Your heart is heavy, sorrow weighing it down. Your cousin, who had been imprisoned unjustly, executed. On a whim! So outrageously evil, but no one dare cry out against it.
You could have done something, tried to intervene to get him released. But at the same time you knew in your heart you mustn’t do it. Not from fear though. You had to hold yourself back from acting on his behalf. One of the hardest decisions you’ve had to make. Family and friends look at you strangely, accusingly, wondering why the silence on your part, especially since you’ve been outspoken on so many other issues.
Now it is too late for intervention. He’s dead. But you know at the same time it had to be this way. Never mind the ‘why’ of it.
The need to get away alone presses in. You are exhausted from the daily demands and now this traumatic news. You want some time to grieve; a time to cry out to God and dump on him all the emotions swirling inside. A little time to let God comfort and heal your heart is all you need now. A little time.
“And his (John the Baptist’s) head was brought in on a platter and given to the little maid, and she brought it to her mother.
12 And John’s disciples came and took up the body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.
13 When Jesus heard it, He withdrew from there privately in a boat to a solitary place.”
As I read this passage this morning I was struck by a few thoughts that stopped me in my tracks. One of the first was of Jesus hearing of John the Baptist’s beheading. Oh how that must of pained his heart. Though he and John lived far apart and didn’t see each other on a daily basis, they were family and spent those special feast days together with other cousins, aunts and uncles. All their lives as long as they could remember, at least once a year, if not more often, they had these family reunions in Jerusalem.
I’m guessing Jesus and John were kindred spirits. They both had a deep sensitivity to God’s spirit who was strongly at work in them. I’m also guessing they understood each other without having to say a lot. It was something they just weren’t able to explain or share with their other cousins and family members. The others didn’t have that same depth of connection with God. This was not a bad reflection on them; it is just the way God worked.
Jesus and John also had a unique relationship due to their callings from God. The Father revealed it to them both. They each knew who they were before God and each knew his calling. Then it was shown them who the other was: John, come in the spirit and power of Elijah as the forerunner of the Messiah, announcing his arrival, calling the people to repentance, preparing them to receive their Savior; Jesus that very Messiah, the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice to take away the sin of the world.
When John was arrested and thrown into prison Jesus hadn’t intervened because he knew in his spirit he had to keep hands off. He always and only acted on his Father’s voice, and his Father had been silent.
Now John was gone.
The pain in Jesus’ heart called for privacy. Alone time. Alone time, that is, with his Father.
Haven’t we all had those times when we need to unload our burdened heart and the only one who can take the strain of our pain is God, our heavenly Father. Perhaps those of us who tend to be introverts sense this more keenly, but surely it comes to us all at one time or another. There is something in being in the presence of God, blurting out all our hurts and confusion and unnamed pains to him, letting the bag of burdens we carry roll out of our hands and off our backs into his capable hands. It is real. It is deep. It is what we need in those times of the unbearableness of life.
This is what Jesus was sailing off for, I think. He climbed into a boat and pointed to No-man’s land. There is where he’d meet with his Father. There, alone with his Father would be comfort and healing and restoration.
But he didn’t get that in No-man’s land. Instead of getting, he had to give. Again.