I grew up in the church. I have heard the stories of Jesus feeding the 5000 and of Jesus walking on the water, but I only recently realized the context of these stories. What was actually happening in the life of Jesus during these miraculous events.
Because Matthew 14 opens up with the death of John the Baptist. I don’t know how close Jesus and John were growing up. I know that when everything was happening to Mary, the angel told her about everything happening to Elizabeth, and Mary traveled to help. I know that in the womb, John recognized the divine nature of Jesus, just as he does at Jesus’s baptism. But I don’t know how much they spent time together between these two events.
But here, we come to the end of John’s life. Herod had imprisoned him for speaking out against his relationship with his brother’s wife, Herodias. And during a party, John’s head is presented to Herodias’s daughter on a platter. John is dead. His body, what is left, is buried by his disciples. And word is sent to Jesus.
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.Matthew 14:13
He set out on a boat to a place where he thought he would be alone. But when he arrived, the people were there, waiting for him. And he had compassion. I just can’t imagine, in those moments of grief, his compassion compelled him to teach, encourage, and heal those around him.
This chosen remote place wasn’t ideal for dinner preparations, which prompts the miraculous feeding of the 5000. Once everyone is fed and there are enough leftovers to sustain his followers. He sends them away on the boat he arrived in. He dismisses the crowd. And he goes to the mountainside to pray.
Because this entire time, he has yet to have a moment to grieve. A moment to spend with his Father, perhaps talking to him about his loss. If ever he needed a recharge, this would be one of those moments. At then, at dawn, he walks on the water.
Yes. Feeding over 5000 people with five loaves and two fish is amazing. Walking on crashing waves through howling winds is amazing. But doing it all in the midst of grief. In the loss of family, both physically and spiritually, he kept going. I just want to sit today in the awe of Jesus’s compassion. He came on this earth to love and to show us how to love. He grieved and then he showed the power of God over this broken earth. In his lowest moments, he relied on the miraculous divine strength of God to do amazing things. It gives me hope that even in the lowest grief, God is still working, preparing to do things beautiful and miraculous.