments: