For the majority of my first year up here, there was one story in Scripture that I held onto more than any other. I’d like to say it was this story that prepared me for the quarantine season we are in, but actually, it was those early months up here that did that.
In Matthew 14:1-12, we have a narrative about John the Baptist’s death. Even though many people had left off following John to be with Jesus (John 3:26), John still had a few loyal disciples. It was these people who came and took his body to bury it.
But it is the responses of these disciples and of Jesus that I want to focus on here.
In light of Covid-19 and all the fear, suffering, sorrow, and dying that so many of us are facing, these two responses are worthy of our attention.
The Response of the Disciples
As soon as John’s disciples had finished burying John, “they went and told Jesus” (v. 12b).
Although these men did not fully know who Jesus was, their first thought was to take this heartbreaking news and their sorrow-filled hearts to Jesus. For sure, they would have thought that Jesus would want to know what had happened to his cousin. But it also seems likely that they also wanted to be with Jesus. They would have known that John said and believed that Jesus was God’s Messiah, so a natural progression for these followers of John would be to go with Jesus (although the text does not tell us if they stayed with Jesus besides bringing him the news).
Friends, if these people who didn’t even clearly know who Jesus was went to him, how much more should we take our sorrows to the only One who can do something about it.
This One is the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4). Our best and truest comforts to others will come out of the comfort we have received from God.
This One is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). No one is as fully present and more able to do something about each one of our situations than God.
We must go to the One who can help us, because:
- He cares about our burdens and anxieties (1 Peter 5:7)
- He desires for us to come to him, so he can give us his rest for our souls (Matt. 11:28-30)
- Our fears, anger, sadness, and bitterness of soul do not scare him, nor does the dark in our hearts (i.e. Jesus with Mary and Martha, Thomas after the resurrection, disciples fleeing when Jesus is taken in the garden, Samaritan woman, the people Jesus healed of demons).
The Response of Jesus
Following the news of John’s death, we see a response from Jesus that we should imitate: “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself” (v. 13).
For most of us these days, we are already in places by ourselves or only with our family.
So, what are we to do if we are already in such a place?
In Jesus’s situation and in ours, I believe that his response is more a reflection of what our hearts should follow. Jesus was with people for most of his days and it would have been quite hard to have any time to be alone with just his immediate followers or with his Father. In the same way, we can be in places of isolation, but where are our hearts?
Are we seeking to fill all the gaping holes with TV, movies, social media, books, exercise, and any other number of things that we can easily fill time with?
Or are we making our souls have time with Jesus? Are we leading our hearts to go to Jesus when we feel overwhelmed, sad, or anxious?
Our hearts do not naturally want to go to Jesus. We must make them go to him again and again. We must use this time of silence and loneliness to be with Jesus. We must “go away” from all that’s going on around us to be in the word and in prayer.
My soul, put your trust in God. All my help is from him (Psalm 28:7).
Oh my soul, trust in this One at all times, pour out your heart before him. He is your refuge (Psalm 62:8).
As we journey through these unknown waters, may we be people who go to God with our sorrows, our loneliness, and our fears.
And even though we are separated physically, may we also be people who follow the example of Jesus in the garden, by asking others to pray for us and letting them know how they can help us (Matt. 26:36-41).
Friends, take your hearts to our compassionate Savior. He will help.
And share your hearts with your people, with your church, with your family. Let them pray for you. That will also help.
I will arise and go to Jesus
He will embrace me as his own
And in the arms of my Savior
There is life forevermore“Come Ye Sinners” (Vertical Worship)