“When Jesus heard what had happened (to John the Baptist), he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” – Matthew 14:13-16
You are most likely familiar with the classic Sunday School story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with just five loaves of bread and two fish. When we think about this story, we often emphasize the incredible miracle that Jesus performed to provide sustenance for the following crowd. But there are also important details to be found in the moments leading up to Jesus’ provision.
Let’s set the scene: Jesus had just learned that His close friend and family member, John the Baptist, had died. And not only had he died, he had been beheaded while in prison. Imagine the emotional turmoil this would cause. Upon learning this, Jesus knew it was time for Him to withdraw for a moment; to take time to sit in peace and mourn His loved one before continuing with His ministry. He went to a solitary place; however, as we see in verse 13, “the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.”
Imagine trying to escape, to have privacy for just a moment during such a hard time, yet you are followed by a mass of people who, most likely, aren’t aware of what you’re going through.
The following crowd might sound like a nuisance in this story, but I think we can learn so much from those persistent people. They knew there was something special about Jesus, and they didn’t want to miss out on it; even if that meant literally dropping everything to follow Him out of town as He left. Think about it: Jesus left the city and went to a “remote place,” which means the crowd also journeyed to this remote place. They left their homes and their jobs. As we know from the story, many did not come prepared with enough food. They just followed.
This would be really hard for some of us – trust me, I know. I’m a planner. I would not classify myself as spontaneous and I don’t like surprises. I like to know exactly what’s happening today, and how I can best be prepared for it. Would I have dropped everything to follow Jesus, not knowing where, or how long, I would be gone? Would I have that kind of faith?
Is there anything in your life that would be hard to give up in order to follow Jesus? Maybe it’s a feeling of security that you don’t want to give up. Maybe you’re happy where you live right now and you’re afraid of where He will call you to go. Let’s examine our own lives today and figure out if there’s anything holding us back from following Jesus into the unknown like the crowd did that day.
It can be scary, but we are called to have this kind of faith. The best part is, where Jesus leads He provides. Let’s recall again the turmoil Jesus was going through. He could have chosen to ignore the crowd – to hop back on the boat and find another location or have the disciples shoo them away. But He didn’t. He actually did the opposite: He had compassion on them.
When we follow Christ into the unknown, He sees us. He won’t turn us away; He will welcome us with open arms. And if we failed to prepare – if we didn’t bring any food with us like the crowd that followed Him – He will provide.
Thank you for showering Your compassion on us. We know that in any circumstance we can come to You, and we will not be turned away or ignored. Thank You for caring about us deeply and understanding our needs.
Help us to have faith like the crowd that followed You. No matter what we have going on, give us the courage to drop what we think is important, and instead give our whole selves to You. Help us to identify what is holding us back from fully committing our lives to You today. You call us to Love You with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). Allow us to trust You fully with all four of those and to follow You, even if the destination is unknown. We know that wherever you lead us, You will provide.
In Jesus’ Name,