Nana Yaw Aidoo
After delivering the last discourse in His great Galilean ministry, Jesus Christ “stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). His death was drawing ever closer but our Lord “marched resolutely towards that dark event.” On the way to Judea, our Lord encountered three prospective disciples and through these encounters, we are taught lessons on the cost of discipleship, for all time (cf. Luke 9:57-62). Let us however focus on the encounter with the second prospective disciple. When He met this person, Jesus Christ said to him, “Follow Me” (Luke 9:59). In response, the would-be disciple said “Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.” Our Lord then said; “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60). In view of the fifth commandment in the Decalogue, which explicitly stated; “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee” (Exod. 20:12), the response of Christ to this prospect, is on the surface, quite baffling.
What did our Lord mean when He said, “Let the dead bury their dead…?” Was He telling the prospect to dishonor his dad? That cannot be, for if that were the case, then our Lord would have been guilty of sin, something we are certain He wasn’t guilty of (cf. Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:21-24). Actually, Jesus Christ, who knew what was in man (John 2:25), knew that the prospect was simply making an excuse. There is no indication that the prospect’s father was dead. If his father were dead and unburied, he wouldn’t have been standing by the roadside for Christ to meet him and say to him, “Follow Me.” Rather, as David Roper notes, he would have been taking care of his responsibilities since in Bible lands, the burial of dead people took place immediately, and even if possible, on the same day with the subsequent ceremony taking a week or more. (The Life of Christ 2, p.21). Please notice if you would that it was Christ who requested this person’s discipleship and not the other way round. Thus, the would-be disciple’s response was more like, “Later! I’d consider it.” David Roper wrote of this text; “Those who have lived in that culture give many examples in which the words ‘Let me first bury my father’ indicated that in the far distant future, the speaker would consider the proposal” (ibid). Jesus knew that this would-be disciple was making an excuse and thus, the reason for not wanting to follow Christ was an illegitimate one.
However, friends, may we for a moment consider the excuse of the second prospective disciple? He told Christ; “Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.” The word first ought to catch our attention. Roper wrote; “The tragic word in the man’s excuse is the word ‘first'” (ibid). All who have read the Bible, know how much emphasis Christ places on Him being first in our lives. He said; “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness..” (Matt. 6:33). He also said; “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me…” (Matt. 10:37). If we would put first things first, then Christ would be or ought to be topmost priority in our lives. Our love for, and loyalty to, Christ must trump our love for. and loyalty to. even our most beloved relatives. However, by telling Christ to allow him to first go and bury his father, this prospective disciple was calling “for a radical transference of loyalty.”
How many times have we not seen the attitude that characterized this prospective disciple, in many people today? So many young ones moving through to the tertiary institutions say, “I am too young to think about God. Let me enjoy myself a little bit first. Then I’ll follow Jesus.” When these young ones complete their tertiary education and become professionals, they then say; “I need to make it in life and so I need to work hard. My work is demanding and thus I am too busy and I get too tired often. Let me first of all become established. Then I’ll follow Jesus.” Then, due to the brevity of life, in a short while, these ones find themselves so much advanced in years. This time round they say, “I need to plan my retirement because I need to enjoy life at that age too. So let me get my affairs in order first. Then I’ll follow Jesus.” All these people seemingly forget that, since it is appointed unto men to die; they who were at one point young ones, will die too unless Christ comes first. Then finding themselves in “torments” (Luke 16:23), they will realize that it’s now too late to think about God. “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these. It might have been.”
Dear reader, are you a Christian? If not, I urge you to run to Jesus for the cleansing power and be washed in the blood of the Lamb. There is no other day but today because “ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (Jas. 4:14). Believe with all your heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He was raised from the dead (John 8:24). Repent of all your sins (Luke 13:3). Make that great confession that you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Matt. 10:32). And upon that confession, allow yourself to be baptized in order to wash away your sins (Acts 22:16). From the watery grave of baptism, rise to walk in the newness of life, continuing in faithfulness to God (Rev. 2:10) and you shall receive eternal life as your victor’s crown as promised by the God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2).
Jesus loves you and He bids you come today. “…behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).