Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
(Matthew 8:18-20 ESV)
Recently we learned that the path to heaven is not easy. Very few people will actually take it. Today we meet a man who wants to follow Jesus but who hasn’t considered what that actually entails.
Interestingly, this man was a scribe. He claims that he will follow Jesus wherever Jesus goes. As we learned earlier in our study of Matthew, students sought out the rabbi they wanted to learn from and they followed him throughout life. It is likely that, since this man was already a scribe, he was already following another rabbi. But he decides to switch teams and follow Jesus, apparently after hearing Jesus speak and seeing Him perform miracles. Certainly this was a wise choice.
But following Jesus comes with s a cost, which Jesus explains to him. Following Jesus meant giving up a normal life, including having a permanent place to live. Jesus, referring to Himself here as the Son of Man (a phrase the prophet Daniel used to refer to the coming Messiah) had nowhere to lay His head.
Jesus certainly grew up in a home with His parents and had a place to live, income, food, and all the necessities of life until such time as He started His public ministry. But then He gave it all up to do God’s will – to show others the way to heaven. From that point forward He relied solely on God, His father, to provide for Him.
It seems that this scribe’s initial decision was born out of emotion. He had heard Jesus speak. He had seen Jesus miraculously heal many people. He was probably real excited to be joining Jesus’ entourage, perhaps even looking forward to the prestige he himself would receive as a result of following such a popular figure.
But Jesus gives Him a dose of reality. Following Him was not about emotion or prestige. Following Jesus was, and is, about doing God’s will while paying a heavy cost.
Many critics of Christianity claim it is based solely on emotions. They think Christians are simply looking for something that makes them feel good. If that were the case, nobody would ever be a Christian. Christianity doesn’t make anyone feel good about themselves. That is the point.
Christianity is all about recognizing that there is nothing good in us and that good only comes from God [Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; James 1:17 et. al]. It’s all about letting go of ourselves and allowing God to lead us to these good things we could never provide through our own efforts.
Jesus did not turn this man away. He simply told Him the truth. It was up to the man to decide what He wanted to do. God lets us choose. We can follow Him or not. He hopes we do. But He won’t force us to.
Either choice has consequences. If we choose to follow Jesus life will be tough. If we choose not to follow Him eternity will be tougher. Giving up temporary comforts for an eternity in heaven is the wise choice. But it’s not necessarily the easy one.
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