He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He began to teach them many things. – Mark 6:34
13 Now when Jesus heard it, He withdrew from there in a boat, to a lonely place by Himself; and when the multitudes heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities.
14 And when He went ashore, He saw a great multitude, and felt compassion for them, and healed their sick.
Greta Garbo was perhaps most remembered for her famous quote was “I want to be alone.” In 2005, the American Film Institute voted it to be the 30th most memorable movie quote of all time. It is derived from the 1932 Hollywood film Grand Hotel.
She speaks these words, first pathetically to her maid and manager, “I want to be alone.” She then repeats herself then as a plaintive cry; and, finally, as a futile declaration to a stranger, “I just want to be alone.”
Garbo made a practice of shunning reporters, premieres, and fan mail during her career. According to an article in LIFE magazine in 1955, she clarified, “I never said, ‘I want to be alone.’” “I only said, ‘I want to be let alone!’ There is all the difference.”
A portrait was made by C.S. Bull to promote Garbo’s film, Mata Hari. It became one of the most recognized “Garbo” images. Her hands frame her face, hair beautifully pulled back and her eyes looking slightly down. It epitomizes her image as being in her own world, distant, dignified, a true goddess in her solitude . . . alone.
When difficult circumstances occur, some people want to be alone and regroup. While others want to find consolation with others. At this point in the Gospel of Matthew, a disappointing and seemingly tragic event occurred. John the Baptist had been executed by Herod Antipas. Even though He knew it was destined to happen, for the Lord Jesus Christ, John’s death, humanly speaking, was a great loss. They were cousins and no doubt knew each other growing up. Before John knew that the Lord Jesus Christ was the son of God, he was reluctant to baptize Him (Matthew 3:13-17).
Matthew 14:13 Now when Jesus heard it, He withdrew . . . to a remote area to be alone.
Matthew 14:13 when the crowds heard of this, they followed Him . . .
The Lord Jesus Christ, as the God-man, was undiminished deity and perfect humanity in one person. In this account, His humanity is clearly on display. Jesus would frequently seek to be alone and pray (Matthew 14:23). Being alone with the Father was a time of reflection, comfort, guidance, and focus. “The day’s events . . . sent Jesus to find solace in communion with his Father” (Chouinard).
“Jesus spent a good deal of His time alone with God in prayer. He made this a practice not only to make requests of His Father, but even more to stay in close fellowship with Him and enjoy His company” (Stanley).
The multitudes did the next best thing, they sought to be in the presence of the one who could comfort them, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. As a result, the solitude that He was seeking eluded Him.
The narrative provides a rare glimpse of the emotions of the Lord Jesus Christ and what motivated His actions. He observed the plight of the multitude and recognized their determined efforts to be in His presence. They were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34).
He was moved with compassion. He had compassion “his heart was filled with pity” literally means “his insides were stirred up” (UBS).
This is intended as a teachable moment for the disciples and through them, us. If we are to understand the person and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ and follow after him in service, “we must learn to see the ‘crowds’ through the eyes of Jesus, and take personal responsibility for their needs” (Chouinard).
REFLECT & PRAY
The Lord Jesus Christ often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:16). Recall that Jesus had no home of His own during His public ministry as Messiah. He had no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20). To be alone, He had to withdraw from people.
Father, it is so easy to put off having a special time with You. Help me to reconfigure my thinking so that you are part of my daily routine.
If the Lord Jesus Christ needed time alone to be a part with the Father, how much more does each child of the King?
These periods of being alone with the Father to pray and meditate on the Scripture have come to be called quiet times. Following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are to withdraw from the busyness and clutter of the world to a secluded spot to have intimate communion with the Father. Such a spot should be comfortable and without distractions. We do not have to go anywhere to do this. We simply set aside a place where we live, wherever we can be uninterrupted. What is ideal is a solitary, silent location where there would be no interruptions from family members, media, or cell phones.
This is where we meet with the Father one-on-one. Typically, it involves reading a portion of Scripture, reflection, and prayer. Often, the Father provides guidance and direction for what lies ahead. The length of the quiet time is flexible. But we should allow ourselves enough time to meditate on what we read and pray about it, along with anything else that comes to mind. A large number of us have daily routines that we follow when we wake up in the morning. Our quiet time with the Father simply becomes one more component of our daily morning activities.
Do not expect to have instant, mature quiet times or results. Like any relationship and effort worth doing, it takes repetition and practice. But once it becomes a regular habit, and we experience the delight of “face time” with the Father, it becomes something we eagerly look forward to. If we are too busy to spend time alone with the Father, we are too busy! We need to consider revising our priorities and scheduling.