After [Jesus] had dismissed [the crowd], he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone…
Matthew 14:23 (NIV)
I remember seeing a news story many years ago that talked about a special breed of audiophiles who try to get high-definition recordings of pure nature sounds. They’re the ones who record the sounds that end up on our noise machines or sound effect apps that help us sleep at night. This particular news story was about the fact that their job is getting increasingly harder. The problem is that the noise of civilization is crowding in everywhere, making it difficult to find the pure sounds of creation without planes, trains, automobiles, and cells phones interrupting.
Caught between the quiet and the noise of life. Now there’s a metaphor that resonates with me.
Today’s chapter begins with the unjust and tragic execution of John the Baptist, who was killed because a spoiled, drunken, frat-boy king got turned on watching his niece/step-daughter shake her booty at his high society soiree. Promising to grant her any wish, her mother prompted her to ask for John’s head on a platter.
John’s disciples bury the body and immediately find Jesus to tell him the news. I find it so easy to dehumanize Jesus as I read and reread the stories. Today, I found myself imagining Jesus’ reaction to the news. John was Jesus’ cousin, born within a few months of one another. Their mothers experienced miraculous conceptions and pregnancies together. They knew one another since they were kids. Our daughters Taylor and Madison each have a cousin born within months of one another. I’ve witnessed the special bond they continue to have. That was Jesus and John. Just a few chapters ago, Jesus said of his cousin, “There is no one greater than John!”
When Jesus hears the news, Matthew records that He immediately got in a boat and withdrew to a solitary place. How human. Being fully human, Jesus is going to grieve in all of the emotional stages of human grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, then acceptance. He wants to be alone.
In the quiet privacy of a boat, Jesus seeks an equally quiet, solitary place out in nature to be alone, to grieve. But He can’t escape the din of civilization:
Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.
By the time Jesus lands onshore in a solitary place, the crowd is already assembled. He can’t escape.
I felt that tension this morning as I read about Jesus healing the sick, working miracles, and feeding the thousands. Inside, He’s grieving. Inside, He’s tired. Inside, He just wants to be left alone.
The need to be alone in the quiet leads Jesus to send the disciples on ahead in the boat. Jesus dismisses the crowd.
After Jesus had dismissed the crowd, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.
In the quiet this morning, I found myself identifying with the tension that Jesus must have felt at that moment. I feel the pull to quiet. I need to withdraw, to feel, to ponder, to pray, to rest, to sit in the silence. But, life doesn’t stop. The task list that’s never empty, the needs of loved ones, the deadlines at work, the commitments I’ve made, the friends’ requests, the responsibilities of everyday life… every time I withdraw to a solitary place, I find them all noisily waiting for me when I arrive.
Jesus had compassion. Jesus took care of the crowds, but He didn’t give up on His need for quiet. If anything, the crowds only intensified His determination to make it happen. No crowds, no disciples even.
“Hey! Everyone? Leave me.”
Along this life journey, I’ve learned that quiet time is necessary. I may not always succeed in shutting out the world and finding the quiet. I may find the quiet only to find it encroached by interruptions. Like Jesus, I don’t want to get angry with the interrupters. I want to be compassionate. I also don’t want to give up seeking quiet. It may just have to intensify my effort to find it.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.