Where Is He on Your List?
Read Matthew 8:14-34
Jesus causes quite a stir as He travels the region bringing deliverance, healing and peace. He has healed the sick, delivered the demon-possessed, and calmed the storm, all with the authority of Heaven behind Him, and the pull of the Cross before Him. He has shown power and strength, as well as tenderness and compassion. Which is why I had trouble with a couple of verses in today’s reading.
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 8:21, 22
This verse hits close to home for me because within the last few years, I have lost both of my parents to cancer. So I have to tell you, this verse disturbed me. But maybe not for the reason you're thinking.
On the surface, Jesus' statement could sound blunt and unfeeling – maybe even a little impatient. But it wasn’t Jesus’ words in this passage that bothered me. It was my own fuzzy comprehension of them. You see, it’s impossible for anything I may or may not read to undermine Who I know Jesus to be. Why? Because I have something that uncertain passages and cloudy-glass thinking can’t shake. I have experience.
I know Jesus is loving. I felt His Arms around me at my father's funeral. I know He is compassionate. He collected my tears, every one of them, as I said goodbye to my mother. And I know He is caring. I have felt His strength surround me many times when mine has faltered... as the memories return unexpectedly. I know Jesus is all of these things and so much more because I have experienced them. I know Him. And nothing can take that away from me.
So, it’s when I come to a passage like this one that I’m stopped cold in my tracks. I know Jesus is infinitely loving, even though His words, on the surface, sound otherwise. What did Jesus mean with His curt reply to the disciple who wanted to go and bury his father? I just had to know. I hope you don't mind, but I thought I’d take you on my discovery journey as well. And what I found may surprise you...
Bible scholars agree that this disciple’s situation was not as readers today automatically assume. There were no flowers wilting, no mourners calling, no funeral procession growing impatient, waiting for the devoted son to complete it. In fact, scholars believe there wasn’t even a corpse.
You see, it was custom at that time for the oldest son to assume the care and responsibility for his father until his death. So, this period of time could've been relatively short, or if the father was blessed with good health, it could've lasted a very long time. But maybe Jesus knew something about this situation that we don't.
Knowing this disciple's heart (as I’m sure He did), Jesus very possibly saw this request for what it really was... a stalling tactic. An “I'll wait and see how popular this guy gets before I give up too much” excuse. Of course, as I said, only Jesus truly knew his heart. But from my compassionate Jesus' strong words, I believe this disciple heard exactly what he needed to hear.
And that brings me back to you and me. I believe the message to us is one of priorities. What are ours? Where does God fit into our life's “to do” list? Is He just a part taking up a little space? Does he fall in line somewhere between “having a family” and “making a living”… on a good day?
Jesus can never be just a part of my life, filling just a place in my heart. It's all or nothing. He's either number one or He's not on the list. His position in my life is not variable, and should never be shuffled around as my circumstances dictate.
Life changes. God does not. And the sooner we learn that, the better off the rest of our life will be.
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