Summary: In our Scripture today, Jesus must have been grieving over the death of his cousin. One of the things we learn from this Scripture today is that it’s often in the most difficult times that God does his greatest miracles
The Miracle of Giving
As we come to our Scripture today, Jesus has just received the worst news of his life: his John the Baptist has been beheaded. John the Baptist was a prophet who challenged the people of Israel to prepare for the coming of the Messiah by turning away from sin and being baptized as a sign of repentance. His death was especially significant for Jesus. Not only did John the Baptist baptize Jesus which started Jesus’ ministry but he was also Jesus’ cousin. When Jesus heard this news, all he wanted to do was get away from everybody and everything that was going on. So Jesus “withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” So in our Scripture today, Jesus must have been grieving and having an extremely difficult time with the news he had heard and the loss he had experienced. One of the things we learn from this Scripture today is that it’s often in the most difficult times that God does the greatest miracles. And that’s often the way it is in our lives as well. When we’re down, when things are going against us, when we’ve lost someone, when we’re grieving, when we feel like we’ve got the cards stacked against us, it’s then that God does his greatest miracle.
Jesus tries to pull away from the crowds by going to a secluded place but the crowds just follow him. Jesus left by boat to go to another place on the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. The crowds are now so drawn to Jesus by his teaching and his miracles that they follow the only way they could and that’s by walking along the shoreline to where Jesus’ boat had landed. It doesn’t matter what obstacles lie in their way, the crowd overcomes them to draw near to Jesus. Any time Jesus is around, it should draw a crowd. Any time we gather for worship, it should draw a crowd because we enter the presence of Jesus, we sing His praises, we hear his voice and we are empowered to do the work of the kingdom. We come here that we might have the passion and purpose ignited within us to Illuminate the world we live in. That’s why this church exists. Anywhere, there is the power of Jesus, it should draw crowds.
The first thing we learn from Jesus is that he put the mission of God first. Our Scripture says, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Jesus is in the midst of grieving and pulling away to be alone can’t because the crowds have followed him. One would think that his response might be anger or frustration because he can’t even get some time alone to grieve. But notice what Matthew says, “he had compassion on them.” That’s the heart of a disciple, one who sees the spiritual condition of the world, has compassion on the world and places their needs ahead of his own. We live in a world filled with darkness and people who are disconnected from God. People are living in spiritual darkness right in our midst every single day. They’re our neighbors, our friends, our relatives, and our co-workers and they are living in the darkness and pursuing things which have no eternal meaning or purpose. Do you know what that means? They are dying living in spiritual darkness every day. Do you care? Are you moved to action? Do you want to do something about it? Are you willing to sacrifice to resolve it? Jesus had compassion. The Jewish people believed that life is meant to be lived in relationship with the one who created you. But if you are not connected to God, not living for Him and not worshipping Him then you are not living. Life apart from God is death because we were created to be in relationship with God. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, we also learn that there’s something else at stake: eternal life. There’s an eternity on the line! We are called to Illuminate the darkness with the Light of Christ. If you don’t first have compassion on those living in the darkness and facing an eternity separated from God then you will never put aside your agenda for God’s.
Now the disciples find themselves in a remote place with Jesus and 1000’s of people. Dinner time is approaching and so they say, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Send the crowds away. Could anything be worse than sending a crowd away who is spiritually lost and living in the darkness? And yet churches and Christians make decisions and act all the time in ways which “send people away.” We “send people away” when we don’t share our faith with them preventing them from hearing the Good News. We “send people away” when we expect them to come to us rather than us go to them. We “send people away” when we expect them to think, act, dress and believe like us rather than accepting people as they are and where they are. We “send people away” when we worship in a music style that doesn’t connect them to God or speak their hearts. We “send people away” when we don’t talk church talk rather than taking the time to speak their language.