Who would have thought that John the Baptist’s life would end in such a tragic death. He was, after all, born for the purpose of pointing others to the Messiah. Jesus and John the Baptist were distant cousins, but it’s not likely that they grew up in the same community. John was born to older parents and his purpose in life was to be the forerunner of Jesus Christ. It was John who baptized Jesus that day in the Jordan River. He was the one who said that the One coming after Him was mightier than he and he (John) was not even worthy to untie His shoelaces.
When John spoke boldly to Herod the tetrarch about his adultery with Herodias, Herod became angry. On his birthday, he was so enamored with the dancing of Herodias’ daughter that he told her he’d give her anything she asked. Prompted by her mother (who no doubt was also angry at John for his voice against her marriage to the brother of her former husband Philip), the daughter asked for the head of John the Baptist. She wanted it to be served on a platter. John lost his life for speaking the truth. His head was delivered to the girl on a platter, who gave it to her mother.
When the disciples heard about this, they came and took John’s body to bury it. Afterwards, they told Jesus.
You know what Jesus did? He got into a boat and went away to be alone. The gospel of Matthew tells us He went to a deserted place by Himself. The gospel of Mark says He asked His disciples to come away with him. At any rate, He just wanted to be alone with his closest friends.
You know what the people did? They followed Him on foot.
Instead of having time by Himself to grieve the loss of His friend, Jesus saw the people coming to him. Scripture tells us that He had compassion on the people. Jesus looked at those people and felt sorry for them because they were just like a flock of sheep without a shepherd.
Every sheep needs a shepherd! That day, Jesus continued to be a shepherd and healed their sick.
At the end of the day, those same people were hungry. He could have said, “It’s not my problem.”
He could have turned them away and gone His own way – back to His boat and His place of refuge.
You know what He did? He fed them – all of them: 5,000 men PLUS women and children. We’re talking 15,000-20,000 people here, folks. He did it by using five loaves and two fish. Not only did He feed that multitude, there were also twelve baskets of leftovers.
I’m not sure when or if Jesus had time to go away and grieve by Himself. It seems He went from one crisis or need to another one. Certainly, He was all-powerful since He was God. Jesus was also human, and He experienced grief and loss just like we do. He grieved the loss of John. Obviously, He felt the need to be alone in His grief – why else did He get into a boat to get to a solitary place? He was human.
You know what I learned from this true story?
I am encouraged to know that rest times are important. I am also challenged to learn that the needs of the sheep were so important that Jesus was willing to give up His wants to do His Father’s will.