The Continuing Life of Discipleship
Matt. 8:18 ¶ Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side.
Matt. 8:19 A scribe then approached and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
Matt. 8:20 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.”
Matt. 8:21 Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Matt. 8:22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Considering how the scribes and the pharisees are represented in Scripture it seems unusual that this person would come and tell Jesus that he was ready to follow him. He even calls Jesus “teacher.” Jesus has been talking about life within the kingdom and the invitation is not just to follow Christ, but to engage in life within the kingdom. What does that mean for this religious man? Jesus is unsure of the man’s understanding and level of commitment. This is not just about following around a popular earthly teacher and reaping temporal benefits, Jesus is calling for a life of discipleship that begins here and ends in the eternal.
The continuing life of discipleship requires one to give up all their earthly possessions, at least to the extent that they no longer are a matter of consequence. In other words, a disciple must be willing to go and serve anywhere in the kingdom. Service to the kingdom of God had to come above everything else. When another disciples responds, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father,” Jesus tells him instead to “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” At first glance we may believe that this seems or appears callous on Jesus’ part. Surely we are to love and care for our family.
The problem is that in first-century Roman culture the family unit was the social unit. Everyone belonged to a particular household, whether you were the man responsible for the household, the wife who managed the household, the children cared for within the system, or even the servants who served. The head of the household made the decisions for everyone who belonged to them and in this way society functioned. What Jesus is saying here is a statement about the kingdom. True discipleship meant going outside of the societal structures that existed and being willing to step into life in the kingdom. The kingdom of God had to become of more value and importance than the systems of society.
A disciple had to leave behind all of the social structures that brought them security and follow Christ. This was the on-going and continuing life of discipleship.
Yesterday we celebrated Easter and rejoiced in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The question for us today is whether we are willing to take up our cross and follow him!
The scribe was enjoying the excitement around Jesus Christ. That was the fun stuff. Yesterday was the fun stuff. But then reality has to set in. Life and service within the kingdom is not just about fun stuff or about celebration. Life and service in the kingdom means stepping out of our comfort zones and out of the world in which we are currently living and seeking first only his kingdom.
Once we become a disciple we are not just learning about Jesus, we are living in the kingdom with Jesus. As we live in the kingdom with him we are drawn on a journey which leads us outside of the things of the world. The social structures which exist on earth are not the ones that we follow when we are serving in the kingdom. We allow the things of the world to care for the things of the world as we already live in the world of the eternal kingdom. When kingdom life and Jesus become our focus, then we may begin the journey of true discipleship and true discipleship will lead us onward and upward all the way through to eternity. This is the on-going and continuing life of a disciple.
Lord, may you please help me to continually live as a disciple in your kingdom. Amen.