"Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick" (Matthew 14:13-14, NASB).
Jesus just learned that John the Baptist was beheaded. John was his forerunner, the one who blazed the trail ahead of Jesus. Jesus, as God, undoubtedly had to know this was going to happen, but in his humanity his heart was grief stricken. After hearing about John, Jesus withdrew to a secluded place to be by himself. He needed time alone, but it was not to be right then.
The heart of Jesus was full of compassion when the crowds gathered around him. In his humanity, it would have been so easy to just send them away, and tell them, "I'm too tired. I don't feel well. I've just lost my friend and forerunner." Jesus, however, was so selfless that he put aside his own needs to reach out to the needs of others.
It is a sharp contrast when I look at the disciples and when I look at myself. The impatience of the disciples showed when they told Jesus to send them away, but Jesus intended to feed five thousand, plus women and children. It was a lesson to the disciples in crucifying the fleshly and selfish desires long enough to be sensitive to the needs of others. It is the same lesson for me. It's so easy to walk away from someone who is in need, or be in a hurry to get home to relax in comfort.
If you enjoy being alone, as I do, this is particularly difficult. I believe the keyword in this passage is that Jesus felt compassion. What is compassion? At a Brennan Manning seminar I attended, the compassion of Jesus was described as gut wrenching and having your heart torn for another. Am I willing to be detoured away from my intended plans? Do I get angry when I'm detoured? Am I willing to take time to be with another? Am I willing to have my heart torn for another, as Jesus did for you and me? Am I selfish or selfless? These are tough questions, but worth giving some serious thought.