Daily Readings & Thought for July 13th. “HE WENT UP … TO PRAY”
Today we first read in Matthew ch. 14 of the hatred plain speaking can cause when its’ aim is to condemn evil behaviour. John the Baptist had evidently publicly condemned Herodias; she is now the ‘wife’ of Herod having left her husband Philip, his brother. She took the opportunity provided by a foolish oath of Herod, to have John the Baptist beheaded (v.3-12).
In v. 13 we read “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself,” but “when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them…” [v.14]
We read again that it is a “desolate place” [v.15] and his disciples want him to “send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus greatly surprises them by the miracle of multiplying loaves and fish among “about five thousand men, besides women and children.” [v.21] After that Jesus “dismissed the crowds” and then “he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone” [v.23]
There is no doubt the awesome death of his cousin John affected him deeply – this illustrates how true are the words we read in Hebrews, “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” [2 v.18] He is “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” For that reason, we are told in ch. 4, we do not have “a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” [v.15] So let us go “up … to pray“, wherever and whenever it seems appropriate in our personal circumstances. How wonderful, passing normal human comprehension that “we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.” [ Heb. 7 v.26]
How soon now, before he comes to turn our faith to sight. Let us also follow the example of Moses who “by faith left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.” [Heb 11 v.27] True faith is ‘spiritual sight.’ What a marvellous letter for study and meditation is the letter to the Hebrews.