Friday, April 01, 2011

Serve Selflessly

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick Mt. 14:13-14

Jesus just found out that John the Baptist has been killed. After hearing the news he got in a boat and withdrew to be alone. The text doesn’t tell us why he went off to be alone, only that he got into a boat and retreated to be by himself for a little while. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to imagine the circumstances. John was Jesus’ cousin. He was a good friend, and a great prophet of God. John had baptized Jesus and launched his ministry. While Jesus never sinned, grieving is not sinful. Whenever someone we love and have spent a lot of time with is taken from us, there is always an emotional reaction. We call this reaction, grief. It is the emotions reaction to loss. And the loss of John must have impacted our Lord in a meaningful way. As a result, he went off to be alone with his Father, to pray and to pour out his heart to God.

The text goes on to say that, when the crowds heard that Jesus had gone off by himself, they anticipated where he was going and went to meet him there. So that when Jesus arrived, there they were again, asking him to help them. The crowd didn't care about Jesus. They wanted his services; they wanted to be healed of their illnesses. They wanted to be made whole again. They didn't care that Jesus’ closest friend had just been brutally murdered.

I’m pretty sure that if I had been Jesus at the time, I might have reacted differently than Jesus did. When people die, all sorts of strong emotions flood over me. I can hardly think straight. I need to get alone just to readjust my thinking about who I am and where my place is in the world. I need to find my spot in God’s creation and to reaffirm my relationship with God. To have people trample on my time, my space, my person especially because they are being selfish and only concerned with themselves would have really irked me. Most of these people have probably been sick for years, yet they can't wait until I've done with God and myself.

Oh, but what was Jesus response? Verse 14 says “he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Even in the middle of grief Jesus remembered that he was here to serve God’s people. In order to serve in godly way he thought more of them and their suffering than he did of himself and his plight. In ignoring his own situation he did the opposite of what the crowd did. He knew their hearts and he still had compassion on them. He knew they were using him. He knew they didn't care about him. But in his humility, he thought more of them than he did of himself.

To act like I would have would have would have been to act the same way they were acting. Selfishly. I, “me first, me biggest, me best.” “Who are you to bother me when I'm busy? Can't you see I'm grieving the death of my friend? Go away!”

No! Jesus felt compassion on them and healed them.

Oh that would we would have the heart of Jesus. That we would love the wicked unselfish uncaring people God has placed in our lives. That we would give to them even when they're being selfish and even when it imposes on our time and feelings. That we would not be just as selfish as they are and lash out at them, but that we would serve them with our whole hearts. Oh that we would not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. And that we would treat one another as more important than ourselves. Lord, answer this prayer in me. Create in me a new heart to serve people selflessly, like Jesus served.

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