Jesus was fully man and fully God. His humanity is intriguing and gives us so much hope in our own human frailty. Being fully man, he experienced all the things that we do. Some of the most encouraging reminders of this are seen in the desires and emotions he experienced. Scripture is full of instances in which Jesus expressed emotion and the weakness of his flesh.(Matthew 26:38, John 11:33-35, John 13:21)
One such text struck me today while reading Matthew 14. Although it isn’t one of the overt examples of his humanity, it drew me in to relating with Jesus in his emotional experience. Verses 1-12 tell of the awful and unjust death of John the Baptist; the man who came before Jesus, giving his life to prepare the way for him. Upon hearing this, verse 13 says that,
“Jesus withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself....” (Matthew 14:13)
Although not stated specifically, having experienced death ourselves, we can almost infer his need to grieve from his desire to be alone. We see many examples of Jesus demonstrating this need to be alone. The need to rest. He modeled what true rest was over and over for the disciples (see the same story in Mark 6). In this situation, Jesus may have needed rest for his heart. A time of rest to grieve, process, lament, pray and seek the Lord. As fallen humans, we too must desire to rest; to put ourselves in a place where we can be alone and connect with the Lord emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually in heart, mind, and spirit.
Relational Neediness and Responsibility
Even though this was Jesus’ desire, it was not what happened. Not even a verse later, in the very next sentence it says;
“...But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.” (Matthew 14:13)
The people followed him. He was unable to be alone and spend time processing the news he had just received of John’s death. He was needed. The account written in Mark states,
“When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:34)
He went on to meet their needs. He taught, healed, and even fed them, performing one of his more memorable miracles of feeding the 5,000. Jesus set aside his own needs and desires for the sake of those who needed him.
This is where I found myself relating with Jesus. How often do we feel this way? Many of us are needed constantly by others. If you are a mom in a season of little ones like myself, I know you relate with the reality of 24/7 neediness. But it is also our older children, family, friends, coworkers or church members pulling us in many directions. Although we are not supplying needs the same way Jesus is (or often with the same heart), we are still serving and loving those he has placed in front of us.
Spiritual Dependence and Rest
Yet as we see and relate with Jesus in denying his own needs for those in front of him, let us not miss what he has to teach us in the midst of it. He didn’t just deny himself something he needed, but he relied on the Father to sustain him in human weakness as he poured out himself for others. This is where we often fall short. We usually manage to deny ourselves for others yet attempt to provide for their needs out of our own strength when we often have nothing to give. We must allow our weakness to cause us to rely on the Father (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
After Jesus supplies their needs, we see him modeling another practice that we often miss. He doesn’t brush past his need to be alone and go on to the next task. He finishes the task of serving and immediately seeks the rest he needs in the Father.
“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.” (Matthew 14:22-23)
He does not let another moment pass before he seeks the Lord. Jesus knew his human need to submit himself to the Lord. He knew the urgency of resting - in heart, mind and spirit - before he even rested physically.
“And in the fourth watch of the night (about 3 AM) he came to them, walking on the sea.” (Matthew 14:25)
Jesus knew that he could not go another hour without resting in the Lord, even if it meant he did not sleep. Unlike Jesus, our emotions, needs and desires often lead us to sin. (Hebrews 4:15-16). When we don’t allow our emotions and desires to lead us to the Father, the enemy often uses them to lead us away from him (1 Peter 5:6-8). We must fight for rest in God.
What about you?
So where does resting in the Lord rank for you? Is it last on your list of needs? Pursued only if you have extra time? Or is it sought after immediately?
We must remember that our needs create in us a need for the Father (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
When we experience emotional emptiness as a result of confusion, loss, pain and suffering, it reminds us of the weakness of our humanity and the magnitude of our savior (1 Peter 4:12-13, 1 Corinthians 4:16-18, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
When our relationships and responsibilities pull us away and demand from us what we do not have to give, we are reminded of the call to continue to serve in reliance on God. (Philippians 2:13-16)
We were created to rest and rely; to rest in and rely on God when others rely on us. To have our needs met in Him so that we can meet the needs of others (Isaiah 40:30-31, Philippians 4:19, 2 Corinthians 1:3-7).
So may the neediness of others remind us of ours so that we can serve and love with dependence and hope that far exceeds our humanity.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the
power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20