Matthew 8:21 – 22
“Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
These verses appear in a passage that confront me. They remind me that I reflexively think I have ducks to get lined up before I respond to Jesus’s call (aka command) for me to follow Him. Is there an weighty enough reason to delay obedience to Christ?
But first, Lord, let me… ___________.
In a word, something in me wants to negotiate the terms of my surrender to God.
Whatever fills that blank is a red flag in my walk with Him – an obstacle, an excuse, a delay, a hesitation, and worst of all, an idol for me.
Whatever it is varies. Even so, whatever it is, it’s a lie that I indulge willingly – that just one more thing has to be done before I meet the condition He spoke about being a disciple:
“Then He said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23.
Jesus said some difficult things. I trip over the difficulty when I realize I want to follow Him, but I am busy devoting myself to something else I have determined is vitally important. I can’t do both and call myself a follower.
What could there be in my life that precedes, preempts, or postpones a call from the Son of God to do anything He asks of me? Is He really my Lord?
But first let me _______.
My reflexes are trained to stop and heed whatever flies into that blank. When I do, I am serving it. Without thinking, I answer “it,” like a porpoise answers a trainer holding a fish. I seek the palpable reward of immediate satisfaction. Every itch must be scratched. Basically, the “it” I serve is the whim-du-jour of my flesh nature.
Meanwhile, I presume that Jesus waits patiently while I first attend to each demand my flesh presents. My cravings, moods, worries, routines and rituals are a minefield of debris to which I give my primary attention and focus. My prayers reveal I even want Jesus to help me serve these things.
One foot may take a step toward Him, but my eyes take a longing look back. The truth is I am torn by a real decision that every follower of Jesus must make.
Who (or what) will I follow? Who (or what) will I serve?
Jesus reminded the disciples of this when He said, “Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” Luke 17:32-33
Jesus knew the hearts of those He was speaking to when He said this. He knows my heart now, that sometimes, often, I am torn. The very thing that Jesus is warning the disciples about is an accurate diagnosis of my heart.
Life or Death?
Jesus’s response to the man who only wanted to bury his elderly father was surprising. The man just wanted to do what seemed right, respected, expected. How could such a decent thing be in conflict with the “follow Jesus” program?
Jesus said, “Let the dead bury the dead. Follow Me.”
In essence, Jesus was saying don’t be caught up in what (spiritually) dead people do. They follow rules and rituals for the approval of men. They do what they have been told might earn them eternal life. But meeting the expectations of men can’t save anyone. Instead, He says, follow the only One who can give eternal life to those who believe and follow. If someone really believes Jesus is the Son of God, why would she not leave every other lesser thing in life and follow?
Following Jesus means leaving all of my _________s and my emotional attachment to all my ________s behind and not looking back, and not longing to. According to Jesus, it is no small thing, but instead it is a life or death decision.
Do I want to stay back and attend to the dead things in my life, or do I want to let them go and follow Him to life?
My entanglement in this life and its concerns makes the decision seem impossible. And yet the words of Jesus are clear and I can’t pretend they aren’t true or that He didn’t mean what He said.
What Do I Do?
Recently listening to an old sermon by John Piper, I heard him describe the way a person knows if he/she has experienced God. Aware he was describing something a bit intangible and delicate, the pastor offered this: When you taste honey, no one has to tell you it’s sweet.
If you had never tasted honey, you would have heard and even believed that it was sweet – but you wouldn’t know in the same way you would know if you had tasted it yourself. The Samaritans in John 4:42 had such an experience:
“They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
The Apostle Paul had also clearly experienced Jesus. His epistles express His reaction to experiencing God over and over, like this:
“so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
As physically palpable as the taste of honey is, the experience of knowing God is palpable to the soul and spirit. To know Him is to know in your spirit as clearly as you would know from your taste buds that you had tasted honey. Knowing God, however begs a different response that simply a reaction to a taste.
Who is He?
Is Jesus God to me? Is He “My Lord and My God,” risen from the dead as Thomas saw Him after His resurrection? If I believe He is God, the risen Savior, Lord, then when He says follow, my response will reflect my belief. He is inviting me to leave my dead pursuits behind and to choose life in Him. It’s an invitation to something incomparably better. It’s a command, that if I obey, I will be taking His hand of rescue from death to follow the Creator of all life into life – into His definition of life.
Andrew and Peter saw Jesus for who He was (is) and responded to Him according to their experience of Him as the Son of God.
“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And He said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.”
Why do I need to be reminded of this? Whatever the case, He knew I would need to be, and I suspect it is why He placed the word “daily” in Luke 9:23.
When you look at Him who do you see? How you respond will be the indication. Ask Him to help you respond according to the truth of who He is.