AN EXPOSITION OF MATTHEW 8:19-22
19 And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
It is not unusual to find individuals who want to be part of something larger than themselves, when they believe God is at work. Two individuals who either witnessed the miracles of Jesus, or heard about them, came to the Lord with great enthusiasm. One man was a scribe, and he wanted to be with Jesus wherever the Lord went. For a brief shining moment he was like Ruth of old, who pleaded with Naomi saying, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: 17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).
20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
While it is always exciting when a person says they want to follow the Lord, Jesus knows the heart. Jesus saw something in the man that indicated to Him that the scribe was not yet ready to follow him to the cross, for Calvary was where Jesus was going. So Jesus discouraged the scribe, even though the man was impulsive, and emotional. There is nothing wrong with being impulsive, and emotional, provided it is grounded in the Word of God. When revival comes, it comes with emotion. People begin to act impulsively, and begin to show kindness, love, and charity.
Now the Lord was honest with the impulsive disciple, and told him to consider what he was saying. Consider the cost of being a disciple of Jesus.
To be a disciple of Jesus might cost a person their material pleasures. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”
To be a disciple of Jesus might cost a person physical discomfort, even to the point of persecution.
To be a disciple of Jesus might bring lonely poverty. Jesus said that even the animals have it better than Him.
To be a follower of Jesus, it must be realized that an impulsive decision, and emotion, will not sustain a person. Emotion is insufficient.
In the 1971 American classical musical, Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye, the poor Jewish milkman living in a Ukrainian village, articulates the truth that, while it is no shame to be poor, but it is no great honor either. Turning his attention to God’s election of the Jewish people, Tevye says to the Lord, “I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?” To be chosen of God involves suffering, the deepest type of suffering, the suffering of death to self by way of the cross.
Jesus understood what it meant to be homeless. His home was in heaven. While He was here on earth He was constantly homesick. He was a displaced person. He had no place to lay His head.
Many years ago the London News held a contest for the best definition of home. One entry read, “Home is the place where our stomachs get three square meals a day, and our hearts a thousand.” Another entry stated, “Home is the place where we grumble the most, and are treated the best.” The best entry said, “Home is the place where the great are small, and the small are great.”
One day Dr. G. Campbell Morgan was preaching on the home, and announced he had a great definition of home. “Home is the only place where I feel at home.” While travelling, a person might visit a house and be told, “Make yourself at home.” But that is not really possible. We must be home to be truly comfortable. Paul understood this concept, and said he was willing “to be absent from the body, and to be present [lit. “to be in one’s own country,” i.e., “at home”] with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). For the Christian, this world is not our home.
The Desire of the Cautious Disciple
21 And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
The second disciple who said he wanted to be with Jesus was respectful, for he called Jesus, Lord. But the man had a problem, and that was conflicted emotion. He wanted to honor his father, and he wanted to follow Jesus. We are not told if his father had recently died, or was simply in the sunset years of life. Either way, Jesus sensed His disciple was conflicted about His priorities. So Jesus tested the disciple by compelling him to make a choice. The devout follower of Jesus must seek first the kingdom of heaven.
22 But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.
Jesus was not being insensitive. Christians do have a responsibility to their families. Jesus was simply stating that the spiritually dead must bury the spiritually dead. Christians must follow Christ. That is the demanding call of Christ. There is to be no excuse. It is easy to call Jesus “Lord,” but to follow Him exclusively is more challenging.