Let the Dead Bury the Dead?

The Scripture we are journaling on today seems a little strange, I guess. To give a little background, we are looking at Matthew 8:18-22. Jesus is with his disciples by the Sea of Galilee getting ready to get in the boat and sail to the other side. A scribe and a disciple come to Jesus and tell Him they want to follow Him.

If you look closely, the scribe says he wants to follow Jesus, but there seems to be a hitch. The scribe evidently doesn’t realize the hardships in following Jesus, and Jesus reminds the scribe that He has no home to speak of, no place to lay His head, following Jesus isn’t going to be easy.

Then the disciple comes and says he also wants to follow Jesus, but first he wants to bury his father. Our verse today is Jesus’ response. “But Jesus said unto him, ‘Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.’” (Matthew 8:22 NASB) This seems like a very harsh thing for Jesus to say. “Let the dead bury their own dead”? Had this young man’s father just died? Why would Jesus say something like this?

My husband has always told me that when we look at Scripture, we need to look at it, not from the Western culture and point of view, but from the Middle Eastern culture and point of view. I consulted J. Vernon McGee’s commentary on Matthew, and this is what he writes, “Dr. Adam Smith, who was quite an authority on the Middle East, has written several helpful books. He tells of one incident where he wanted to hire an Arab guide. He explained where he wished to go and was told of a young man in a certain village who would be an excellent guide. Dr. Smith went to the village and asked the young man to be his guide and was told, “I first have to bury my father.” And there, in front of his hut, sat the old gentleman as hale and hardy as you please. What the young Arab really meant was that he could not leave because he would have to care for his father until he died. The father was the son’s responsibility. The Lord Jesus told the young man who had come to Him to let someone else take care of his father or let the father take care of himself.”

What Jesus was telling this disciple was that he had to get his priorities straight and he must decide. Following Jesus must be our top priority. It must come first before anything else. All our decisions, actions, etc., must be weighed in the light of being a Christ-Follower!

We don’t know if this young man decided to follow Jesus or turned and walked away. Was the disciple like the rich young ruler who turned away sorrowful because he couldn’t give up his wealth or, did the young man make arrangements for someone to care for his father and go with Jesus? We will most likely not know the answer to that until we get to Heaven. But it gives us food for thought.

As we look at our lives, do we put following Christ first before everything else, or is it put on the back burner? How important is being a Believer in our lives? Do our lives show to others that following Jesus is the focus in our walk with Him? Are our priorities straight?
We must evaluate our lives. What is taking priority over everything else? If after searching our hearts, if there is anything that is keeping us from following Jesus, keeping us from making a decision to make Him Lord, Savior, and Master? Then we must deal with it and decide, do we follow Jesus and “Let the dead bury their own dead”, or do we walk away?

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