Proper 13a – Sunday 31st July 2011
Matthew 14: 13-21
When Jesus heard the news about John, he left there in a boat and went to a lonely place by himself.
A lonely place. I’ve been racking my brains all morning to try and think of where I’ve heard that phrase before. I’m sure it’s a quote from a film … something along the lines … “He’s in a very lonely place”. But I can’t see who says it or where they say it. Drop me a comment if you think you have the answer.
By the way, I don’t mean the film of the same name, made famous by Humphrey Bogart. I’ve never seen it!
Anyway, wherever it is, whatever it is, Jesus found himself there.
Why mention it? – you might ask. Why not just skip to the main part of this section, the feeding of the 5000. It’s tempting. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever concentrated on this sentence before. I’ve always thought that that one verse really belongs with the preceding section, which outlines the death of John the Baptist. But it’s not connected to that story, it just indicates how the news affected Jesus.
The more I think about that one sentence, the more it brings God closer to me.
The reaction of Jesus is so often mirrored in our lives. Hear about the scale of the East Africa Drought and it takes you to a lonely place. Hear of the devastation of those whose lives have been cruelly violated by phone hacking and it takes you to a lonely place. See the senseless stupidity of war played out in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Libya and many other places and it takes you to a lonely place. Lose the love, trust, friendship or care of a precious person and it takes you to a lonely place. Feel the pain of bereavement and grief and it takes you to a lonely place. Lose the health and vitality that you’ve so long taken for granted and it takes you to a lonely place. Act like an idiot and hurt those who put their trust in you and it takes you to a lonely place.
And you could add numerous more examples of the hits we take in life and make the analogy I’ve just described. I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
The only good thing to be said about any of it, is that when we get to that lonely place Jesus is waiting for us. When we lift our heads, look into his eyes, we see the same hurt and pain that tears us apart.
Life is not about the disappointments we face. Life is not the sum of all our defeats. Life is how we respond. We can face it alone. Or we can grasp the hand that Jesus stretches out to us.
Reminds me of those words from Psalm 40:
I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.