February 25, 2008

Jesus Retreats

Matthew 14:1-14

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.
Matthew 14:13


When an army retreats, it gives up its ground in a battle in hopes of regrouping to fight again. When a person retreats, she or he takes a deliberate break from daily routines or stress to regroup spiritually, physically, or mentally. Sometimes the ordinary routine of the day feels like a battle. Some people may surely have gone on retreat feeling at least temporarily defeated.

Why did Jesus retreat in this episode? His cousin John had been imprisoned and recently beheaded. ?When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew.? He was undoubtedly filled with grief, mourning John?s death just as he later mourned the death of Lazarus (John 11:32-35). Jesus may also have felt temporarily defeated. He and John had given themselves to a shared ministry in which John had prepared the way for Jesus, the promised deliverer of God?s people.

Remember and thank God that ?we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are? (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus retreated because he was human, ?just as we are.? He used solitude to find his bearings. We don?t know exactly what he did on this retreat, but we do know that afterward he continued his ministry of compassion and healing.

If Jesus needed to retreat at times, so do we.

Faithful God of unruly peoples and nations and weary Christians, give us space and time to see our need to retreat to you. Then return us in strength to your work again. Amen.

About the author — James and Rose Dekker

James C. Dekker is the pastor of Covenant Christian Reformed Church in St. Catharines, Ontario. Previously he served other congregations in Alberta and Ontario. Rose Dekker serves as a refugee coordinator for the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee in Canada. She also serves as a certified spiritual director. The Dekkers were missionaries for nine years with Christian Reformed World Missions, serving in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Venezuela, and Cuba.

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