Sunday, July 30, 2017

Jesus, The Model of Self-Giving

Matthew 14:13-14 (NRSV): Jesus, The Model of Self-Giving
13Now when Jesus heard [of John’s death], he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.
Living in the modern world is not easy, for we are stretched in many ways by busyness, stress, and exhaustion. In this context, it is challenging to help others and be supportive. Jesus experiences the same human challenges in Scripture, however. And his example is one we should notice. Christ’s moments of self-giving love shine during his most difficult human challenges.
In the above passage, Jesus receives the news that John the Baptist is dead. This is significant to Jesus on many levels -- John was Jesus’ cousin and the herald of his mission among the people. Learning about John’s senseless death at the hands of Herod would have been devastating to Jesus. So what does Jesus do? He does the same thing most of us would do in this situation, grieve and pray: “[Jesus] withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself” (13).
Throughout Scripture, however, Jesus always puts others first. And this moment is no different. Through his humanity, Jesus experiences every human emotion, even the grief and loss of a dear friend and family member.  Jesus, moreover, models what self-giving looks like. Instead of isolating himself in prayer and dealing with his grief and deep sense of loss, Jesus sees “a great crowd; and he [has] compassion for them and [cures] their sick” (14). Jesus never misses a moment to serve others, even in the depth of his human emotional weakness.
As disciples, we are to learn from and imitate Jesus’ love in the world. How does this moment prepare us to better serve others and imitate God’s love? There are times when we, too, experience trial, grief, and emotional emptiness. But the world does not stop needing our love, our healing, and our care. As educators, parents, family members, and friends, we are called to love in the midst of our personal suffering. We are called to imitate Jesus in the small things we do by putting others first.
I pray that we follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ by loving others even in the depths of our own pain. And in giving ourselves away in love, we may find that our pain, too, is healed by the reciprocated love of others.
Have a blessed week!