"When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick." Matthew 14:13-14
Yesterday when I read this passage in Matthew, I had to read it through several times to make sure it was saying what I thought it was saying. Just before these verses, we read about John the Baptist being beheaded, and that's exactly what verse 13 is talking about when it says Jesus heard it. Jesus had just learned that John the Baptist was beheaded, so He was going somewhere by himself to grieve.
And look what happened next. He didn't get his quiet time by himself. The multitude that had been following him also heard about John and followed Jesus- probably to see if he had any answers for them. When a disaster happens here, or someone dies unexpectedly, "the multitudes" always have questions. They want to know why this person had to die, why did this have to happen, and things like that. They probably were following Jesus with those questions in mind- and also wondering what His thoughts were on the whole matter. And what did Jesus do?
Well, he could have sent them all away- or continued in his quest to find solitude. He could have been cold and uncaring- after all, he just learned that a dear friend was murdered for no reason, if there was a time for him to insist on alone time, this could have been it. And yet, at what was probably one of the lowest points in his life in ministry, he saw all these people following, he saw their hurts and their pain. He saw the concern in their eyes- and probably the tears as they too, grieved the loss of a great man. At that moment, Jesus was filled with compassion, the grief that he had been feeling turned into compassion, and it says that Jesus healed their sick.
We frequently hear the verse that God uses all things for good, and here is an amazing example of it in the life of Jesus.
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
As Jesus looked out over the crowd and saw the grief that was probably mirrored in his own eyes, he felt compassion- and empathy- because he knew what they were feeling. And instead of being selfish and insisting on being alone, he used that compassion to heal the sick among them. For those people who were healed, you can bet that this was a moment that would last the rest of their lives. The heard about John the Baptist, and went to Jesus to see if he had any answers for them. Instead of getting answers for their sorrow, they came away healed and healthy- God used their sorrow to bring them to their moment of healing.
One of the most important things that we can learn from Jesus, I think, is His use of compassion. He found compassion for people in the strangest of circumstances. In this passage here, first he healed their sick, and then a few verses later, his disciples want to send the people away because they are all hungry and have no food. Instead, Jesus insisted on feeding them, and fed the multitude of 5,000 with five loaves and two fish. Jesus was going away to be alone and sorrowful! This was his goal- to go somewhere quiet so he could mourn his friend, and that moment of solitude he was searching for turned into a time of ministry with the healing, and then he didn't want to send the people away- so he fed them with nothing.
It wasn't until after everyone had eaten that Jesus sent the crowds and his disciples away. And then, then He finally got his moments of quiet, and what did he do? He prayed. I'll bet those prayers were full of thanks for God for the blessings that he saw that day. Instead of feeling sorry for himself for the loss of a friend, he found compassion for the many needs around him, and worked through his grief by caring for those who needed it.
We can be going through a rough time in our lives, but what these verses say to me is that someone out there probably has it worse. We can really feel emotionally drained like we're going through something serious, and maybe it's in those moments that God has someone waiting for us to hear about the love He has for them. What we can learn from Jesus is that we don't really need those moments to shut down, those moments to be alone and selfish. Instead, we need to be open to the idea of compassion. With compassion, Jesus healed the sick. Maybe if we found more moments of compassion, God would find more moments of opportunity to work through us for the good of someone else.