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Let the dead bury their own dead

Jesus told a man who said he would be ready to follow him after he buried his father.  Jesus said, Let the dead bury their own dead.  Was Jesus being just a little harsh?  What was he saying?
Jesus told a man who said he would be ready to follow him after he buried his father. Jesus said, Let the dead bury their own dead. Was Jesus being just a little harsh? What was he saying?
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Read Matthew 8:18-34

As a Marine officer on active duty, many young men would express interest in joining the Marine Corps. They often asked, “What will they give me?”

My answer was consistent with thousands of other Marines who had like queries. I said, “A pack, a rifle, and a hard time.” For the kid looking for some easy college money, that was usually the end of the conversation. Some, however, were intrigued all the more.

The young girl who wins the Olympics in skating or gymnastics is interviewed about her other interests, and she says, “I don’t have other interests. Skating is my life.”

Your typical kid these days wants to be a major league baseball player or design video games or be the lead vocalist for a hit group. Most, in fact the vast majority, will never do the physical training, take the math and science courses, or learn music in pursuit of any of these so called professions.

Most see a lifestyle as appealing and just say that’s what I am going to do without giving a thought to the cost of pursuing such a dream. Few will pay the cost.

A teacher of the law—someone who had already invested a lot of time and effort in education—told Jesus that he would follow him wherever he went.

Jesus replied that foxes had holes to rest in and birds had nests but that the Son of Man had no place to lay his head. That did not mean that he was a homeless wanderer. It meant that Jesus was always on the way to do his Father’s work.

He might be on a mountain top in the morning and headed across the lake in the afternoon.

He might be in Samaria or Galilee or headed to the temple.

He might spend the whole day healing or teaching.

His life and his every moment belonged to his Father in heaven. He was doing his will not touring the Middle East.

This wasn’t an 8 hour a day job. There was no vacation package or 401K.

Jesus didn’t need followers who would pack up and go home when the going got tough or they just got homesick.

Another man—this one without named qualifications—said that he was ready to go, except that he needed to bury his father first.

That would seem like a reasonable and humane request, but the reply was a bit abrupt: “Let the dead bury their own dead.”

With Jesus, it was and is all or nothing. You might think that he was the Son of a jealous God.

But this is critical to our discipleship. You can’t sort of follow Jesus. He is not a Monday-Wednesday-Friday class with a lab on Sunday.

Jesus says, follow me or keep on hanging out with the dead. When we believe, we cross over from death to life. Who would want to go back to death?

Don’t think that Jesus had no compassion for the loss of a loved one. He did. But his heart was to bring us life and life abundant and life eternal.

The question that we should ask ourselves is simple. Are we among the living?

Are we following Jesus or hanging out with the dead.

I can relate very well to the next part of this section. Jesus is on a boat and goes to sleep and a storm comes up. Jesus doesn’t get up to calm the storm. He keeps on sleeping until his disciples wake him.

I have been on many ships and slept through rough seas. That is the good thing about being a Marine on a ship that is being tossed about. You can take a nap or get a good night’s sleep if the ship is being tossed about.

It is the Navy’s job to keep you afloat.

Now if the captain sounds general quarters and it is not a drill, some of my Marines surely found their way to the ship’s heavy machine guns. That’s something that a Leatherneck is equipped to do. Hit what he aims at.

But if it is just a storm, then take a nap and let the Navy do what they are trained to do.

Jesus is asleep and probably enjoying the rest. His disciples see only the storm and fear for their lives.

Jesus knows that he will die when his ministry on earth is complete but that death will be a sacrificial death and not a drowning.

But the disciples wake him and he calms the storm and they are amazed.

We would be too.

Telling stories about God parting the Red Sea for Moses is one thing. Having the forces of nature obey the command of the Guy sleeping in the boat with you is another. That’s first hand witness.

That’s an OMG moment for sure.

So let’s get the picture here. Jesus is telling people that they should follow him only if they can pay the price. Then he shows his closest disciples that if you are following him, you will be amazed at what’s next.

He tells his disciples that faith not fear is what will get them through their journey.

Not everyone was thrilled with the mighty acts or miracles of Jesus. Take the people of the region called Gaderenes, probably east of the Sea of Galilee.

There were two men possessed by demons that hung out near the tombs and terrorized anyone who came near. This surely wasn’t a good thing for the tourist brochure, but people seemed to be content with it.

Jesus comes to the area and the demons within the men recognize Jesus as the Son of God. They also know that there will be a time for their punishment and ask Jesus if he is moving up the schedule.

At the request of the demons in these men, Jesus sent them into a herd of pigs. I don’t know the logistics of how many pigs per demon are possible, but the whole herd went over a cliff.

After those tending the pigs told the people of the town, the townsfolk asked Jesus to leave.

Perhaps Jesus had put a kink in the plans for the Bacon Fest the follow week or they just were not willing to pay the price of following Jesus.

Thanks, but no thanks was their answer.

Our challenge is to chose Jesus and be all in when we do. There is no middle ground. You follow Jesus and live by faith, or not.

Jesus doesn’t do lukewarm.

So let us answer the challenge that continues in this century by following Jesus, choosing to be among the living, and trusting him even in—especially in our storms.

I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.

Amen.