People have a wide array of “tools” for dealing with stress. Some people work, some check out with games, sports, TV or movies, some people exercise, some shop, and some drink or self-medicate with other substances. All of these things are designed to help us escape our problems for a while. Jesus shows us a better way. He was under increasing pressure as a polarizing public figure – adored by many and hated by many more. Added to that, was His awareness that the stress was not going to get better and was going to get significantly worse. On top of all of this normal stress He suffered a very painful loss. His cousin and close friend, John the Baptist, was brutally executed at the whim of King Herod’s wife. John had done nothing illegal, just spoken the truth and he was unjustly killed for it (see Matthew 14:3-12).
John was the one who set the stage for Jesus as He began His public ministry. John was a man of great faith and devotion to the mission, and now he was gone in a vengeful, political act that was a foretaste of what Jesus would face. When He hears about John’s murder we read, “As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone.” Matthew 14:13a (NLT) What we know about Jesus is that His being alone was so that He could pray, grieve and regroup. He didn’t look for diversions or distractions. He knew that the source of comfort and help that would truly satisfy His need was from His Father. Other things may make us feel better for a while, but they don’t really address our need for perspective or accomplish any real healing. Throughout His time on earth, and through the Bible, Jesus shows us that actively coming to the Father is where we will find what we need. Interestingly, the crowds saw Him leave and they followed Him. Rather than being angry and bitter about His “alone time” being interrupted, He showed us something amazing. Matthew goes on to report, “But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. 14 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Matthew 14:13-14 (NLT) Jesus’ regular practice of finding undistracted time alone to be focused on His Father, equipped Him to handle this moment well. And by the way, later that day He performed one of the most famous miracles in the Bible!