Jesus was about to cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But two men delayed his departure. Each one came and offered to follow Jesus (See Matthew 8:18-22.).
The first man was a scribe, a group usually hostile to Jesus. He referred to Jesus as “Teacher,” and promised to follow him anywhere. Impressive! Surely Jesus will encourage a man who is taking such a big step of faith, right?
Surprisingly, Jesus questions this man’s devotion. He warns the scribe to count the cost. As a preacher on the move, Jesus has no place to lay his head. Is this man really willing to make the necessary sacrifices in order to be Jesus’ disciple?
This scribe is a teacher of the law, a religious leader, a man invested in the established way of thinking about God. But Jesus challenges many of the ideas of the religious leaders. He knows that this scribe’s religion is actually a barrier to discipleship.
Do we have established ideas about religion and discipleship that are out of step with Jesus?
Next, a man addresses Jesus as “Lord” and asks if he can go and bury his father before following Jesus. Now this man seems to have a better understanding of Jesus’ real identity, calling him “Lord” instead of “Teacher.” And he seems to be taking the commitment seriously, recognizing that discipleship may mean separation from his family, at least for a time.
Sounds as if the second man is making a perfectly reasonable offer. Surely Jesus will encourage him!
Jesus tells this man to come and follow now and let the dead bury their own dead. Wow! Isn’t that harsh? Does Jesus not care about the man’s family? It’s not that Jesus lacks compassion for the man’s family. But nothing is more important than God’s call.
The second man is using his family obligation as an excuse to delay following Jesus. By using his family as an excuse not to follow Jesus now, the man is making his family an idol.
Do we use good things in our lives, like family, as excuses to avoid following Jesus passionately?
So Jesus sees something lacking in both of these men. The scribe is a religious man but ironically his religion may be keeping him from understanding that Jesus deserves complete devotion. The second man loves his family, but he is trying to use something good (family) to avoid doing what is best (discipleship).
Jesus finally gets into the boat and crosses the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 8:23-34). His disciples follow. Little do they know what awaits them! On the water they witness Jesus rebuking a terrifying storm and bringing a great calm. As a result, they ask themselves what sort of man this is, that even the winds and the sea obey him.
Once on the eastern shore, they encounter a couple of frightening demon-possessed men, so dangerous that nobody risked passing by that way. Jesus, however, boldly commands the demons to leave. They do, in a rather dramatic fashion that strikes fear in the hearts of the local folks, prompting them to beg Jesus to leave their region.
And Jesus moves on. But those two men who stay behind miss the greatest opportunity of their lives. They remain on the shore where it is ‘safe.’ The ones who are willing to follow Jesus out onto the waters have some unsettling moments. But they also see the power of God firsthand.
May the Lord give us hearts that will follow Jesus without hesitation,