Jesus spent most of his days preaching, teaching, and healing. In the moment we see here, He had sent His disciples off for a little two-by-two trial run, so He was managing the crowds by Himself. Just as the disciples returned, Jesus also heard that John the Baptist—His cousin and precursor—had been beheaded. It’s easy to see why Jesus wanted some time away from the crowds.
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. –Matthew 14:13a
Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. –Mark 6:31-32
Jesus wanted to get away…to spend some time with the Father. As a leader, He needed to debrief his team. As a bereaved cousin, He needed to grieve for John. Jesus wanted some time at the feet of God, like the time His friend, Mary, would spend at His feet a little later (Luke 10:38-42).
He didn’t get that quiet time.
They headed across the water in a boat, but the crowds followed Him around the Sea of Galilee all the way to Bethsaida! John 6:1 and Luke 9:10 tell us where He was, but Mark’s description is the most dynamic:
Many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. –Mark 6:33
They ran on foot all the way around the sea.
I would have said, “Give
it a rest. Go home.”
When Jesus stepped off the boat, standing there—like some kind of dejá-vu—were the very people from whom He had departed a couple of hours earlier! What would you have said to them? I would have said, “Look guys, give it a rest. I’m tired. I need to talk to my men, and I don’t know if you heard, but Herod killed John the Baptist. He was my cousin, you know. Now please go home! You can come back tomorrow. I’ll be here.”
Obviously, that’s not what Jesus said or did. We miss this point because we want to jump ahead to the miracle of feeding the masses, but stay right here in this moment with me.
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. –Matthew 14:14
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. –Mark 6:34
He had compassion on them.
Jesus set aside His own plans
to do some work and meet the
needs of the crowd.
Despite His own plans, His deep desire for alone-time, His need to debrief the disciples—despite everything else, Jesus did some work. He met the needs of the crowd right there in the moment.
Then, when He could have easy adjourned the meeting and turned His back on them, He chose instead to feed them dinner. By the time everyone ate and the disciples cleaned up, it was night. Jesus put the disciples back on the boat and dismissed the crowds Himself (Matthew 14:22). He didn’t delegate. He didn’t get impatient. He served.
Only then, when it was dark and the crowds were trudging home, did Jesus get His quiet time with the Father.
One chapter later in Luke, Jesus is on the receiving end of a well-prepared meal (Luke 10:38-42). His friend, Martha, who will be among the first to call Him “Messiah” (John 11:27), gets a little uptight about having dinner ready on time. After all, she didn’t have Jesus’ power to turn a few fish and rolls into a meal for thousands! Jesus encourages her to focus on what’s most important.
The world needs people
who serve first and ask
I’ve argued for years that the “one thing” Jesus mentioned to Martha is not to drop everything and sit at Jesus’ feet beside Mary. I believe Martha had the gift of hospitality and delighted in a well-served meal. Jesus wasn’t telling her to stop being herself. The world needs Type-A people: planners, anticipators, list-makers. The world needs people who serve first and ask questions later, who humbly do what needs to be done regardless of their own needs.
- When our Type-A people are also Kingdom people, the focus of their planning is God’s glory.
- When our servers and needs-meeters are Kingdom people, the focus of their serving is God’s glory.
- When our humble people are also Kingdom people…well, they already figured it out.
Martha missed out because she lost her focus on God’s glory. (For much more on Mary, Martha & Lazarus, check into Dwell.)
As Jesus stepped out of the boat in Bethsaida only to see crowds of people waiting for Him, I imagine His shoulders slumped a little. But then, out of compassion, He took a deep breath and, like Martha, did what needed to be done. The healing, the teaching, the bread-baking? It was all for God’s glory, and that’s what made Jesus’ “Martha moment” alright.
What do you think of Jesus’ example here? I’d love to know what’s on your mind after reading this. Just drop a comment in the box below.