Jesus Mourns the Death of John the Baptist

“Jesus mourns the death of John the Baptist”
Matthew 14:13 in a couplet
Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Related posts: 17 Ordinary Time Saturday, Beatitudes, Day 2, 17 Ordinary Time Sunday
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.

Matthew 14:13

John the Baptist was “the voice of one crying in the wilderness (eremós)” (Mark 1:3; Matthew 3:3; Luke 3:4). At the news of his death, Jesus withdrew to a “deserted place (erēmon topon),” by himself (Matthew 14:13).

In the Bible, the desert (or wilderness) is a place of encounter with God and truth. The Spirit drove Jesus into the desert (eremós) to be tempted by the devil (Mark 1:12; Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1).

Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh with the request: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Let my people go, that they may hold a feast for me in the wilderness” (Exodus 5:1). 

The children of Israel never imagined that they would wander in the desert for forty years! The long years of nomadic trial, temptation, and trust in the Lord for daily bread were designed to attune ears to the voice of God. Away from the hustle and bustle of Egyptian cities, God called his people to himself in the wilderness.

The Hebrew word for wilderness (midbar) is translated as eremós in the Greek Septuagint. The biblical concept of the wilderness (midbar) is derived from the noun dabar (speech, word) and the verb dabar (to speak). 

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the “word of the Lord” visits patriarchs and prophets with divine guidance and directives (e.g., Genesis 15:1, 4; I Samuel 15:10; 2 Samuel 7:4; 24:11; Jeremiah 1:4). The “Ten Commandments” are the “ten words” given to Moses in the wilderness of Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 4:13; Hebrew).

In Matthew’s version of the feeding of the five thousand, the crowd followed Jesus into the wilderness and received an abundant feast from five loaves and two fish. As the Father fed the Israelites in the desert with “bread from heaven” (manna) and the word of the Lord (the five books of the Pentateuch and the two tablets of the law) through his servant Moses, he fed them with his own Son, the Word made flesh and “true bread from heaven” (John 6:32). 

When the Word of the Lord fills our being, we become a desert oasis for our God.

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.

Hosea 2:14 (RSV; Hosea 2:16 in NABRE)

1 thought on “Jesus Mourns the Death of John the Baptist

  1. cenaclemary12

    Your post reminds me of the many times I have been blessed in finding a “desert oasis” just when I needed one. May our journeys be blessed with what we need to follow the holy path. Thanks for your insights!


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