13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:13-14)
“When” refers to the execution of John the Baptist as told in 14:1-12.
Why did the crowds follow when he withdrew following John’s death? Why does Jesus withdraw in response to John’s death?
Another “when” — this time referring to Jesus’ arrival. Compassion is expressed in healing the sick.
Sometimes compassion is not my first response to “the crowds.” I get the desire to withdraw, to be apart. But when I do so and find my desire to retire is frustrated, my reaction is almost never compassion. Frustration. Anger. Bitterness.
Jesus responds of out compassion when what he wants, perhaps even needs, is not possible. This compassion is God’s gift, an overflowing of divine compassion into each of us who follow Christ.
The battle inside is what will react? The me that is growing (hopefully) more and more into the image of Christ. Or the me that is frustrated? Let compassion always trump frustration, words and offers of healing over anger.
God of Compassion, the needs around us are insistent. Not even time away can shield us from the hurt and the wandering. May we react out of your compassion and not our sense of frustrated longing. May the longing of others elicit your longing to bless in us as we seek to follow the one who healed, Jesus. Amen.