Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 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.” 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.”
– Matthew 8:19-22
It is common to read this passage in Matthew 8 and think that Jesus is somehow being harsh.
I’m realizing, more and more, that what Jesus is being here is honest. He is not telling the scribe to give up on the idea of following him; he is, rather, telling him “OK, but keep in mind that if you truly follow me, you will be homeless, as I am homeless.”
He is not telling the other disciple not to follow him. This disciple wanted to bury his father, and it’s been noted in several commentaries that this may not have meant that his father was dead. It may have meant that he wanted to wait until his father died; then he’d be free to follow.
He was saying “I want to follow you Jesus, just not yet”.
Sometimes I fear that “I want to follow you Jesus, just not yet” is the story of my life. But I digress: Jesus is just being honest with this fellow. Jesus is always honest; there is not a whiff of the salesman in Jesus, there is not a trace of the confidence man, there is no bait and switch, there isn’t any “stretch” in the truth of Jesus’ marketing of what it means to be a disciple. Because Jesus doesn’t “market” at all, he just tells the truth. What he is saying here is “if you want to follow me, you need to follow me now.”
Don’t you love that about Jesus? He tells us, plainly, what we’re getting ourselves into.
May we be boat-leaving, plow-leaving, net-abandoning right-now followers of Jesus.
[Note: this was cross-posted over at the HNW GAP Singles blog]