Making disciples is perhaps the most significant command required by Jesus–certainly the most important one to effectively spread the Gospel. We are commanded to go and make disciples of all nations, but Jesus’ response to these men does little to encourage them to become disciples–they failed the first test. Very interesting to unpack this short scripture.
Matthew 8:19-22, Luke 9:57-62
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Since we know that Jesus wants us to make disciples of all nations, his response to these men requires some introspective evaluation. The questions that pops up in my mind include: why would anyone want to be a disciple? What is the motivation for following Christ? Or perhaps the question that underscores Jesus’ response, “what’s in it for me?”
What’s in it for me?
Nothing. It’s not about you! Well, at least you’re not the center of the conversation. It is about you in the sense that your life matters, everyone matters. But the center of the Gospel is about completely honoring Christ above all things. When we confess that we are sinners and Jesus is the Lord of salvation, we put ourselves in second place. This is completely counter-intuitive to today’s skeptical culture, yet this is required.
I will follow you wherever you go.
Really? Jesus’ response is to clarify that disciples have nothing, no home, no bed, no place, no private yachts. Nada.
In Matthew’s account this story is written just after Jesus healed so many that crowds were gathering and Jesus had to cross the lake to separate himself from them. If my decision to follow Jesus is to join the next big movement, my motivation is misplaced. There is no fame here, no fortune. If I want to follow Christ, I must not be motivated by fame or fortune.
First let me go and bury my father.
So…your father is dead and you are here…interesting. Aren’t you supposed to be doing something else? That’s a whole different line of thought, but it seems the reality is the guy is making excuses. Jesus sees straight through this motivation and provides a puzzling response:
How can the dead bury their own dead? Those who are spiritually dead, those who don’t know Christ, can tend to themselves. Our first responsibility is to proclaim the kingdom of God.
Let me go back and say goodbye to my family.
Absolutely, go back and say goodbye, pack your toothbrush, get your affairs in order, check your email one more time, take a selfie and post on Instagram. Anything but actually focus on Christ.
It seems that Matthew and Luke gathered a few of the common requests of those who approached Jesus just after big events like the excitement about a miracle that must have stirred the crowds into a frenzy. It’s easy to imagine how many people get caught up in the moment and profess, “I will follow you…just let me ____ first.”
This is actually a point of contention. We want to preach and stir hearts, but we insist that people should confess Christ as Lord when they have truly thought about the consequences of sin, not just in the excitement of the moment. A charismatic leader can motivate people to do just about anything, but Jesus demands sincerity.
Lord help us to balance motivating and cultivating, to have patience while not containing our excitement. Teach us how to make disciples of all nations, of everyone.