Session #065 Read the Fine Print
Scripture Matthew 8:18-22
Summary Is being a Christian just about going to heaven? What does it mean to follow Jesus? Have you read the fine print? Listen to the King as He explains His expectations in Matt 8:18-22. For sure, Jesus desires all to follow Him. Even so, He defines what it means to follow Him. That said, He demands and deserves all of those who follow Him.
And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:18–22 (cf Luke 9:57–62)
Is being a Christian just about going to heaven? What does it mean to follow Jesus? Have you read the fine print? Jesus desires all to follow Him. Even so, He defines what it means to follow Him. That said, He demands and deserves all of those who follow Him.
The Other Side (Matthew 8:18)
This passage records Jesus’ dialogue with two would-be disciples, representing both the clergy and the congregation. One presumed his readiness to follow. The other gave a procrastinated response.
Multitudes and Ministry are important. But Jesus is very clear of His assignment and His need for rest. He is clear of His Areas of Operation, and some are on “the other side”. Often, it is these “in-between” times that Jesus will disengage from the crowds that He may engage His disciples at a much deeper level.
Ministry and Discipleship go together. As Jesus trains the disciples, He also uses every opportunity to teach them along the way. You cannot disciple in a classroom, seminar and classroom setting. Discipleship is usually done “on the road”, “along the way”, “in-between” the moving to “the other side”.
A Certain Scribe: Presumed Readiness (Matthew 8:19)
Who are the Scribes?
Scribes are a class of scholars who teach, copy, and interpret the Jewish Law for the people.
Scribes in the gospel are known to uphold oral law and traditions over the Spirit of the Law. They placed unnecessary burdens on the people but did not keep the laws themselves. Outwardly holy, but inwardly corrupt. They opposed Jesus and even the early church.
A certain scribe or a teacher expresses his desire to follow Jesus, the Teacher. It was possible that he was attracted to Jesus because He taught with authority and was impressed with the miracles which demonstrated authority: The scribe knowing the Scripture, acknowledges that Jesus is the Messiah. He knew that this is the King and he offered to follow Him everywhere.
“Son of Man”
Jesus used the term “Son of Man” in His reply. This term was mentioned 88 times in the New Testament of which 29 times in Matthew. This son of man, above all else, is a heavenly figure. It emphasizes the origin, majesty, and dignity of this ruler who will rule over all things forevermore. When Jesus calls Himself the “Son of Man,” He is identifying Himself with this heavenly figure from the book of Daniel. (John 3:13-15).
The scribe would have known Daniel 7, but perhaps presumptuously that the promise Daniel 7:14 would also be fulfilled immediately. That may explain his ready willingness to follow Jesus “wherever You go”. Instead of Jesus being excited at the scribe’s enthusiasm, He addressed the scribe’s expectation. Yes, there will be power and glory. But not in the way you expect it or in your timing.
Three aspects to the Messianic Title
The first is Jesus’ heavenly origin and divine authority for earthly mission required the leaving of heavenly glory for the humiliation of his earthly ministry. He gave up heavenly abundance for the uncertainties of life on earth. The Son of God became the Son of Man, being obedient to the point of death (Philippians 2:2-5).
The second is Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection as a means to fulfil His earthly assignment was recorded in Mark 8:31 and Matthew 20:28.
The third is Jesus’ second coming is His final victory and judgment (Matthew 16:27, 19:28 and 24:37).
Do you really understand who you are following and what is expected? You will have delegated divine authority but you must be prepared for humiliation and uncertainties. Suffering, persecution and death are all par for the course. These are all possibilities for anyone who follows Jesus. Be assured that when Jesus returns, He will reward justly. In the meantime, endure and persevere. And keep keeping on.
Another Disciple: Procrastinated Response (Matthew 8:21-22)
A request to wait until the father dies which maybe years. Jesus was not against honouring parents. In fact, He exposed the hypocrisy of the system when the religious leaders justified how by giving to the temple the people did not need to look after their parents (Matthew 15:6).
To the Jews, only one person’s honour takes precedence over parents, GOD’s Honour. All four commandments before “Honour father and mother” related to God. Jesus upheld the honouring of parents. But devotion and affection due to Him, as Messiah and God, must remain unparalleled.
Let the dead bury their own dead
How can the dead bury anyone? Obviously, Jesus was referring to the spiritually dead, not the physically dead. Jesus was sending a very strong message to those who consider themselves spiritually alive.
Those who are spiritually alive are to follow Jesus, to serve the purposes of the King and His kingdom (Luke 9:60).
Possibly, Jesus knew it was a stalling tactic, to buy time, to procrastinate, to postpone a decision of commitment. Jesus takes precedence and priority. Our obedience and commitment are to Him above all other social and family obligations Jesus is not against looking after the welfare of the family. If His kingdom assignment is for you to look after sick and aged parents, then obey. But do not use it as an excuse not to follow Him.
Following Jesus is Serious Business
Two examples. One at each extreme.
The scribe was totally enthusiastic. But Jesus challenged that enthusiasm, making the disciple hesitant. Jesus challenged his priority. What’s holding you back? Which are you?
Jesus desires all to follow Him
The multitudes followed Jesus and we can presume that many offered themselves to be disciples of Jesus.
Jesus always defined and clarified what it meant to follow Him
Jesus never lowered the bar. He reads out and points out the fine print by presenting the demands and dangers. He challenges their affection, affiliation and allegiance by asking them, “Are you sure? Are you sure? Are you sure you want to follow Me?”
Over-enthusiasm or emotionalism does not impress Jesus. It is a lot of hype but no action.
Jesus was not afraid of losing anyone because He knows He is the real deal. If we do not follow, we are the ones who lose out, not Him.
Jesus demands and deserves our all when we follow Him
Procrastination does not ascribe Jesus the worship He is due. There are a lot of excuses that show no faith and obedience. Following Jesus is only for those who are serious (Luke 9:61). Devotion and commitment are required, but perfection is entirely by His grace.
What is discipleship to you? Christians are believers in Jesus. And believers are followers of Jesus because we belong to Jesus. These are invitations to a deeper commitment to Jesus and His kingdom. We do not get to choose to be disciples. But we have to choose how committed we are as disciples.
Are you following a programme, a person or Jesus? You do not get to pick and choose what you like or do not like. Jesus is very clear about how we are to follow Him.
Have you read the fine print? Following Jesus is serious business. Are you ready for Kingdom business?