Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
(Matthew 8:21-22 ESV)
Yesterday we met a man who wished to follow Jesus but who had failed to count the cost of doing so. Today we meet another man who wishes to follow Jesus, but he too has not thought it all the way through.
Interestingly, this man is described as another of the disciples. Often when we use the word “disciple” we are referring to one of the twelve that Jesus called to follow Him. The word “disciple” actually means student and it’s safe to say that Jesus had many other disciples other than the core twelve.
When Jesus called Peter, Andrew, John, and James they dropped everything and followed Him [Matthew 4:18-22]. This man was not ready to do that. He first wanted to go bury [his] father. Jesus responds by telling him to forget that and follow Him. This may seem like a harsh statement from Jesus – one that disrespects this man’s deceased father. But it actually reveals the character of this man.
This man’s father was not actually dead. If he were, this man would not be out in public. He would be home mourning. The phrase “bury my father”, which is still used today in Jewish culture, means that this man wanted to fulfill his obligations to his parents. He wanted to take care of his parents into their old age. Possibly he didn’t want to lose out on the inheritance he’d receive when they died. But that could have taken many years.
Notice that Jesus was not hesitant to discourage him (and others) from following Him. Jesus never agreed with anyone’s plans just to make them feel good. He confronted them with the truth. This is one way we can identify false teachers. False teachers are trying to build an entourage. The more people the better so they never turn anyone away.
But Jesus was never interested in attracting crowds. He was interested in seeing people get into heaven. It wasn’t about His ego. It was about everyone else’s eternity.
This man knew it was a good idea to follow Jesus, and he wanted to do it, but not just yet. He wanted to wait until the time was “right”. But Jesus bluntly tells him the truth: the right time is now.
We all have our “some day” plans. “Some day” I’ll go back to school. “Some day” I’ll get to Paris. But unless we make an effort, those “some days” never come.
There are many people who think like the man in today’s passage. They know in the back of their minds that God probably exists and they should find out more about Him. They tell themselves they’ll get to it “some day”. But they don’t. They are too busy watching sports, working overtime, or playing Angry Birds.
All of that is a waste of time. The only thing any of those activities accomplish is to keep someone separated from God not only on earth, but for all eternity.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.