“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
My morning routine has been suffering lately. Some mornings (too many recently) I roll out of bed with barely enough time to make it to work. No time for exercise, no time for breakfast, no time for Jesus. I’m wearing thin. I can blame it on the cold mornings or the chaos of the holidays but those are just excuses for my laziness and lack of discipline. So when I have found time to read the Word, I’m reading in Matthew. One morning I opened up the Bible and I began to feel the weight of all the things that needed to be done around my house—presents to wrap, Christmas cards to write, dishes to wash, floors to vacuum, baking to do, friends to see before they graduate and leave. There’s so much to be done! And it was all screaming at me as I was trying to focus and calm my heart with the Word.
So I strapped myself to the couch (metaphorically speaking) and started back up where I had left off in Matthew 14. Jesus had just heard that John the Baptist had been beheaded by Herod. It says that Jesus “withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself” (14:13). He needed time to grieve and to talk to his Father but the crowds pressed in; Jesus, being who He was, saw their need and had compassion on them. He healed their sick, spent time with them, and fed the massive crowd with just 5 loaves and 2 fish.
Did you catch that? Jesus was grieving over his cousin, John—the one who had leapt for joy in the womb when Mary had visited Elizabeth (Luke 1:44), perhaps they had even played together when they were young. This was Jesus’ forerunner and announcer, the one who had prepared the way in the wilderness for Him (Mt 3:3), the one whom Jesus had said “among those born of women there has arisen no one greater” (Mt 11:11). But Jesus put his emotions and desire to be in a “desolate place by himself” aside in order to serve the 5000 men plus women and children that had gathered to him. What He needed could wait.
After the disciples had finished collecting the 12 baskets of leftovers, He sent them on ahead across the sea so that he could dismiss the crowds and finally get some time to be alone with His Father. It’s possible, though purely speculation and maybe my overactive imagination, that Jesus may have even applauded and welcomed John into eternal joy during his time away from his disciples (not unlike the visit he had with Moses and Elijah in Matthew 17) or maybe He was just seeking comfort for his grieving heart in communion with his Father. In any case, in order to catch up to his disciples who were a long way from shore, Jesus had to walk across the sea and have a little fun with Peter…and display a little more of His glory. He must have been feeling better.
While I was reading this passage in Scripture, it struck me that in the midst of all this holiday hustle and bustle, even with the loneliness or grief that this season can bring with it, I want to be like Jesus. I want to put others’ needs before my own as He did. I can’t heal the sick or feed a multitude, but there are plenty of opportunities to give of my time, money and resources to those around me. The conduits for doing so are all around and they are especially publicized during this season.
But that’s not all that stood out to me. I also know that I need time to spend alone with Him (If Jesus needed time alone with the Father, then I definitely need it!) even when things are busy, people are pressing in on me, and I have to sacrifice things that are important to me…like sleep. I need time with my Father. There is nothing more important than that. So in this season of presents, family, parties, and eggnog, enjoy the festivities but be sure to make time for what is truly important.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25-26)