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.” 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.”
Here, we see Jesus twice respond to those who claim they want to follow them. While Christ’s response to both may on the surface seem harsh, in reality, he told both what they needed to hear.
First, a scribe makes the bold claim that he will follow Jesus, wherever he may go. In the heat of the moment, we often feel confident about our claims. Our spouses bear our children, and we promise to always love them and have patience for them. When we are promoted, we may claim to be happy enough to never leave or look for another job. As time passes, our promises don’t mean very much to us. We grow grumpy with our wives and kids, we grow restless at our jobs. The takeaway here is not to let our passionate words be our only cause of action when it comes to following Christ. Jesus’s response reminds the scribe that the ministry of Christ does not stop at emotions, a point he further emphasizes when he speaks to the next man in the next few verses.
The easy response to “leave the dead to bury their own dead” is incredulous offense. How can this be said by someone who is loving and compassionate? Remember though, that Jesus could see right into peoples hearts. Even family can be idolatrous. The Gospel message puts Christ first and foremost; everything else must be secondary. We shouldn’t look to our families or our personal lives as an excuse for not coming to Jesus. If we are faithful to Jesus, we will bless those around us. This section is a good reminder to daily ask ourselves what we are putting before Jesus, and ask the Lord to help focus our hearts on him.
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