Matt 8:21-22 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
I have heard more than one message that, I think, correctly interpreted this seemingly shocking passage. I don’t think the disciple’s father was already dead, and Jesus was refusing permission to go to the funeral. Rather, I think the disciple was saying that he would follow Jesus after his father died, whenever that was, and Jesus was having none of it. Actually, that sort of thing happens all the time. “I’ll do what God wants me to do after ( ),” with that blank filled in by any of a number of things. I’ve heard that sort of thing often when it comes to tithing. “I’ll tithe after I get a better job,” or “I’ll tithe after I get this debt paid off.” I’ve heard it in relation to sharing the Gospel. “I’ll tell people about Jesus after I graduate from seminary.” If you aren’t telling people about Jesus, you have no business going to seminary! One of the many things I love about Jesus is that He had absolutely nothing to do with being “politically correct.” He always spoke in love, but that never kept Him from speaking the truth. He didn’t mince words, but said what needed to be said. In teaching He often used parables, to give His hearers a conceptual framework on which to hang the truth they were hearing, but that wasn’t to beat around the bush or to sugar-coat the truth. He didn’t make following Him easy! In our evangelism today we bend over backwards to remove what we see as obstacles to people coming to Christ, and in the process we sometimes dilute the Gospel to the point of making it meaningless. There can be no salvation without repentance, but we don’t want people to “feel bad,” and so we never talk about sin. I once talked with an evangelist (the real thing) who said that he couldn’t save anybody; his job was to get people lost. By that he meant helping people understand they were lost and needed to be saved, so they would ask Jesus to save them. Following Christ is not about doing things the world’s way, but about repentance and commitment to obedience.
I can preach about this, but I’ve practiced conditional obedience myself more times than I like to remember. I deal with this issue a great deal in Japan, because loyalty is such a high value here that people say they will become Christians after their parents die, exactly like the disciple mentioned here. They forget that once that happens, all their relatives will expect and demand that they take charge of their parents’ votive tablets in their Buddhist family altar, making it all the harder to follow Christ alone. Worship of the dead is an integral part of Japanese Buddhism, and is a spiritual prison for many. I am not to offend needlessly, but I am not to fail to speak God’s truth out of a fear of offending. My variation on this issue would be, “I’ll tell them the truth when they can understand and receive it.” I am indeed to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s timing, but if He says to say something, I must never hold back.
Father, thank You for this Word. Thank You for the good group in the service yesterday, and for how strongly You are drawing that one lady to yourself. I ask for Your wisdom and anointing in leading her in clear repentance and faith, to be born again indeed. May all that we say and do and are draw more and more people to You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!