So many times, when we read passages of Scripture, we want to think of them as standalone events. We forget that many of these events are so closely connected that one may have actually had a direct impact on another. In fact, some of these events may have even happened in the same day, meaning the emotions and personal impact on the people involved in these events are still being felt while another event is taking place.
A perfect example of that can be found in the book of Matthew. Most all of us are familiar with the time that Jesus fed the 5,000 using only five loaves and two fish. Matthew 14:14-21 records for us this amazing miracle. Not only was Jesus able to feed 5,000 men and their families with what amounted to enough food for about 10 people, but the disciples were able to collect 12 baskets full of the leftovers. That’s the kind of story that just leaves you in awe at the power of Jesus.
We also read in Matthew about the unfortunate death of John the Baptist. We read in Matthew 14 that John was beheaded by Herod as the fulfillment of a promise that he made to his wife Herodias.
But did you notice that I said both of those events are recorded in Matthew 14? In fact, they appear to have happened very close to each other, maybe even within one a couple days of each other. Listen to how Matthew connects the two events.
“And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus. When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them…” [Matthew 14:11-14]
I’m not saying that John the Baptist died on the same day that Jesus fed the multitude, but they were definitely not separated by much. In fact, it appears to be completely possible that the disciples told Jesus about John’s death on the same day that the feeding happened. Jesus appeared to have been going off by Himself to mourn the death of John. However, He never made it. He was interrupted by a group of people that needed Him. He healed their sick and then fed them. Only then was He then able to finally be by Himself to mourn John’s death.
“Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children. Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.” [Matthew 14:21-23]
Understanding how closely connected these two events are gives you an entirely new perspective on the mental state of Jesus and the disciples when they encountered the multitude and fed them. They were grieving. They were hurting. It’s now understandable why the disciples first recommended that Jesus simply send the multitude away. We may have done the exact same thing after losing a close friend like that. But Jesus didn’t. He still looked out for the needs and well being of those around Him. No matter what hurt He felt, He never lost sight of His mission.
There are two things we can learn from this. First, let’s follow the example of Jesus and not allow ourselves to be consumed with our own needs while missing the needs of others. Second, don’t look at the Bible as a list of independent stories that are unrelated. It will change the way you read it.