Let the dead bury their own dead….

One of the most shocking statements that Jesus makes comes after Jesus invites a man to become one of His disciples and the man responds by saying, “I will Lord, but first…”  And in this man’s case he says, “First, let me go and bury my father.”  That seems like a reasonable request.  In that day, as in ours, it was very much expected of children to honor their mother and father based upon the Ten Commandment’s exhortation to do so, and a proper burial of your parents certainly is a way to honor them.

According to Dr. Darrell Bock within the Jewish culture a proper burial was such a major concern that it was a religious, social, and ethical priority that took precedence over everything in your life.[1]  So when Jesus invites this man into discipleship and the man responds by essentially saying, “I will Lord, but first let me bury my father,” it’s the ‘best’ possible reason in the world for delaying discipleship to Jesus Christ!  And Jesus will have none of it.

He responds to this man’s seemingly reasonable request by saying, “Let the dead bury their own dead…”  Wow!  This is a scandalous statement coming from the lips of Jesus.  What in the world is He saying? Is Jesus being cruel? Is He being harsh with this man?  Jesus makes this shocking statement to make His point, and His point is that even the ‘best’ excuse for delaying discipleship to Him is no excuse!

Jesus, by making this statement is telling this man (and us) that discipleship to Jesus transcends all other allegiances and priorities and nothing should get in the way of it or postpone it!

So many people postpone becoming a follower of Jesus by telling themselves something such as, ‘when I’m older, then I’ll get serious about Jesus’ or ‘when I’m married and have kids, then I’ll dive into discipleship.’ Others say, “When I have my life figured out, and I’m not so busy, then I’ll begin to really follow Jesus.”  And Jesus by shocking this man with these words is essentially telling this man, “No more delays.  You need to stop making excuses, and stop delaying discipleship and begin today.  Stop thinking that at some indiscriminate point in the future you’ll get serious about Me, make up your mind to get serious about Me today!”

If you’re someone who has been postponing your relationship with Jesus so you can pursue something else, even something the world tells you is honorable, please catch what Jesus is saying here.  Jesus is telling you that you’ll always find another reason for delaying discipleship to Him until tomorrow if you don’t make up your mind and determine in your heart to really follow Him today!


[1] In the Mishnah, M. Ber. 3.1 reads, “He who is confronted by a dead relative is free from reciting the Shema, from the Eighteen Benedictions (the prayer of Israel), and from all the commandments stated in Torah.”

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