“Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “follow me and let the dead bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:21,22
That verse always stands out for me as harsh. I mean here is a disciple, a follower of Jesus, asking for a little time off to go and bury his father and our loving Messiah tells him no, that he should let the dead bury the dead and ignore his obligations to his family. I wanted to look into this because, on first reading, it makes Jesus seem so callous and uncaring of his follower’s grief. This seems so out of character for the guy who is going to sacrifice himself for the sake of humanity a few years later.
I started looking into the verse and really trying to understand it in my heart. What if this follower was afraid of what Jesus was asking him to do? What if his asking for time off was an excuse? Maybe he wanted the people around him to believe that he was a follower of Jesus because that was the “cool” thing to be in that moment. But, in his heart, he really wasn’t ready for the commitment following Christ would require.
We’ve all been there. We’ve said and done things in the moment that we knew in our heart wasn’t a reflection of who we really were or what we really believed. As humans, we have a deep seated need to be accepted. It’s fundamental to our survival as a species to be a part of a social unit.
But I think that Jesus is speaking to all of us in this verse. What are the dead things in our lives that are holding us back? What do we need to leave behind us in order to really live as a follower of Christ? Maybe we are like the man in this story, saying and doing all the right things, but not really surrendering ourselves. We always have a good excuse why we can’t go to church, read our bible, pray more. Believe me, as a mother, my list of excuses is almost inexhaustible. I have to get groceries, do laundry, clean the house, drive the kids, make the dinner, walk the dog. But maybe we are being called to be more mindful. To leave those things that are “dead” in their place. Does an immaculate house really add to my quality of life?…maybe not. If I have a few free minutes often feel the call of Facebook, it’s easy. But I find greater peace comes from the time I sit down with a cup of tea and my bible. I can go an entire day without Facebook and not really miss out on anything. But if I don’t make that connection with God, I feel it all day.
We need to remember that Jesus knows us even better than we know ourselves. It does seem that there had to be a good reason for Jesus, the guy who raised Lazarus from the dead, to tell this man to leave his dead to the dead. It’s even possible that guy didn’t have a relationship with his father or that he had family that was already taking care of things. I think the point here is that he was making an excuse, and Jesus called him out on it.
We all have them, but let’s make an extra effort this week to be aware of the excuses we are making in our lives that are keeping us from really following Christ? Let’s leave our fears behind and commitment to being people who do what’s right, instead of people who say what’s right.