The theme song to the old TV sitcom “Cheers” had a line, “Wouldn’t you like to get away?” The beauty brand Calgon used to have a commercial with the tagline, “Calgon, take me away.” Southwest Airlines has “Wanna Get Away” promotional fares. (Of course, none of these references should be taken as endorsements – you should make your own decisions…with God’s help.) It seems like we sometimes want to get away…or at least marketers think that we do.
What do we want to get away from, though? For you, maybe it’s your worries and cares, or perhaps your responsibilities. Depending on where you live (and the time of year), you might want to get away from the weather, or just the monotony of “normal” life.
Today’s lesson is from Matthew 14. That chapter starts with Herod (“Herod the tetrarch”, according to verse 1, since there were multiple guys named Herod around that time) hearing about Jesus, and speculating that John the Baptist had come back to life.
Now, if you had been reading through the book of Matthew from the start, and got to this point, you might be a little surprised to learn that John was dead. Matthew 11 tells us that John the Baptist was in prison (Matthew 11:2), but he was still alive at that time.
So, being the inspired author that he was, Matthew steps back and recounts a story (like a “flashback” – where an old TV show or movie might make the screen all wavy to tell us that we’re going back in time) to explain how things got to where they are:
- Herod had imprisoned John the Baptist, who was speaking the truth about how Herod shouldn’t have had his brother Philip’s wife (her name was Herodias).
- This same wife’s daughter (who I suppose may have been both Herod’s step-daughter and niece, which is a little messed up), was given an offer to receive anything she wanted from Herod, so her mom suggested the head of John the Baptist on a platter.
- Herod was stuck because he had made a public promise (although I’m not sure whether or not God expects us to keep evil oaths, but being more careful about what we promise to do is a good way to avoid that entirely). So, John was beheaded as the girl had requested.
Matthew 14:13 is a key lead-in to our text from this chapter, both for today and the next few articles.
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.
Matthew 14:13 NIV
Remember, John wasn’t just Jesus’ herald and “way-preparer”. They were related, too. Some people describe John as Jesus’ cousin, probably based on the King James Version’s interpretation of Luke 1:36 KJV, which says that Mary and Elizabeth were cousins. Multiple other translations use the word “relative”, instead (including NASB, NIV, and NLT), so while I don’t think that we should be dogmatic about insisting that Jesus and John were second cousins in today’s formal sense, we could think of them as extended family, regardless of their specific biological relationship.
I’m not sure where we have gotten some of our incorrect ideas about Jesus, but we do have to deal with them, and hold them up to the light of truth in the Bible. In that light, it’s important to understand that Jesus wasn’t some sort of Stoic, unfeeling man. He wasn’t “too cool” to show His emotions, nor was He some sort of robot. After all, when God inspired the Bible, He took the time to remind us that “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35).
When John the Baptist died, it is natural that Jesus – who was fully human, in addition to being fully divine – would be pretty sad, and want to get away by himself. After all, who wants a bunch of people asking for your help when you are grieving?
It’s also possible (per a commentary cited below) that Jesus’ withdrawal was strategic. With Herod having had one prophet killed, for instance, he might be thinking about getting rid of others who were speaking the truth.
Still, regardless of the reason when Jesus Christ sought to get away, I don’t think that we should avoid doing the same. Of course, we should take a break from our normal activities for a good reason, like spending time with God and friends, or separating ourselves from a situation that is unhealthy. However, if our Lord and Savior sometimes needed a change of scenery, we should not naturally expect that life will always be one of laboring on the same path.
If your daily grind seems like it is taking you in a spiritually unhealthy direction, or if you have lost a passion for Jesus that you once had, consider taking a break. I realize that not everyone can just stop what they are doing, nor can we all afford to travel wherever we want, but there are opportunities to refresh and recharge (like Jesus did). Maybe you just need to spend an hour reading God’s Word over a weekend while hiding out in your room, or get out into nature and talk with God while enjoying His creation. Maybe you can get out to a coffee shop or diner where nobody knows you, just to sip and snack and think and pray.
Don’t be afraid to step away from something when you need do. I’m not saying that you should quit your job today, or just abandon your relationships with others because you read this article. Check with God as to what opportunities He has in mind for you, and make the time to take Him up on the offer. After all, there’s no place in this universe that is away from God.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for December 11, 2022
- The Lookout, December 11, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
- The College Press NIV Commentary – Matthew, by Larry Chouinard, pages 342-349. © 1997 College Press Publishing Co.