Our story today begins with the
death of Jesus' cousin, John the Baptist: "The king was
distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered
that her [Herodias'] request be granted and had John beheaded in the
prison . . . John's disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then
they went and told Jesus." (Matt 14:9-14).
And upon receiving this news, how did Jesus react? Very much like you and I would probably do when we receive bad news: He withdrew! "When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place." (Matt.14:13a). Jesus was saddened by the death of His cousin, and He wished to be alone to be able to spend time with His father in prayer. But this was not to be, for the Bible tells us: "Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns." (Matt. 14:13b).
Doesn't this sound familiar? All we want to do is be alone. We crave that time alone with God for personal renewal. We seek out a quiet place, we withdraw, and the phone rings, the kids are suddenly "dying" of hunger, or the neighbor drops by for a little "chat"! In times like these, I am personally tempted to not answer the phone or the door bell! Or I am tempted to say, "Not now, honey! You'll have to wait for your snack. Mommy needs time to be alone!"
But this is not how Jesus responded. "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick." (Matt. 14:14).
Jesus forsook the private time with His Father that He so craved, to help those in need who came to Him!
The story goes on to say that Jesus
was with the crowd of people until evening approached, and then, instead
of sending them all home hungry, He proceeded to feed them all -- more
than 5000 of them -- with 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish.
In spite of His own personal turmoil, Jesus put the spiritual and physical needs of others first, and in so doing, He set a wonderful example of priority! In spite of what our personal feelings may be telling us, we must always remember Jesus' example: Other's first! If we don't, our hierarchy of priority could easily become distorted!
Please note, however, what happened right after the people were fed: ". . . Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed [the crowd], he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray." (Matt. 14:22,23a). Though Jesus put the needs of others first, He did not neglect His personal needs! And neither should we! We simply place them in the right hierarchy of priority!
What is YOUR hierarchy of priority? Do you put your personal needs
first, leaving the needs of others to wait until you are through your
crisis? Do you deny your personal needs completely? Why not
follow Jesus' example: Tend first to the needs of others, and then
turn to God for personal renewal!