“Following Emmanuel Part 1” – Matthew 8:18-22

June 7th, 2015

Matthew 8:18-22 (Luke 9:57-62)

“Following Emmanuel Pt 1”


Service Orientation: All of creation knows enough to submit to Jesus’ authority.  Do you?


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.  — Luke 14:33


Background Information:

  • In this situation two potential followers declare their intention to go with him. But the interest of the story is not in these two men themselves (we are told nothing about them, not even whether they in fact joined Jesus or not), but in Jesus’ remarkable responses to them both, which  raise an abrupt challenge to any easy understanding of discipleship.  They express both the uncompromising authority of the demand Jesus makes on his followers and the radical change of lifestyle which such following must involve.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 324)
  • It may not be immediately obvious how this teaching on discipleship relates to Jesus’ healing in the previous section, but Matthew purposefully places these events alongside one another. Jesus has authority over disease and Jesus has authority over disciples.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 112)
  • Matthew wants to show that the same Jesus, who has authority over sickness, nature, and demons, also has authority over the lives of his disciples. Jesus determines what following him will involve, not us.  Therefore, if you are going to follow Jesus, it must be on his terms rather than your own.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 130)
  • (v. 18) The wording of the scribe’s declaration . . . indicates that his interest is only in the proposed journey across the lake, whose destination he does not yet know, rather than in a long-term commitment. (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 326)
  • (v. 18) “The other side” of the lake from Capernaum suggests somewhere on the eastern shore, on the other side of the Jordan inflow, and their eventual arrival in the Gadarene area confirms this general area, even if the storm may have affected their actual landfall. This was the largely non-Jewish area known as Decapolis, a loose confederation of self-governing Hellenistic city-states outside the control of the Herodian rulers, to which Jesus will apparently return in 15:29-39.  Its non-Jewish culture is indicated by the large herd of pigs being pastured in the area (v. 30).  Jesus is thus at this point deliberately withdrawing from his Jewish environment.  It is a “foreign” journey on which it could not be expected that his Jewish supporters outside the disciple group would wish or be able to “go away” with him.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 325)
  • (v. 21) According to custom, burial generally took place very soon after death (Jn 11:1, 14, 17; Acts 5:5, 6, 10). In Israel giving an honorable burial to the dead was considered a duty and a kindness (Mic 6:8) that ranked higher than any other service requiring attention.  Filial piety obliged a son to attend to this bestowal of the final act of devotion.  Cf. Gn 25:9; 35:29; 49:28-50:3; 50:13, 14, 26; Josh 24:29, 30; etc.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 408)
  • (v. 21) The expression is still used in parts of the Middle East today. A few years ago a missionary asked a rich young Turkish man to go with him on a trip to Europe, during which time the missionary hoped to disciple the man.  When the young man replied that he must bury his father, the missionary offered his sympathy and expressed surprise that the father had died.  The man explained, however, that his father was alive and healthy and that the expression “bury my father” simply meant staying at home and fulfilling his family responsibilities until his father died and he received his share of the inheritance.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 25)
  • (v. 22) “Allow the dead to bury their own dead” was a proverbial figure of speech. It meant, “Let the world take care of the things of the world.”  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 25)
  • We have here Christ’s managing of two different tempers, one quick and eager, the other dull and heavy; and his instructions are adapted to each of them, and designed for our use. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 108)


Son of Man

  • From the more than eighty instances in which the NT uses the term “Son of man” it is clear that the reference is never to man in general but always to one particular, unique person, namely, Jesus Christ. (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 404)
  • For an informative comparison of Jesus’ use of His self-designated title “Son of Man” see William Hedrickson; New Testament Commentary Matthew, p. 406.
  • The Son of man is therefore at one and the same time “a man of sorrows” and “the Lord of glory!” (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 407)
  • “The Son of Man” on our Lord’s lips not only expressed His dignity as Messiah, but His relations to the whole race of men; and declared that He was what we nowadays call ideal manhood. (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 403)
  • But this title was not widely used. With such an ambiguity, it was for Jesus a convenient vehicle to convey his messianic identity.  It did not have popular associations attached to it, such as were attached to titles like “Messiah,” “Son of David,” or even “Son of God.”  Instead, he could teach the true meaning of his identity by referring to himself as “the Son of Man,” which is indeed Jesus’ favorite self-designation.  With a general threefold progression, Jesus uses the expression to clarify who he is and what his ministry is.
  1. The Son of Man is the humble Servant who has come to forgive the sins of common sinners in his earthly ministry (8:20; 9:6; 11:19; 12:8, 32, 40).
  2. The Son of Man is the suffering Servant, whose atoning death and resurrection will redeem his people (16:13, 27-28; 17:9, 12, 22; 20:18, 28; 26:2, 24, 45).
  3. The Son of Man is the glorious King and Judge who will return to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth (10:23; 13:37, 41; 19:28; 24:27, 30, 37, 39, 44; 25:31; 26:64).

Jesus’ mission is not always understood because of the misperceptions and faulty expectations of the people, the religious leaders, and even his own disciples.  But at the end, after he has used this ambiguous title to clarify his identity and ministry, he uses it for the last time at his trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, where it is perfectly clear that he is claiming to be the divine Messiah of Israel (cf. 26:63-68).  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 348-9)

  • Why did Jesus call himself “Son of Man” and not a more obvious messianic title? Presumably because it was the most ambiguous of the messianic titles, and by it he could avoid many misunderstandings of his mission while pouring into these words all the meanings he desired them to have.  In Matthew alone he uses “Son of Man’ to affirm his full deity (Mt 17:22-23; 20:18-19), and that he will return one day in judgment (Mt 24:27-31).  That combination of ideas was puzzling to his Jewish contemporaries.  They asked, “Who is this ‘Son of Man’?” (Jn 12:34).  But the answer to that searching question is the very essence of Christian theology: the person of Christ and the gospel.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 135)
  • In order to arrive at the meaning of the title “Son of man” as found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke (the Synoptics) each passage in which it occurs must be studied in its own individual context. When this is done it appears that in several of these passages the term indicates the Savior’s humiliation.  He has no permanent abode on earth (Mt 8:20), is going to be subjected to bitter suffering (17:12), shall be betrayed and put to death (26:24), shall be buried (12:40).  Other passages just as clearly predict his exaltation.  He shall rise again (17:9); having left the earth he shall return, in the glory of his Father and accompanied by angels (16:27), and shall sit on the throne of his glory as Judge (25:31; cf. Several references in 24:27-44, adding 26:64).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 405-6)
  • In Matthew, as in the other Synoptic Gospels, it is customary to speak of three main areas of reference for the title “the Son of Man”: to his future heavenly glory, to the earthly suffering which must precede it, and, less frequently, to his current earthly status and authority.  It seems that the reason why Jesus found this title convenient is that, having no ready-made titular connotations in current usage, it could be applied across the whole range of his uniquely paradoxical mission of humiliation and vindication, of death and glory, which could not be fitted into any preexisting model.  Like his parables, the title “the Son of Man” came with an air of enigma, challenging the hearer to think new thoughts rather than to slot Jesus into a ready-made pigeonhole.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 327)
  • Here in 8:20 the reference is to Jesus’ current status, but whereas in 9:6 and 12:8 the title will denote a figure of unique authority, here it speaks paradoxically of a state of earthly deprivation which is sharply contrasted with the heavenly glory of Dn 7:13-14. As Matthew’s gospel progresses, it will be the future, heavenly authority of the Son of Man which will be increasingly in focus, but this first use of the title brings out the contrast between its literal meaning and its specifically Danielic connotations:  the one who is to rule over all first shares with his disciples in all the insecurity of their human condition.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 327-8)


The questions to be answered are . . . Why does Matthew give this description of Jesus’ demands for discipleship in the midst of His narrative on Jesus’ authority?


Answers: Because in all of creation, only mankind refuses to naturally submit to the authority of Christ.   This passage is to remind us of what true submission to the authority of Christ demands.


The Word for the Day is . . . Authority



What is Jesus telling us about His authority over mankind?:

I-  Jesus knows mankind’s natural inclination is towards superficial or non-existent submission to His authority.  (Mt 8:18; see also: Mt 13:1-23; Mk 4:1-20; Lk 8:4-15; Jn 2:23-25)


The Lord knew that the initial declared faith of many of His followers was shallow and superficial.  When Jesus was in Jerusalem during the first Passover after He began His ministry, “many believed in His name, beholding His signs which He was doing.”  Yet, John goes on to say, “Jesus on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to bear witness concerning man for He Himself knew what was in man” (Jn 2:23-25).  The Lord had no faith in their wonder and excitement that accompanied His work, not to Him as Lord or to the work of the gospel itself.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 22)


It would be good for the churches of Christ if these sayings of our Lord were remembered more than they are.  It may be feared that the lesson they contain is too often overlooked by the ministers of the Gospel, and that thousands are admitted to full communion who are never warned to count the cost.  Nothing, in fact, has done more harm with every volunteer who is willing to make a little profession, and to talk fluently of his “experience.”  It has been painfully forgotten that numbers alone do not make strength, and that there may be a great quantity of mere outward religion, while there is very little real grace.  Let us remember this.  Let us keep back nothing from young believers and inquirers after Christ:  let us not enlist them on false pretenses.  Let us tell them plainly that there is a crown of glory at the end, but let us tell them no less plainly that there is a daily cross on the way.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 59)


Jesus is not interested in drawing a crowd.  He is not interested in having people follow him; he is interested in having followers.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 212)


Jesus focused on the requirements of true discipleship.  Jesus did not dash about the countryside attempting to get as many followers as possible.  He wanted true followers who understood the cost of following him.  People were certainly enthusiastic about Jesus’ miracle-working ability.  Jesus did not want them following him without commitment.  To be Jesus’ disciple, a person must willingly put aside worldly security.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 159)


Jesus knew human nature is fickle, unstable, and self-centered, and that many people are attracted to Him by excitement, glamor, or the hope of personal benefit, such as being healed or fed.  They are quick to jump on the bandwagon when things are going well, but as soon as the cause becomes unpopular or demands sacrifice they want to jump off.  At first they look as if they are alive for Christ and often give glowing testimonies, but when their association with Him begins to cost more than they bargained for they lose interest and are never seen again in the church or in Christian work.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 23)


There is a kind of high-octane man who will not follow unless he sees danger ahead.  Jesus knew this.  So did Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, who posted this advertisement in 1913:

Men wanted for hazardous journey.  Small wages.  Bitter cold.  Long months of complete darkness.  Constant danger.  Safe return doubtful.  Honour and recognition in case of success.

More than five thousand men applied for twenty-six slots.  Precisely the kind of men who are missing in today’s church!  If we want aggressive, bold, greatness-seeking men, we must do what Jesus did and promise suffering, trial, and pain.  But today’s Christianity is marketed like Tylenol:  it’s the antidote to suffering, trial and pain.  We’ve turned Jesus’ approach on it’s head!  (David Murrow; Why Men Hate Church, 162)


“I believe there is a price tag on everything worthwhile, but it is seldom a monetary one.   The price is more often one of dedication, deprivation, extra effort, loneliness.  Each person decides whether he or she wants to pay the price.  Those who do, achieve beyond other people.”  —Jim McKay


Jesus never begged anyone to follow Him.  He never waited for anyone, never sang one more verse while people decided whether to follow.   He barked, “Follow me!” and kept going.  Those who immediately dropped everything became His disciples; those who hesitated were left behind.

Yet week after week, especially in evangelical churches, we beg men to be saved.  Problem is, the call to be saved is so familiar, men see no value in it.  Don’t misunderstand me:  it’s vitally important that we call men to follow Jesus.  Men need salvation.  But instead of pleading, what if our approach was:  “Do you have what it takes to follow Christ?  (David Murrow; Why Men Hate Church, 163)


If you are a follower of Christ, then you must have within you a deep desire to want to love and obey God’s Word because that is what drove Jesus.  Constantly, Jesus refers to his actions as being what His father told him to do or Jesus does what he does so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.   How can you say you follow Christ and contradict the very principle upon which his life was based . . .  To fulfill the Scriptures.  You cannot call yourself a Christian and do less than read, obey and love God’s Word. Otherwise, to call yourself a Christian and to live contrary to what we have just said, is to make a mockery of Jesus. (Tim Keller, message on Acts 3)


If converts are attracted on the basis of satisfying self-interest, it will be difficult to change this into the daily cross-carrying that is a characteristic of authentic discipleship.  People are likely to continue on the basis on which they first came. (Eddie Gibbs, Church Next, 50)


Jesus’ understanding of discipleship was different from our own.  If an unchurched person should come to us and indicate that he or she wanted to be a Christian and follow Jesus, most of us would be delighted.  We would invite the person to give a testimony and receive him or her into our church.  But at this point in Matthew’s Gospel, we read stories in which Jesus rejected such enthusiasm and actually seems to have turned two would-be disciples away, as he did with others on other occasions.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 130)


Jesus saw the multitudes.  We of course would be impressed by that.  We are very pleased when crowds of people come to our meetings, buy our books, and support our ministries.  All too often we measure our ministries in terms of multitudes.  But Jesus was too well informed to be impressed by crowds.  When He saw the multitudes, He “gave commandment to depart unto the other side.”  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 152)


The disciple-sayings of Jesus are frequently hard.  They nobly sift men “as wheat,” separating the chaff from the grain (cf. Lk 22:31).  Jesus offered wounds and death, and valiant souls accepted the challenge.  Perhaps the church must relearn this strategy and truth.  We have made discipleship so easy that it is not worth persecuting, for it has no cutting edge.  But true discipleship is at cost of disciplines and hardships.  (George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7, 344)


The tragedy of life is so often the tragedy of the unseized moment.  We are moved to some fine action, we are moved to the abandoning of some weakness or habit, we are moved to say something to someone, some word of sympathy, or warning, or encouragement; but the moment passes, and the thing is never done, the evil thing is never conquered, the word is never spoken.  In the best of us there is a certain lethargy and inertia; there is a certain habit of procrastination; there is a certain fear and indecision; and often the moment of fine impulse is never turned into action and into fact.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 315)


The more a man gets like a beast, the more has he of the beast’s lot of happy contentment in this world.  And the more he gets like a man, like the “Son of Man,” the more has he to realize that he is a pilgrim and a sojourner, as all his fathers were.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 404)


Mark the plain lesson that comes out of this incident, that the habit, for it is a habit with some of us, of putting other pressing duties forward, before we attend to the highest claims of Christ, is full of danger, because there will be no end to them if we once admit the principle.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 407)


God is looking for a man who will let himself go and dare to be a fool for Christ’s sake.  Dawson Trotman put it bluntly when he said:  “God can do more through one man who is 100% dedicated to Him than through 100 men 90% dedicated to Him.” (Robert E. Coleman;Dry Bones Can Live Again, 66)


II-  Jesus wants the Scribe to count the cost of submitting to Christ’s authority before agreeing to become a disciple.  (Mt 8:19-20; see also: Hag 1:2-11; Mal 1:6-14; Mt 16:24; 19:16-30; 26:33-35; Mk 10:17-30; Lk 14:27-33; 18:19-30; 22:31-34; Jn 7:53-8:1)


Coming to Jesus Christ is coming on His terms, not our own. The person who comes to Christ comes in humility, meekness, a needy beggar in spirit who hungers and thirsts for God’s righteousness, who cries for mercy, and is willing to be hated, reviled, and persecuted for the sake of his Lord (Mt 5:3-12).  The Lord may not take away comforts, money, or relationships with others, but all of those things–and everything else besides–must be given over to Him, to do with as He pleases.  Otherwise He is not Lord, no matter how much allegiance to Him is professed.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 27)


The scribe’s resolve seems to have been sudden; and Christ would have us, when we take upon us a profession of religion, to sit down and count the cost (Lk 14:28), to do it intelligently, and with consideration, and choose the way of godliness, not because we know no other, but because we know no better.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 108)


His resolve seems to have been from a worldly, covetous principle.  He saw what abundance of cures Christ wrought, and concluded that he had large fees, and would get an estate quickly, and therefore he would follow him in hopes of growing rich with him; but Christ rectifies his mistake, and tells him, he was so far from growing rich, that he had not a place to lay his head on; and that if he follow him, he cannot expect to fare better than he fared.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 108-9)


We live in a world of glandular Christianity.   We do it, we worship, we obey, we follow only  IF IT FEELS GOOD!  — Unknown source


In verse 20 Jesus basically says, “You don’t know who you are talking to, and you don’t know what you’re talking about.”  His actual words are these:  “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”  The sense of Jesus’ subtle rebuke is something like this:

Listen, I’m the Son of Man, not merely some scribe like you.  I’m not just a better Bible teacher.  I’m the king Daniel wrote about, the one who will be given absolute dominion over Heaven and earth.  Read Dn 7:13, 14 when you get home.  You don’t know who I am.  And you certainly don’t know where I’m going.  I’m going to Calvary.  Are you willing to follow me there?  Are you willing to deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me?  Homelessness is the least of your worries.  You may or may not have a roof over your head if you follow me.  There is more than a house to leave behind!

You see, Jesus had no faith in this man’s “faith” because he knew that at the heart of this scribe’s bold declaration was self-love, not self-denial, and a desire for power, not a willingness to be powerless–without a home, esteem, and possibly a life.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 213-4)


He was saying, in proverbial form, that in spite of His divine authority and miracle-working power, self-indulgence was not in His plan, and He had fewer physical comforts than many animals.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 22)


Following Jesus is not always easy or comfortable.  Often it involves great cost and sacrifice, with no earthly rewards or security.  Jesus did not have a place to call home.  You may find that following Christ costs you popularity, friendships, leisure time, or treasured habits.  While the cost of following Christ is high, the value of being Christ’s disciple is even higher.  If you desire to follow Christ, you must be willing to face hardship.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 159)


If Jesus is God, then the demands of his kingdom become even more radical than we have imagined.  When we hear Jesus saying that we must hate our fathers and mothers, wives and children, in order to be his disciples, it seems shockingly extreme.  But if he is God, it is not extreme at all.  If he is God, nothing he could possibly demand is outrageous.  If he is God, we owe him total obedience and total self-surrender.

On the other hand, the fact that Jesus is God makes our total surrender all right.  He is not an arbitrary god who has no concern for us and, so we might imagine, has a passion only for his own self-aggrandizement and glory.  God made us.  He has given us life and families and homes and a reasonable portion of this world’s goods to enjoy.  These things are good precisely because they are made by God and are God’s gifts.  It follows that if God requires us to give up one or more of these things in a specific situation–as a pioneer missionary might have to do to take the gospel to some remote area of the world–it is because the demand, difficult as it may appear, is nevertheless good in that particular situation.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 133)


Jesus did not repel the man because of the group from which he came; Jesus honored each personality.  He had read the man.  He knew he was impulsive.  So he asked him to count the cost.  (George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7, 344)


To be Jesus’ disciple, a person must willingly put aside worldly security.  (Bruce B. Barton, D.Min., Life Application Bible Commentary: Luke, 262)


The Christian life is a broad road of happiness, joy, peace, blessing, success, significance, and contentment, which is ironically gained by choosing the narrow road of surrender, obedience, self-denial, self-sacrifice, truth, worship and service. (Patrick Morely; Ten Secrets for the Man in the Mirror, 185)


Rabbis enjoyed a relatively high status within Judaism, but Jesus has no school or synagogue or prestigious place of honor among the religious establishment.  He stays at the home of friends, relatives, and disciples through most of his ministry (e.g., 8:14).  So the expression “no place to lay his head” does not indicate a homeless, Cynic-type philosopher but rather that his ministry will not result in an institutional establishment with comfortable benefits, and this will also be the lot of those who follow him.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 347)


A scribe was a Bible scholar and teacher, an expert in the Scriptures.  In Jesus’ day, to be a scribe was a respectable occupation, like a brain surgeon today.  It took intellect and skill.  As a result, such a man was highly esteemed by his society.  This scribe in our story knows that and, as we shall see, relishes in that.

The first word out of this man’s mouth sounds fairly noble.  He calls Jesus “Teacher.”  And he is even willing to follow this teacher–Jesus.  But in Matthew’s Gospel the five times Jesus is called “teacher” (8:19; 12:38; 19:16; 22:16, 36), it is always on the lips of someone who isn’t or won’t become a disciple.  So there is already a hint, with this title “teacher,” however much of a concession it might be, that something is amiss with this man’s “faith.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 212-3)


Most of us to not WANT to believe in Christ  We do not want to give up allegiance to ourselves.”  (Sally Monroe at Bible study 3-29-06)


Even in Capernaum it seems that Jesus did have “a place where he could lay his head” (whether his own house or that of Peter; see on vv. 14-15), and sometimes on his travels he seems to have been able to find hospitality (e.g., in Bethany, 21:16; 26:6), as indeed he expected his disciples to do (10:11).  But the itinerant ministry (4:23) which now required their crossing the lake would allow no certainty of lodging, and many nights must have been spent in more exposed locations even than those of the foxes and the birds; the coming night will find Jesus sleeping in a boat (v. 24).  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 326)


To a fisherman, working all night in an open boat, homelessness was partly tolerable; but to a scribe, accustomed to his scrolls and his home, homelessness was a stern demand.  (George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7, 343-4)


We must bear in mind that he was a scribe who had been accustomed to a quiet and easy life, had enjoyed honor, and was ill-fitted to endure reproaches, poverty, persecutions, and the cross.  He wishes indeed to follow Christ, but dreams of an easy and agreeable life, and of dwellings filled with every convenience; whereas the disciples of Christ must walk among thorns, and march to the cross amidst uninterrupted afflictions.  The more eager he is, the less he is prepared.  He seems as if he wished to fight in the shade and at ease, neither annoyed by sweat nor by dust, and beyond the reach of the weapons of war.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 388)


The scribe who came to Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Galilee was not willing to pay any such price for his faith.  He merely wanted to add excitement to his life, have the prestige of being identified with a popular leader, or some other equally self-centered objective.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 24)


These words (Lk 9:62) were perhaps adapted from a proverb attributed to the famous Greek poet Hesiod, who lived around 800 B.C.–“You can’t plow a straight furrow when looking backward.”  A person cannot satisfactorily do the job at hand if he is continually looking back to his past work and loyalties.  A person cannot follow Jesus Christ if he still longs for the days of the old life.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 26)


III-  Jesus demands whole-hearted devotion and submission to His authority above all else.  (Mt 8:21-22; see also: Lv 21:11-12; Nm 6:6-8; Dt 4:29; 6:5; 10:12; 11:13; 26:16; 30:2, 6, 10; Josh 22:5; Ruth 1:16-17; 2 Sm 15:21; Prv 3:5-6; Jer 29:13; Mt 4:22; 6:24, 33; 10:34-39; 12:46-50; 13:44-46; 16:24; 22:37; Mk 12:30; Lk 5:11, 27-28; 9:23; 14:25-33; Phil 2:1-11; 3:7-11) 


Did you ever think of what a strange claim that is for a man to make upon others?  This Jesus Christ comes to you and me, and to every man and says, “I demand, and I have a right to demand, thy supreme affection and thy first obedience.  All other relations are subordinate to thy relation to Me.  All other persons ought to be less dear to thee than I am.  No other duty can be so imperative as the duty of following Me.”  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 409)


Jesus was not commanding sons and daughters to think lightly of the honor due to parents but rather signifying that nothing ought to be more urgent to us than the affairs of the kingdom of heaven.  Do not let anything take first place over service to the coming reign of heaven.  –Chrysostom


If you have set any conditions to follow Christ, then Jesus is not your King and you are not in the Kingdom.  Because the thing that is the basis of your “if” or “when” of your confession is truly your salvation and King.  You say to Jesus “I’ll follow you if . . . or “I’ll follow you when . . .” the thing that is the “if” or “when” is your true king and Lord . . . not Jesus.  Loose paraphrase of Tim Keller


A high priest and those who had taken the Nazirite vow were required by the law to avoid the corpse of even a parent (Lv 21:11; Nm 6:6).  A later Jewish precedent says that if there were enough people in attendance, a student of the Torah should not stop his study to bury the dead.  Jesus placed commitment to God even above these precedents.  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.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 160-1)


Note, Piety to God must be preferred before piety to parents, though that is a great and needful part of our religion.  The Nazarites, under the law, were not to mourn for their own parents, because they were holy to the Lord (Nm 6:6-8); nor was the high priest to defile himself for the dead, no, not for his own father, Lv 21:11, 12.  And Christ requires of those who would follow him, that they hate father and mother (Lk 14:26); love them less than God; we must comparatively neglect and disesteem our nearest relations, when they come in competition with Christ, and either our doing for him, or our suffering for him.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 109)


The cultural “insensitivity” of Jesus’ demand underlines the radical newness and overriding importance of the message of the kingdom of heaven; even the most basic of family ties must not be allowed to stand in its way (cf. 4:22; 10:37; 12:46-50; 19:29).  Compared with those who have found true life in the kingdom of heaven, those who remain outside it are “the dead.”  This metaphorical use of nekros (literally, “a dead person,” “corpse”) for those without spiritual life does not occur elsewhere in the gospels, but it is a metaphor readily understood in the light of sayings like 10:39; 16:25-26, and occurs elsewhere in the NT (Eph 2:1, 5; Col 2:13; Rv 3:1).  A disciple’s business is with life, not with death.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 330)


In actuality we may well question whether Jesus was really forbidding attendance at the father’s funeral, any more than he was really advocating self-castration in 5:27-30.  In this inquirer he detected insincerity, a qualified acceptance of Jesus’ lordship.  And that was not good enough.  Commitment to Jesus must be without reservation.  Such is the importance Jesus himself attached to his own person and mission.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 209)


Whether his concern was fulfilling a duty, financial security, family approval, or something else, he did not want to commit himself to Jesus just yet.  Jesus sensed this reluctance in his follower and challenged him to consider that his commitment had to be completely without reservation.  If this man truly desired to follow Jesus, he would not wait until he had fulfilled all his traditional responsibilities.  Jesus was not advising that children disregard family responsibilities.  Rather, Jesus was responding to this disciple’s qualifying use of “first.”  Jesus must always come “first,” then all other human loyalties.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 160)


We use figures of speech all the time, like “It’s raining cats and dogs” or “break a leg” or “I’ll give you a piece of my mind.”  We don’t take any of those literally.  Summarizing the work of K. E. Bailey (Through Peasant Eyes, 25-27), R. T. France explains the idiom to “bury one’s father” as follows:

If the father had just died, the son could hardly be out at the roadside with Jesus; his place was to be keeping vigil and preparing for the funeral.  Rather, to “bury one’s father” is standard idiom for fulfilling one’s filial responsibilities for the remainder of the father’s lifetime, with no prospect of his imminent death.  This then would be a request for indefinite postponement of discipleship, likely to be for years rather than days (R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, 329).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 215)


No man could ever say that he followed Jesus on false pretenses.  Jesus was uncompromisingly honest.  We do Jesus a grave disservice, if ever we lead people to believe that the Christian way is an easy way.  There is no thrill like the way of Christ, and there is no glory like the end of that way; but Jesus never said it was an easy way.  The way to glory always involved a cross.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 313)


Jesus doesn’t have a flattering view of the world.  He doesn’t think that if only we educate everyone, things will all work out. He pictures the world as a bunch of dead men walking.  He talks about what cannot literally happen:  corpses burying corpses.  What he means is that the spiritually dead will take care of business.  They’ll make sure all worldly matters are taken care of, but we must put the kingdom of God and his righteousness first, knowing that all these things will be added.  So if we choose this world we’ve chosen death; if we choose Jesus we’ve chosen life.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 216)


Whether the metaphor is immediately grasped or not, Jesus’ reply is a stark refusal to allow filial duty to take priority over discipleship.  No rabbi would have been so cavalier, and normal Jewish piety would find such an attitude incomprehensible, a prima facie breach of the fifth commandment, even though Jesus himself elsewhere endorses it (15:3-6; 19:19).  If this is what “authority not like their scribes” (7:29) involves, most people would not want to have anything to do with it.  The kingdom of heaven apparently involves a degree of fanaticism which is willing to disrupt the normal rhythms of social life.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 330-1)


Jesus’ concern in 8:22 is not so much to forbid all who would follow him from attending the funerals of near relatives, as it is to expose the danger of merely qualified discipleship.  Indeed, sometimes Jesus purposely uses language that is rather shocking, not because it is meant to be taken literally, but because it most tellingly makes the point.  For example, in Mt 5:27-30 Jesus insists that the eye that lusts is best plucked out; the hand that touches what is forbidden is best cut off.  One of the early church fathers took this literally, and castrated himself; but in one sense even self-castration is simply not radical enough.  Jesus’ point is not that self-mutilation is an effective way to deal with sin, but that sin must be dealt with radically, at its root, even if such dealings are costly.  Similarly in Matthew 8, the point is not so much that people should not be concerned for their parents, but that if concern for parents becomes an excuse for not following Jesus, or for delay in following Jesus, then concern for parents, as important as it is, is being too highly valued.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 180)


The potential disciple’s words are usually understood of the immediate and pressing responsibility of arranging the funeral for his father who had just died.  Burial took place within twenty-four hours of the death, so he would not be asking for a long postponement, though subsequent ceremonies could last up to a week.  The arrangements were the responsibility of the eldest son (Gn 50:5-7; Tob 4:3; 6:15; 14:11-12; Sir 38:16), and Jewish custom and piety demanded that they take priority over all other commitments, even the most essential prayers (Lv 21:1-3; m. Ber. 3:1).  The request would thus be entirely reasonable, indeed essential.  If his filial duties prevented him from joining the group in the boat just now, he could catch up with Jesus as soon as his responsibilities had been discharged; the word “first” implies that that was his intention.  No Jew, especially one who took religious obligations seriously, could have expected him to do otherwise.  Jesus’ refusal to allow so essential a filial duty would then be profoundly shocking.

But K. E. Bailey, drawing on the insight of Arabic commentators and on his own experience of cultures and idioms of the Middle East, insists that such a scenario results from a “western” reading of the text and is culturally impossible.  If the father had just died, the son could hardly be out at the roadside with Jesus; his place was to be keeping vigil and preparing for the funeral.  Rather, to “bury one’s father” is standard idiom for fulfilling one’s filial responsibilities for the remainder of the father’s lifetime, with no prospect of his imminent death.  This would then be a request for indefinite postponement of discipleship, likely to be for years rather than days.  In that case Jesus’ reply would be less immediately shocking–the man’s proposed “discipleship” was apparently not very serious.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 329)


“In all his preaching of the kingdom of God, Jesus did not look for moral achievement in his followers, but for faith in himself.  Clearly regarded Messianic faith as the key to spiritual growth.  Paul has the same assessment.  He resists the Galatians’ effort to add to faith a calculus of legal obedience as a new source of Christian maturity:  “Did you receive the Spirit by observing the Law, or by believing what you heard?   Are you so foolish?  After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?   . . .  Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? (Gal. 3:2-5 NIV)   (Richard Lovelace; Renewal as a Way of Life, 133)


We know that the custom of burying originated in a divine command, and was practiced by the saints, in order to strengthen the hope of the last resurrection.  He intended only to show, that whatever withdraws us from the right course, or retards us in it, deserves no other name than death.  Those only live, he tells us, who devote all their thoughts, and every part of their life, to obedience to God; while those who do not rise above the world,–who devote themselves to pleasing men, and forget God–are like dead men, who are idly and uselessly employed in taking care of the dead.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 389-90)


Think again of what this volunteer actually said:  “Suffer me first to go and bury my father.”  Now underline two words in that promise: me first.  There, fully exposed, is the fallacy of his offer and the reason that the Lord was so brusque with him.  You cannot say, “Me first!” and be a disciple.  It is an effective denial of the lordship of Christ.  What Jesus said in effect to both the scribe and the volunteer was “Me first.”  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 153-4)


Furthermore, praying “Your Kingdom come” involves a commitment to do God’s will.  Matthew’s record of the Lord’s Prayer expands this phrase:  “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (6:10).  To pray “Your kingdom come” is to pray for the bending of our wills in profound obedience to his.  It is a commitment to consciously submit everything to his authority.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Luke, Vol. One, 157)


(Luke 9:62) What does Jesus want from us?  Total dedication, not half-hearted commitment.  We can’t pick and choose among Jesus’ ideas and follow him selectively; we have to accept the cross along with the crown, judgment as well as mercy.  We must count the cost and be willing to abandon everything else that has given us security.  With our focus on Jesus, we should allow nothing to distract us from the manner of living that he calls good and true.  (Life Application Study Bible, Tyndale House, Wheaton, IL, 1991, 1820)



These exchanges teach that commitment to Jesus and to the kingdom of God must be a matter of first priority for anyone to be his disciple.  In order to drive home the point, exaggeration is employed, for there is nothing wrong with having a house or a bed, and there is nothing wrong with taking care of one’s parents; neither is there anything wrong with showing love and respect to one’s family.  What Jesus is teaching, however, is that if these things mean too much to a person, then that person will find discipleship too demanding and too costly.  (Craig A. Evans, New International Biblical Commentary: Luke, 163)


Worship Point:  Worship the Son of Man who teaches, demonstrates and exemplifies what it means to die so one can truly live.  (2 Cor 8:9; 1 Pt 2:21)


How poorly the Lord Jesus was provided for.  It may encourage us to trust God for necessaries, that the beasts and birds have such good provision; and may comfort us, if we want necessaries, that our Master did so before us.  Note, Our Lord Jesus, when he was here in the world, submitted to the disgraces and distresses of extreme poverty; for our sakes he became poor, very poor.  He had not a settlement, had not a place of repose, not a house of his own, to put his head in, not a pillow of his own, to lay his head on.  He and his disciples lived upon the charity of well-disposed people, that ministered to him of their substance, Lk 8.

Christ submitted to this, not only that he might in all respects humble himself, and fulfill the scriptures, which spake of him as poor and needy, but that he might show us the vanity of worldly wealth, and teach us to look upon it with a holy contempt; that he might purchase better things for us, and so make us rich, 2 Cor 8:9.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 108)


The privilege and the seriousness of following Christ are of such tremendous magnitude that there is no room for excuse, for compromise with the world, or for half-heartedness.  What a challenge and inspiration to know that He who calls us to complete devotion and loyalty, Himself followed whole-heartedly the road of self-denial–yea, even to the death of the cross!  (Norval Geldenhuys, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Luke, 296-7)


Recognizing Jesus’ sovereign authority in the world should lead to giving Jesus total allegiance in your life.  His authority is not to be toyed or trifled with.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 112-3)


Broken marriages begin to mend and communication is reestablished when one of the partners is willing to make a breakthrough and say, “Lord, begin with me.  I am the one who needs to change, to love more deeply and more wisely.”  Even if you think your spouse is 100% wrong, when you stand in the presence of Christ you will begin to see that you, too, have shortcomings.  You will discern where you have failed to accept responsibility for the marital relationship, and you will be able to say, “God, change me.”  The Christian is committed to follow Christ who went all the way in love, all the time.  So, for a start, stop demanding that your partner change his ways.  Let God start changing you.  (Lionel Whitston; Homemade, April, 1990)


Behavioral studies show that if 2% of a homogeneous group are strongly dedicated to a given cause, that small minority can eventually move the whole.  (Association of Church Missions Commissions Newsletter, Autumn, 1989, 1)


Gospel Application:  Realize your utter failure in being who God created you to be . . . after His own image.   Praise and follow Jesus who fulfilled everything God created humanity to be.  (Rom 3:23)


Remember, Jesus is not begging for followers in Matthew 8.  He’s actually turning them away because He warrants unconditional trust and undivided affection from those who follow Him.  When Jesus speaks, leprosy, paralysis, and fever obey.  The question is, “Do you obey?”  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 113)


It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self:  to Jesus:  but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.  He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.”  All theses are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within.  But, the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self:  he tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.” remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to your hand with which you are grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to your hope, but to Jesus, the source of your hope; look not to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.  We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.  If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “Looking unto Jesus.”  Keep your eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon your mind; when you wake in the morning look to him; when you lie down at night look to him.  Do not let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail you.  (C. H. Spurgeon as quoted by Alister Begg, Pathway to Freedom, 228-9)


The essential characteristic of the Christian life is discipleship.  We learn from the Master and we identify with the Master.  He is our Savior by virtue of being our personal Lord and as disciples, we live under His Lordship.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer has said, “Only he who obeys truly believes, and only he who believes truly obeys.”  It is not a “works-righteousness” to win God’s approval, but is a response to His grace by which we are saved.  The disciple is not working up to the cross; he has been to the cross for forgiveness and is working out from the cross, expressing the new life in Christ.  (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 114-5)


Biblical salvation is paid for by someone else:  in that sense it is free.  But individual appropriation of it entails repentance, personal death to self-interest, principal submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ.  These are not meritorious acts.  They are, finally, evidence of the grace of God in the Christian life, but they are not less personal or costly for that.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 181-2)


In one sense, our salvation costs us absolutely nothing; in another, it costs us not less than everything.  The former is true because Jesus paid it all; the latter is possible because Jesus enables us to respond to his upward call.  Those who stress the latter and neglect the former may never learn that salvation is by grace alone; those who stress the former and neglect the latter may buy into a cheap facsimile of grace that knows little of the biblical gospel and less of biblical holiness.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 182)


Spiritual Challenge:  Look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith.  (Heb 12:1-2)


It is true that Jesus may never ask us to break with our families for his sake or sell all we have and give to the poor in order to follow him.  Indeed, in the great majority of cases, this is not required at all.  But we must be willing to obey in these or any other areas if Jesus asks it, and we must actually do it, if he does.  This is to say, we must get our priorities straight.  Following Jesus must be the most important thing in our lives, yes, even more important than our lives.  We must not do anything to subtract from that high commitment.  We must do everything to strengthen it.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 134)



RON DUNN – You say that Jesus is all you need.  But you can never say that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you’ve got.  And when Jesus is all you’ve got then and only then can you know for sure that Jesus is all you need.  (Dt 4:29; 6:5; 10:12; 11:13-15; 26:16; 30:6; Josh 22:5; 1 Kg 18:21; Jer 29:13; Phil 3:13-14; Col 3:23; Rv 3:16)


“Before you follow men, count the cost.”  No one can ever say that he was induced to follow Jesus under false pretenses.  Jesus paid men the compliment of pitching His demands so high that they cannot be higher.  It may well be that we have hurt the Church very seriously by trying to tell people that Church membership need not make so very much difference; we would be better to tell them that it must make all the difference in the world.  We might have fewer people; but those we had would be totally pledged to Christ.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible:  The Gospel of Luke, 133)


Day by Day, dear Lord, of  Thee three things I pray:

To see Thee more clearly

To love Thee more dearly

to follow Thee more nearly.  — Prayer of Richard of Chichester.



Remember that this postponing of all other duties relationships, and claims to Christ’s claims and relationships, and to our duties to Him, lifts them up, and does not lower them; exalts, and does not degrade, the earthly affections.  They are nobler and loftier, being second, than when perversely, and, in the literal sense, preposterously, they assume to be first.  The little hills in the foreground are never so green with the great white Alps that tower behind them; and all earthly loves and relationships catch a tinge of more ethereal beauty, and are lifted into a loftier region, when they are rigidly subordinated to our love to Him.  Being second, they are more than when they bragged that they were first.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 410)


If we cannot put Jesus first in our lives, then it means we do not know who Jesus is and what he has done for us.  For to know Jesus and what He has done for us, is to make Jesus first in every area of our lives WILLINGLY and GRATEFULLY!  We will have no hesitation; we will have no reluctance; we will have no reservations of making Jesus Master and first priority of our life.

How arrogant, stupid, prideful, ignorant and silly it would be to make Jesus, the Son of God, who created the Universe, and died on the cross for our salvation and the One who can empower us to change our lives and our world so that we can enjoy heaven on earth . . . does it make any sense at all to make this Jesus our personal assistant?  We need to make Him Lord of every area of our lives or we simply do not understand Who He is and what He came to do.  — paraphrase of  Tim Keller


If you put any conditions on your service to Christ (“I will serve you if”) then you are not really serving Christ at all but it is yourself you are serving.

—  Tim Keller


 When God calls a man, he bids him come and die. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship)




Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply