Matthew 8:18-22 The Cost of Discipleship


The crowds surrounded Jesus, and it was evening. Christ’s order to cross the lake was to evade the crowd and get rest. In the middle of preparing, Jesus was approached by two men.

One man is a teacher of the law, or scribe, with a bold proclamation that he will follow Jesus wherever he goes. Scribes were well educated men. It would appear that a scribe would be a valuable addition to his crew.  Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.  Jesus would not have said this, if it were not necessary for the scribe to hear it. The scribe heard two things that he should have considered. The first was the rough life of a disciple in the ministry of Jesus. Jesus and his disciples had no home, and only rested where they could.  The second, was the reference to the son of man. Son of Man was a messianic title, which a scribe would certainly recognize. Jesus did not say, I am the son of man, he only spoke of it, and left it for the scribe to ponder. This was not a rejection, but the words of Christ were meant to strike the heart of the scribe.

The next man is disciple who had been following Jesus. Time to bury his father was a customary request, and by any earthly standard, would have been granted. Jesus responds in what superficially seems irrational and insensitive, but this man had already begun a commitment to Jesus. If he left, he could have been persuaded not to return, or tempted to a worldly life. His family and friends might have said, Forget about that Jesus. After all, who was Christ to them? They were so spiritually devoid that Jesus called them “dead”. Let the spiritually dead tend to their own. Jesus did not want to lose one of his disciples, who already begun to know him, to turn back to his former life. His offer of comfort and compassion were in the words, “Follow me.” Jesus told the man to leave death behind him- the physical death of his father, and the spiritually dead world.

We should note that each of these men heard what they needed to hear to bring them closer to Christ, not drive them away. The scribe offered to follow, Christ told him to ponder the cost, the other man wanted to stay, Christ told him to follow at any cost. It would be a mistake to think that all disciples of Jesus must be homeless, or that funerals are forbidden for Christians. However, a funeral should not keep us from our Christian duty and neither should a lack of comfort.