“Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself …”. (Matthew 14:13)
The unjust death of John the Baptist was very difficult to understand. And it seemed to hit Jesus hard as well. Matthew 14 tells us that when He heard about it, Jesus left the place where He was, and was heading off to be by Himself. There are at least three indications in this text of the nature of the seclusion that Jesus was seeking:
— First, it says: “He withdrew”. Jesus wanted to get away from crowds and activities.
— Then it indicates He was going “to a secluded place”. He wanted to be where no one else was.
— Finally it concludes that He was going to be “by Himself”.
In three different ways this verse indicates that Jesus needed some time alone. This was actually not unusual for Him. Every day Jesus got up and went out to a lonely place to pray (Mark 1:35). But evidently sometimes He needed even more than that; He needed to be away from the typical schedule and activities, and spend some time alone with God. Although He was initially interrupted, as :14+ indicates, and He ministered to the crowds and fed the 5000, when it was all over He “sent the crowds away” (:22) and finally “He was there alone.” (:23) Albeit with great effort, Jesus made it a priority to have some quality extended time with His Heavenly Father alone.
With the fast-paced lives that many of us live, it can be hard to find real “quiet time” like that, where we can be by ourselves, and pray and fellowship with God. But if Jesus needed that, we are foolish to believe that we do not as well. As we follow “in His steps” (I Peter 2:21) as His disciples, we need to learn to do what He did here, and occasionally “withdraw”, “to a secluded place”, “by ourselves.”