Monday, January 02, 2017

Fresh Studies in Matthew, Matthew 8:18

18 And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. 19 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”
20 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.”
21 Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
How do we read verse 20?  Is Jesus complaining or fussing or presenting reality.  First, this is the same day as the preceeding verses about many healings, and in the evening, clearly, because the next thing to happen is that they are on a boat at night.  Simply, “If you follow me, you can’t expect comfort and maybe not security.”  Verse 22 is really harsh. Is the potential follower saying, “Let me stay home until my dad dies?”  (which could be a long time off and may entail an inheritance?)  Or is he in the middle of grieving and rituals, in which case why would he even be following Jesus around?  Jesus answer is probably one of his hardest, because it seems to discount very real grief, but that is inconsistent with so many other passages where he “privileges” grief and seeks to comfort grievers. It is possible that he detects the lack of sincerity in the questioner.
However, we can’t get away from it:  the core of Christianity is hard and radical.  Yes, it is about love and grace and mercy and forgiveness for those (all of us) who need it, but it is also about self-denial and choices, Jesus coming first, him taking worship and claiming to be he Creator of the world.  It is about kindness and right living and caring for the poor and homeless and also about heaven and hell and being humbled and being serious about sin.  You can’t take part of Jesus and not the other part. 

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