Read Matthew 8: 18-22
This passage has some seemingly strange happenings and words coming from Jesus. Large crowds often followed Jesus, attracted by His teachings (Matt. 7:28-8:1), and His miracles (Matt. 8:16-18). Then, He sees a large crowd coming toward Him so He ditches them. Then individual people come up to Him and He turns them away too, He even turns away a Jewish leader. Jesus gives us the impression He is pushing people away that have come to Him, which would be directly opposed to His character and mission. So, what is going on here?
Most people will say I will follow you, but do they? In Jesus time people followed in their family's business or trade. There were few organized schools and universities then. People who did not want to follow their family's trade would seek out a good teacher and plead for them to take them in and mentor them. In the process, they would become a servant to the mentor, or do whatever it took to get their attention and their admiration, as well as learning from them. Then, one day they would take over or franchise what they had learned somewhere else. This could be any professional trade, from a carpenter to a philosopher. Jesus had both roles! Here several people come to Jesus seeking His mentoring. But, Jesus saw their real intentions. Perhaps these men had ulterior motives, or were not honest in their approach. Maybe they just wanted to go with Him to see more of His miracles. Maybe they were seeking to cash in on Jesus' fame, or make a name for themselves, while uninterested with godly pursuits or real discipleship and learning.
- A scribe comes to our Lord, wanting to become a disciple. He said he was willing to follow Jesus anywhere, a seemingly commendable offer. But, did he know what it meant? It seems he just wanted to see more of the show. His job was to record the Law and keep records for the nation, a very important leadership position in Jesus time. When Jesus told the scribe Foxes have holes, that as a wandering teacher, He was homeless. Jesus had no place to call home.
- To follow Jesus at that time would have meant leaving everything, including your home, as the rest of His disciples did (Matt. 4:18-22; Mark 10:28-29). This scribe was, perhaps, a person focused on his home and material positions. Jesus was, in fact, telling this scribe that he needed to count the cost before becoming a disciple (Luke 9:57-62; 14:25-33). Fortunately for us today, we do not have to become homeless to follow Jesus, but we still must love Him more than anything else. That way He is the Lord and Ruler of our life. We must consider the cost before we commit. Otherwise, we will not remain, and will become a bigger hindrance than if we never bothered following at all.
- Then another person said, Go and bury my father. This was one of the most enduring and basic of responsibilities of a son to his family. The father was perhaps not dead (or he would not have been there, or asked the question), rather, the son's duties were to take care of him and then take over the household, business and any family matters. At that time, one normally did not go into a mentoring position until their family was taken care of first.
- Then Jesus points to a parallel meaning, as after death, the body was interned into a ground burial. A year later, it was dug up and put into a family "ossuary" which was a crypt or box, much like the one recently discovered that may have belong to James, the brother of Jesus. This process can be one to two years. So, this man was seeking something he had no intention of following through with until a later time. Jesus calls us now, not later! This man can be described as the "reluctant disciple," who needed to be reminded of what it means to make a real commitment.
- So Jesus tells him, Let the dead bury their own dead. Jesus is telling us the importance of discipleship, and our growth in Him. He is saying to let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead, as they are both dead. His point to us is this, our time we have on earth and obeying His call is short, so it demands our full attention and commitment. Jesus was not telling the man to disrespect his parents, rather, to consider what is important, and to have the right priorities in life. We are to make disciples to revive the spiritually dead, not wait around for someone to die and be buried, especially others, and our spiritual life.
How much does discipleship cost?
It costs everything! However, the rewards are limitless as we are entrusted to a Savior who loves us more deeply and rewards us more completely than we could ever comprehend. He desires the best for us, He has a plan and purpose for us in the kingdom of God, and He wants us to spend eternity with Him. There is no better way. To whom would you rather entrust yourself and your wealth of opportunity? True discipleship cannot begin until we learn one important, key aspect of life: there is but one God and you are not He! We must learn to yield to the Lordship of our God and not to the desires of our will. When we do this, the discipleship process can begin. However, when we refuse, we will become the strife and conflict that gives Christianity a "black eye." We become the problem rather than the solution.
We all are called to be discipled and to make disciples. Consider this: the cost of discipleship means asking the question, What does Jesus want me to do? or If Jesus led my life, how would He be and what would He do with my gifts and opportunities? If you are thinking, hey, I cannot do this, consider that there are only two kinds of people who cannot disciple, and they are ones either who are not followers of Christ or who disobey God's command and refuse to disciple. Jesus wants us to see that the cost of discipleship involves understanding that there is a higher calling on our lives than doing what we want to do. We cannot say to God that we are only available two hours on Sunday. We must respond with the attitude of Isaiah: Here I am God, ready to be used by you.
- What was your best excuse for getting out of a job, chore, or homework?
- Why do you think Jesus gave such a response to turn away the crowds, and the people who came up to Him? How would you respond to their requests if you were in Jesus' place?
- How does the fact that our Lord knows what is in our hearts and what is motivating us stimulate your decisions and actions?
- Christ calls us to Discipleship (Matt. 28: 18-20). We are called to serve the people around us, and to know what to pursue in our own lives. What are you doing in your life personally, and in your church, to reflect this call?
- Why should discipleship take priority over preaching to crowds?
- Do you think that Jesus was testing their resolve, commitment, and intentions? If He did this with you, would you pass?
- Are you willing to be taught by Jesus (Matt. 5:1-2)?
- Are you willing to follow Jesus as your Lord and Master (Matt. 8:19)?
- We all need to count the cost before becoming a disciple (Luke 9:57-62; 14:25-33). So, what is the cost that you have paid so far? What will be the cost you still may have to pay?
- What is in the way of your accepting that cost? Are you sure; are you confident, that what you will gain far outweighs the cost you will pay? If not, why?
Have you counted the cost? Are you willing to pay the price? Do you know that both are required to follow Jesus?
© 2003, R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Discipleship Tools http://www.discipleshiptools.org/