In Matthew 8:18, before Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee to the country of the Gadarenes, Matthew writes:
Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to go over to the other side.
After hearing Jesus’ command, two men approach him.
First, a Scribe promises to follow Jesus wherever He goes.
The Scribe’s promise is noble, but Jesus’ response reveals something more. Jesus says to the man:
Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no where to lay His head.
Essentially, Jesus tells him He is homeless.
Why did Jesus say that?
Here is a man who says He will follow Him wherever He goes. Seems like Jesus’ remark might dissuade him from following Him. So why say it?
Jesus says it to expose this man’s heart and his lack of thoughtfulness. The Scribe hadn’t considered what it meant to follow Jesus. He hadn’t considered following Jesus meant he had no home to go to at night, no promise of a comfortable bed, or a hot meal. In other words, he hadn’t counted the cost of what it meant to follow Jesus. He heard Jesus say go to the other side, and he came up and said I will follow you wherever you go.
Often times we see that in churches. The preacher tells us that we need to make Jesus our Savior. So people do. They do it, however, without ever considering what it actually means. What it will cost them.
Second, a disciple says he will follow Jesus, but he must first bury his father.
Again, this sounds good. He wants to take care of his family, but Jesus doesn’t see it that way. He tells him:
Let the dead, bury their own dead.
Why did Jesus respond in this way?
It wasn’t to say we can’t ever go to funerals, if we want to be a Christian. He says it to reveal something is hindering him from answering His call. That something is his father. He wants to wait to follow Jesus until after his father is gone.
There could be several reasons. Maybe there is an obligation he must keep, but once his father is gone he is no longer bound to it. Maybe his father doesn’t approve of Jesus and would disown him if he followed him. While we don’t often experience this in the Bible Belt because Christianity is culturally acceptable. It is a reality for some that when they come to Christ they will lose their family or friends.
No matter what this man’s, or our reason for not following Jesus, we learn Jesus expects us to be willing to put Him before all things – our family, our life, our business, or our career. Jesus wants to be supreme in our lives. To truly be His disciple, we must allow Him that supreme position. We should not allow the concerns or rejection of others, including our family to keep us from Jesus. Jesus is not going to say on Judgment Day.
“Oh, following me would have cost your relationship with your family, or your business, or your life. That is ok. I understand. Come on into the kingdom.”
No way, that would never happen. You see, we must be willing to give up everything for Him. To sacrifice it all.
What do we learn?
Our narrative presents both a person who is too quick to promise to follow Jesus without first counting the cost, and a person who waits too long because he has put something else before Him. With that in mind, the idea Matthew is driving home is:
Count the cost, but don’t count it too long.
Questions for Reflection
- Have you counted the cost?
- Are you counting the cost too long?
This series is adapted from my recent sermon: Why Should We Follow Jesus?