As soon as Jesus heard the news [about Herod executing John the Baptist], he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
— Matthew 14:13-14 NLT
One of the most remarkable qualities of Jesus in his earthly ministry was his sense of compassion. He could see, feel, and identify with the desperation of people in need, and then he acted on that compassion in a way that personally involved himself. Not only do I admire his compassion, but I also desire to make it part of my life. Unfortunately, I have to battle my selfishness on one hand and my indiscipline on the other to say "no" to my tendency to just ignore the needs around me.
In this powerful situation, Jesus is grieving the loss of his cousin John the Baptist and is also fully aware that John's execution signals that he, too, will soon face execution. Yet rather than ignoring the crowd, he ministers to them and to his disciples as well, as the remainder of the 14th chapter shows. While we know that Jesus took time away from the crowd to be alone with his Father and that Jesus will spend much of the rest of his ministry away from the crowd teaching his disciples, he will interface repeatedly with the crowd to offer compassion and share God's love. Sometimes under heavy stress, there is no greater comfort than to be used by God to minister to others — not for our good, but for theirs!
Almighty and sacrificial Father, teach me to not be so self-focused and self-absorbed. Thank you for Jesus' example of active compassion as he not only feels the pain of others, but also acts to relieve it. Please use me to minister to those around me in pain and to do it in a way which brings glory to you and reflects the face of my Savior and your Son. In his name, Jesus my Lord, I pray. Amen.