Welcome to “Java for Life.” I am your online barista. Allow me to fix you a devotional drink about the Christian life. Today’s cup is an Almond Latte about following Jesus. It’s about the desire to follow him, but there are excuses to postpone it. There is the story of the story of the disciple who wanted to follow Jesus but had to take care of things before he committed. His story is found in Matthew 8:21-22 where it says, “Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Jesus’ answer is surprising and potentially troubling. Is he saying that funerals are not important? Actually, he is not saying that. Funerals have always been important since the very beginning when Abraham took great care to bury his wife, Sarah. Since then there have been many other noble examples of people showing respect to the deceased. In fact, Jesus himself was honored by been laid in a rich man’s tomb.
No, Jesus is not against the noble and honorable practice of burying loved ones. And so, there must be something else going on here. Let’s start by confirming a basic truth that Jesus is able to read hearts as he is the son of God. And here, Jesus looks into the prospective disciple’s heart and sees a higher priority than discipleship. The man says that he wants to follow Jesus, but that desire is really not that strong.
This is certain, because the father is not dead! That’s right, the father is not dead and there is no funeral to be arranged! In fact, all scholars agree that the phrase “bury my father” was just an expression, not to be taken literally. It’s a figure of speech. It’s a common expression of taking care of the family. And so, it means that a person would be committed to take care of the family and the family business until the father passes. And once all the familial duties have been done, then the family inheritance will be obtained.
And so, the average Israelite would keep this commitment in hopes of having their inheritance secured. And the truth is that this can take a very long time. It could take 40 to 50 years if the father is young and healthy. And so, the phrase “bury my father” is really an expression of taking care of one’s ow material security.
The big picture here is that the disciple really did want to follow Jesus, but there are other things that are more important in his life. He has other priorities.
To this, Jesus replied in vs.22 “Follow me…” Jesus is saying, “if you want to follow me, then follow me” In other words, don’t make excuses. Don’t delay the commitment. Don’t talk about other things you want to do. Jesus says, “ Let the dead bury their own dead.” This means, let the spiritually dead bury their own dead, which means, let them chase after the things of this world.
Now, Jesus is not saying that material things are unimportant. He’s not against getting an inheritance, nor is he opposed to taking care of your family. Material things are important to a degree. It’s just that true discipleship begins by placing a greater value on following Jesus and the things of the kingdom of God
If you are meeting in a small group, you can pause now to discuss what it means to follow Jesus. What is the balance between material things and spiritual things? Have you ever been in a situation where you make to make a choice between following Jesus and something else? What are some excuses people make not to follow Jesus or to postpone their decision? Are there reasons you are postponing your commitment? Share your commitment to follow Jesus and what decisions you have made in this new year.
That’s it for now. Until next time, take time to consider your priorities and remember that this is a step towards the greater purpose for your life