Do you ever think about the circumstances that led Jesus and his disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee when they were met by a crowd of 5,000 people? Let’s back up a little bit in the text: “He (King Herod) sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And the disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus. Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns” (Matthew 14:10-13 ESV).
John the Baptist had just been beheaded and Jesus’ disciples buried his body. Jesus was attempting to find a desolate place to be by himself to grief and pray. According to Mark, Jesus also told his disciples to find a desolate place because the crowds had been so demanding that they “had no leisure even to eat” (Mark 6:31). John’s account says that the crowds went ahead of him to the other side of the sea because “they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick” (John 6:2).
Jesus and his disciples had just buried John. They were tired. They were grieving. Though they needed rest, the crowds were relentless. They were desperate. People needed Jesus, and Jesus needed to be alone. Jesus was attempting to be alone for the sake of privacy and prayer. But the crowds would not let them get the rest they so badly needed. Jesus, instead of becoming angry, had compassion on the crowds and ended up feeding them all.
As if things couldn’t get worse, the weary disciples were rowing across the sea while Jesus stayed behind to rest. A big storm arose and when they were 3 or 4 miles from shore and Jesus wasn’t there to save them, at least not yet. This seems like a metaphor for just about every lousy situation in life. Just when things seem like we are at rock bottom, a damaging storm comes out of nowhere and threatens to finish us off. Many people are discouraged right now, but there are a few things to remember that should give us hope. First, Jesus is suffering with those who suffer. He too lost his cousin John. Second, even Jesus gets exhausted and needs rest. And third, when the storm comes, he offers his hand, calms the storm, and climbs into the boat. We hope because of who Jesus is.