|Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." |
22 But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."
On face value, this passage shocks our sensibilities. How could Jesus demand that a son not even attend his father's funeral? What about the commandment to "honour your father and mother"? At another point Jesus even confronts the Pharisees for their neglect of this command...
The critical thing to understand here is that the father is not dead yet. It was Jewish custom to bury the dead as quickly as possible and so, if the father was dead, the son would be very busy making funeral arrangements and wouldn't be in the crowd listening to Jesus.
So, the young man was talking about staying with and working with his father until he eventually died.
This kind of procrastination or goal-post shifting is something we are familiar with:
- "Lord I'll serve you more fully when I'm out of school and have a car."
- "Lord I'll follow you more wholeheartedly when I have my degree..."
- "Lord I'll do more for you when I've settled into the job."
- "Lord, as soon as I've settled into married life, I'll be more available"
- "Lord, when the kids are older...."
- "Lord, when I've got this promotion..."
- and so on...
Jesus answers: "Let the dead bury their own dead." Most commentators have interpreted this as "let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead."
We're being challenged to prioritise God's work in our lives. It's very easy to get sucked into the "imperatives" of this world. We're often waiting for something "over the horizon" instead of putting God first in our lives.
We also must be sure that those who followed Jesus also spent time eating, sleeping and looking after family - earlier in this same chapter we read that Simon Peter was looking after his mother-in-law at home and Jesus healed her there. Jesus attended the funeral of Lazarus and I'm sure He attended others too.
The call here is not to neglect others, but to make sure we are prioritising Christ. We easily get stuck on our "over-the-horizon-procrastinations." Jesus would shake us to get our attention...