Not long after Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, some guys told Him they’d like to follow Him. Jesus attempts to thwart their desire.
To the first, Jesus tells him that He has no place to lay His head. Are you sure you know what you’re asking? There is no creature comfort in following Christ.
The next guy said he’d like to follow BUT “suffer me first to go and bury my father.” Jesus replies with “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.”
I have heard the explanation that the man’s father was not dead yet, so the son was actually saying “let me go take care of my old dad until he dies.” This seems plausible since why would the guy be there in the first place if his dad had just died? People buried dead people the same day they died back then.
Since that’s the case, we tend to downplay the severity of Jesus’ words. We view this wannabe disciple as one who is looking for a loophole. “Let me chill for a few years, but I’ll get around to following you.”
But I believe this man had a sincere desire to follow Christ, and, at the same time, had a sincere desire to take care of his dying dad.
I think we do injustice to this man, as well as to Jesus’ point, if we view him as an excuse-making slacker.
Jesus’ words are severe. There is no sympathy. “Oh, sorry to hear about your dad.” There is no sentimentality, “You’re right, you should take care of the elderly, after all, he changed many of your diapers.”
Nope, “Let the dead bury their dead.”
What does that even mean? I think John Wesley put it best in his commentary, “When God calls, leave the business of the world to them who are dead to God.”
Surely you can’t be saying that following Christ means we don’t care for our elderly parents?
Well, if following Christ means that, then that is what He’s saying.
We like to soften the demands of Scripture. “Hey, what about that grace stuff, Jesus?”
If God is a God of grace, shouldn’t this man be given a break? Plenty of people are not following Jesus for dumber reasons than that.
In the end, it does not matter what anyone else is doing. When Christ calls, we are to listen, even if it does look ridiculous or cold hearted to a watching world.