Matthew 14:13-14 “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
The “happening” Jesus had just heard was the death of his cousin, comrade, and colleague John the Baptist. Just because Jesus was God’s Son didn’t mean that his heart was made of iron. News of John’s death moved him deeply. It may also have made thoughts of his own impending death more intense. He wanted to get away for a while. He needed some time alone in prayer.
Despite his boat trip to an uninhabited piece of lakeshore real estate, the crowds searched him out. We might wonder whether he was irritated with them for denying him his privacy at a hard point in his life. I might be irritated with these people if I were in the Savior’s shoes. That isn’t right. Here were people who understood their need. They understood what we often find difficult to admit: Our problems are more than we can handle on our own. We don’t have it all together. Jesus isn’t just a fascinating character or a very nice man. He is the only one who can help us. He is someone we desperately need.
We don’t like to be so needy. We prefer to keep up an appearance of self-sufficiency. When I played football in college, I remember watching a teammate try to stay in the game after being injured. He tried to shake it off and look like he wasn’t in pain. But play after play he was run over. He was flattened. He was helpless. He didn’t want to admit that he needed to get off the field and let someone else take his place. But he was doing neither himself nor the team any favors by staying in.
How long can we keep up the illusion that we aren’t hurt, that we can do it, while life flattens us play after play? The pride of self-sufficiency does more than leave us alone in pain. It keeps us way from the one who can help. It cuts us off from Jesus. If that doesn’t change, the injury will be fatal.
These people understood their need, and in Jesus they found more than a helper. “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” The crowd didn’t have to twist his arm to get him to do something. They received much more than instant medical attention. Before they said a word, Jesus had compassion.
Compassion is one of those great, gospel words. It is a “good news” word that promise our God cares. Our Savior is not a marble statue God: grand and impressive in size and appearance, but cold and distant when it comes to our needs. Jesus has compassion. Our troubles genuinely touch his heart. He shares our pain. Moved by compassion, he comes to our aid.
Who should know this better than New Testament Christians who have seen his cross? You don’t die for a cause you don’t feel passionately about. You don’t give your life for people who don’t literally mean everything to you. Along with grace and love, compassion moved Jesus to die for our sins. He relieved us from the misery of our guilt and spared us from the pain of hell. We don’t have to talk him into it. We don’t have to butter him up or work him into a better mood. Long before any of us ever thought to ask, “Lord, could you forgive me?” Jesus had compassion. Long before you or I ever remembered to pray, “Lord, could you take away the pain, or help me get over this fear, or help me out with this need?” Jesus had compassion. With Jesus, we get more than a helper. He makes us the treasures of a God who deeply cares.