Jesus cuts through all of the noise of the modern culture and calls us to see things from His perspective. In Matthew 8:18-27, we see that Jesus has just wrapped up a sermon and is preparing to leave for a different place. At this point a variety of men show up to ask to follow him, which has some pretty interesting results.
Wherever You Go
The first individual, a scribe, comes up to Jesus and asks to follow Jesus wherever He goes. He probably figured that Jesus would be quite impressed that a religious scribe was going to join him, and figured hearing some kind of encouraging words. Instead he heard:
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Jesus tells the man that he will not have the comforts that he’s used to. Now, we don’t know if this was enough to turn the man around so that he didn’t follow Jesus, but we know that Jesus was stressing that this would cost him his comfort.
The world today tells us that there are certain things that we must have, certain expectations to have a good life. The world would call us insane if we gave up that which we could have to follow Christ, and yet God wants all of us, not just a part.
Can I Bury My Dad?
A second man comes up to Jesus and wants to follow him; however, he needs to go and bury his dad first. Jesus responds:
And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
Basically, Jesus is saying “let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead.” Tough words. Now, we’re not sure whether the man’s dad was already dead or on death’s doorstep, so we don’t know how long the wait was, but Jesus was again making the man choose the culture or radical abandonment to Christ. Regardless, the culture told him that it was right to go bury his father, Jesus was saying that it was more important to follow Him than the cultural practice.
The question for us is, do we let the culture dictate our obedience to the Word of God? Whether it’s what we allow to entertain us, where we eat, or how we dress, whom do we let dictate how we will behave or what we think about?
If what God says and what the culture says are two different things, whom should we follow? Whom do we follow?
Can I at Least Say Goodbye?
In Luke 9, the last of our gang of three approaches Christ and wants to follow after him, but only after he bids his family farewell. Jesus responds:
Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Jesus startles us by saying that whomever starts to do the work and then looks back is unworthy of the work. This harkens over to one of the most difficult passages of Scripture (for me anyways) where Jesus says that there are some that have done things in Jesus’ name and yet He still tells them to depart, for He never knew them.
It also seems to echo what Jesus said in Luke 14:26-27 where Jesus tells those following that it they don’t hate their family and don’t take up our cross daily, we’re not worthy of Him. Matthew Henry has the following to say:
They must be willing to quit that which was very dear, and therefore must come to him thoroughly weaned from all their creature-comforts, and dead to them, so as cheerfully to part with them rather than quit their interest in Christ, v. 26. A man cannot be Christ’s disciple but he must hate father, and mother, and his own life. He is not sincere, he will be constant and persevering, unless he love Christ better than any thing in this world, and be willing to part with that which he may and must leave, either as a sacrifice, when Christ may be glorified by our parting with it (so the martyrs, who loved not their lives to death), or as a temptation, when by our parting with it we are put into a better capacity of serving Christ.1
Jesus is not Asking Us to be Good Versions of the World
It’s easy as believers to get caught up in thinking that we need to be good. We refrain from behaviors on which society frowns. We also like to have people look at us as individuals that are “good” and that are admirable. However, this is the antithesis of what it means to be a follower of Christ.
I’m not saying that we should not be growing closer to God in our daily walk. I am saying that the closer that we get to God, the greater our awareness of how far we fall short should be. In Isaiah 6, when Isaiah got close to God his response was to realize that he was undone. Paul, as he got closer to God, went from being in sin to the Chief of Sinners.
Whenever a believer stops seeing the great debt that he owes God that was paid by Jesus’ blood, and starts to believe that he is good because of his righteous living, he is falling into the same trap Even fell into– pride.
Jesus calls us to set aside what we could be under the world’s power to be what we can be under His. He wants us to reach the lost, and understand that we will struggle with sin. He wants us to take His Word wherever we go– but not just to tell someone what they need to know to pray a prayer, but to disciple them so tha tthey may grow in Him.
Above all, He wants us to give Him glory. The Bible, this world, our lives– it’s all about Him. Our salvation is all about Him. We give Him glory when we are so attuned to Him that we instinctively do what He wants.
How can we do that if we’re concerned about what Modern society thinks?
- Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: Complete and unabridged in one volume (1876). Peabody: Hendrickson.