Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"LET THE DEAD BURY THEIR OWN DEAD"

At first glance the words of Matthew 8:22 can seem rather harsh.

"But Jesus told him, 'Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.'"

However, in order to gain a better grasp of this verse one needs to examine the context of the verse, review Jesus' track record, and consider other's study of this verse carefully.

Contextually Luke's account of this event must be considered to examine why the other disciple said to Jesus in the first place - "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."  In Luke 9:59, Jesus charges the teacher or man to "Follow me" (Jesus).  In verse 60 Jesus goes even further as to why the man should leave his father and follow Jesus - SO THAT the man might "go and proclaim the kingdom of God".

Jesus' track record was to heal the sick, dying, or dead.  Here is such an account of Jesus' nature -

Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out--the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry." 14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!"15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. - Luke 7:11-15

So, why did Jesus say what He said in the Matthew 8:22 encounter?  Why did Jesus not go and heal the man's father?  Because the man's father was not on his deathbed.

The Nelson Study Bible explains Matthew 8:21-22 as follows:

"This passage most likely describes a follower whose father was still alive, because by Levitical law the man would not be out in public if his father had just died. His father was aged. So the man wanted to go to his home, wait for his father to die, and then follow Christ. Jesus' answer means that we must never make excuses for refusing to follow Him. There is no better time than the present."

Christ was not prohibiting this disciple from attending his father's funeral. The passage does not say that his father had died and needed to be buried.  What Christ was addressing here was the desire of His disciple to stay with his elderly father UNTIL he had died, rather than following Christ's invitation to become a minister and preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God wherever he would be sent. This man tried to make excuses for not following the call to the ministry at that moment in time. He wanted to wait for a more "appropriate"
time. As the early apostles forsook everything they had in order to follow Christ, so this disciple was challenged to do the same. But he refused.

If I have my facts straight, the Marines have a saying that goes something like..."God, Country, Family, Corp".  The point is that God is listed at the front of this list, but is He really the most important and does He get the most attention for the Marine soldier and for the Christian soldier.

"This aspiring disciple placed family responsibilities ahead of following Jesus. The concerns of home were this man's stumbling block... Jesus emphasized that a disciple must have clear priorities. The call of God should receive priority over everything else."

The Life Application Bible adds this thought regarding Matthew 8:22: "As God's Son, Jesus did not hesitate to demand complete loyalty. Even family loyalty was not to take priority over the demands of obedience."

...we are God's Spirit begotten children whose first and foremost responsibility is to love GOD with all of our heart, might and soul.

Christ was not saying, of course, that the father should not be buried when he died. He was talking about spiritually dead relatives who would be in a position to take care of the funeral arrangements. We were all, at one time, "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1), but God has made us "alive" in Jesus Christ (same verse), having forgiven us all of our trespasses (Colossians 2:13). For us, who have been made spiritually alive, nothing must be more important than to follow Christ wherever He goes and wants us to go (Revelation 14:4).

Words in Purple quoted from http://www.eternalgod.org/qapdf/6107

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When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."20 Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." 21 Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."22 But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead." - Matthew 8:18-22

Now here is the same account recorded by Luke - 

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." 58 Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." 59 He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." 60 Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." 61 Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family." 62 Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." - Luke 9:57-62