Sunday, May 22, 2011

One Of Those Days

We've all had them. Bad days. Sometimes those bad days are a culmination of a lot of little things going wrong and we get annoyed and frustrated. Burnt toast. No coffee. The first scratch on the new car. A sick pet. Rain, rain, and more rain. Overworked and under-appreciated on the job. You name it. "Momma said there'd be days like this." And, of course, momma is always right. Sometimes, though, we have bad days because of something big and devastating and possibly unexpected that comes our way. A solemn medical diagnosis. Loss of a job. Loss of a friend or loved one. An accident. A home that burns to the ground. We've all been there in our own way. Little annoyances are one thing but the big tragedies are quite another thing altogether. They mark us. We withdraw. We mourn. We suffer. And sometimes we stay there. Too long. What now?

This morning I was reading Matthew 14. The first 12 verses talk in great detail about the death of John the Baptist. John was an amazing man of God. Jesus said that John was the greatest of all men ever born! He was the forerunner of Christ, preparing the way for the earthly ministry of Jesus. He was extremely well-known and considered a prophet. He was a powerful man who wore animal skins and ate locusts and honey. He drew crowds everywhere he went and baptized many, many people - even Jesus. And he was not afraid to speak the truth - even to the rulers of his day. And this, ultimately, got him killed. Beheaded, in fact. First, a little background. When Herod the Great died, he divided his kingdom among three of his sons - Archelaus, Antipas, and Philip II. Later, Herod the Great's fourth son, Herod Antipas, was made a tetrarch - a ruler of the fourth part of the kingdom. So he was the Roman ruler over the region where John the Baptist and Jesus ministered which included Galilee. While John was alive he publicly condemned Herod Antipas for falling in love with Herodias, who was the wife of his half brother Herod Philip I. Herod Antipas was also married. Herodias divorced her husband and Herod Antipas divorced his wife so they could be together and it was this union that John the Baptist denounced. He was imprisoned for this at the fortress-palace of Machaerus. While imprisoned Herod Antipas threw a birthday party for himself at his fortress-palace. Herodias had her daughter, Salome, dance for Herod Antipas. Salome was his step-daughter. She was most likely 12 years old and the dance, according to custom, was sensual in nature. He was very pleased with the dance, and Herodias used this opportunity to have her bewitched husband fulfill the oath he swore to Salome. You see, Herod swore that he would give her anything that she asked. So Herodias had Salome request the head of John the Baptist, who had spoken out against them. Verse 9 says the king was sorry, but "because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it (the head of John the Baptist) to be given." And so it was, on a platter, given to the girl, who then gave it to her mother. John the Baptist's body was discarded and the disciples came and took the body and buried it. After doing so they went to find Jesus and told Him what had happened. The response of Jesus is something to behold. Verse 13 says,

"Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself."

Jesus just wanted to be alone. This event marked Him. Jesus and John were close. I find it remarkable how Jesus was affected by the beheading of John the Baptist, whom He loved. He withdraws and goes to a desolate place. No doubt He is in mourning. He is sorrowing, alone, for the death of his friend. Naturally this event did not catch Him by surprise, for He is the Son of God! But we see His humanity in such a profound way here. But it's important to notice what's going on here. Something has happened in His life. A circumstance has arisen that may not have caught Him unaware, but it certainly did the disciples and the many followers of John and Jesus. But Jesus doesn't stay here. In fact, multitudes seek him out. They follow from the town. Everyone knows what has happened and they look for Jesus. Jesus has His time alone - which is important. But He goes ashore, where there is a great crowd awaiting Him. And some amazing things begin to happen. Jesus, even though hurting, sees the crowd and He has "compassion on them". And he heals their sick. This He does for a while. Evening sets in and the disciples essentially say - "it's been one of those days, Jesus. Send these people away and let's go eat." But Jesus says, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." The disciples take inventory and there is little food available - five loaves and two fish. Hardly enough to feed a crowd of this size - five thousand, plus woman and children. This crowd could have easily been twenty thousand. Jesus tells them to bring the food. He looks up to Heaven, prays, and breaks it up, miraculously multiplies it, and distributes it to the disciples for the crowds. Everyone eats. Everyone is satisfied. And there are twelve baskets full of food left over. What a miracle! This is perhaps the most well-known miracle that Jesus performed. In fact, it is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels. But what I had forgotten when I read the account of this miracle this morning in my quiet time was what preceded this miracle. Jesus is grieving to be sure. Yet, He doesn't stay there. He finds consolation in His pain when He considers those around Him in such great need. And He does so with compassion. What a lesson is here.

Too often when we get blind-sided by circumstances we miss out on or delay the healing that is available to us. There is healing in helping. There is healing when we consider those around us who are hurting just as we are. And we have something to offer them! We have a Lord and Savior who is a "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Jesus understands pain. Consider Him here, at first withdrawn, by Himself, in a boat on a lake trying to find a desolate place. He cares! He gets it. This blew me away this morning as I read this. But not just that He understands pain. But He understands our pain. He understand the pain of others. What an example for us. When we find ourselves in pain, grieving over some loss that marks us and causes us to withdraw - yes, we must come away for a little while, but we must go back to the shore and see those around us who have their own pain. And we must have compassion. I believe their is healing in helping the hurting.

We will find consolation for our suffering when we consider others with compassion, knowing they are suffering too.