Summary: Jesus gave us an example of how to get through every kind of pressure, and He has provided for us to live abundant lives.
If you look at the title that I have assigned to this passage of Scripture, you will immediately know that this message is going to be relevant to you. Regardless of who you are and what you do, I would venture to say that you know what it is to feel the pressures of life crowding in on you. One man, who was telling me about the pressures of his job, said that he found it very relaxing to get on his riding mower and mow his grass. He said, "All I've really got to worry about is that I keep that left front wheel on the line of cut and uncut grass." Most of us have a hard time finding times that we don't have any more to think about than that.
By this point in Jesus' ministry, He had gained tremendous popularity, but He had also gained great criticism, and even the hatred of the religious leaders. The pressure was constantly on Him to not be overcome by the hatred of the Pharisees, and those who united with them, as well as the pressure to train His disciples, who showed more signs of not getting what He was teaching, than they did of getting it. Then, there was the pressure of finishing His earthly ministry in such a way that the Scripture would be fulfilled.
In this passage, we see Jesus steering His way through these things, and we are given an opportunity to make some much needed personal application of how we can handle the pressures that come our way.
Step aside from that which you know will hurt you, v7. We are told in the verse preceding our text that there was a plot to destroy Jesus, and our text says, "But Jesus withdrew..." He did not withdraw because of fear, but because of wisdom. At this point, He had five disciples: Peter, Andrew, James, John, and He had just called Matthew. These men were raw recruits. They need a lot more training before they would be ready to take on the task that Jesus was planning to lay on them.
Our ultimate enemy is the devil. He would like to see us rendered totally ineffective for God's kingdom, and he doesn't care what means he uses to accomplish it. He will even use a bad church experience. If you have never had a bad church experience, you just haven't gone to church enough! The devil will move on people in church to say and do some of the dumbest, most hurtful things you can imagine; and, if he doesn't do it that way, he will move on you to interpret things wrongly, so that you think people are intentionally being mean to you, when they really aren't. We've got to know how to side-step the devil's attack, and the way to do it is just like the Bible tells us to do it. First of all, we've got to love one-another and be committed to reconciliation with people, wherever it's possible. What the devil tempts us to do is to either blow up in anger, smolder in malice, or stay home in resignation. When we do any of those, the devil is laughing, because he knows he's accomplished his purpose. Whatever the devil uses to steal, kill and destroy our effectiveness, he will approach us through either the lust of our flesh, the lust of our eyes, or our pride.
Stay with the direction God has given you, v7-10. There is always the pressure to be run by our schedule, instead of our schedule being run by us. It is so easy to get to the point that things have us, instead of us having things. Good things become bad things, when they are allowed to crowd out the best things.
It was a good thing that people wanted to be near Jesus, that they came from all these different places, and that they had heard all the things He was doing. Jesus was not at all displeased by that fact, and He was compassionate with them, and v10 says, "He healed many." Matthew 12:15 also reports this, and there the Bible says, "He healed them all." But Jesus knew He could not allow these people to crowd in on Him and crush Him, nor could He allow them to so captivate His time that He wouldn't be able to go anywhere else, so He told His disciples to keep a small boat ready for Him. Jesus never lost sight of His primary purpose, and that was to do the will of the Father. That's our mission, also, and we must not let anything distract us from it, not even good things.
Study to know Jesus more, v11-12. The demonic spirits know exactly who Jesus is, but all too often those who profess to be His followers seem to know so little about Him. For instance, why did He heal all these people who came to Him for healing? Why didn't He turn some of them away? Why didn't He tell some of them that it wasn't His will for them to be healed, that they needed to go celebrate their leprosy, their lameness, and their other maladies? The Jesus, who according to Hebrews 13:8, is the "same yesterday, today, and forever" never said such a thing to those who came to Him. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that "those who come to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them who diligently seek Him..." We may say that Jesus is the Great Physician, that He can do all things, and that nothing is too hard for Him, and we may have great faith in His ability, but at the same time be in total doubt about His willingness to give healing to our physical ailments. We need to understand that this is telling us that receiving from God is dependent upon our believing God. In Matthew 8:16, the Bible says that a large group of people were brought to Jesus, and it says that "He cast out the evil spirits with a word and healed all who were sick;" then, the very next verse says, "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: 'He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses'."