Monday, January 16, 2012

Let the Dead Bury Their Own Dead

In the Gospels, there is a scene where Jesus calls a man who just lost his father.  The man asks Jesus to wait while he tends to his father's funeral and such, but Jesus replies, "Follow me.  Let the dead bury their own dead."

This is one of those statements where Jesus comes off as almost callous and insensitive.  It is like the place in Luke 14 where Jesus said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."  Those are some hard words!

Those words in Luke 14 come right after his parable of the "Great Banquet."  So many were invited, yet they had so many excuses for why they wouldn't come.  It wasn't that there was no value to those excuses.  I mean Jesus does not literally want us to hate our husbands or wives or children or brothers or sisters or parents.  Jesus does not want us to dump our responsibilities and be terrible stewards.  So, the excuses given had the appearance of legitimacy.  But at the end of the day if there was a tug of war between those things and your life as claimed by Jesus, which side would win?

It is a matter of ownership -not what you own but what owns you?  When Jesus said, "Let the dead bury their own dead," He was essentially saying to the man, "You have to let that go and keep moving and come with Me."  This is not easy, and Jesus never said it was.  But it is necessary.  Consistent refusal to "let go" results in being owned by it.  It masters you, and you become its slave.  There comes a point where you must let things be as they are, knowing that you have no control over it, and walk, even crawl if you must, forward with Him.  Your life is His, and He leads where He will.

Yes, this is certainly painful.  And it is not as though Jesus does not know how painful this is.  Jesus, after all, left the comfort and fellowship of heaven to come down here to us, to live, to have a family and make friends, and to ultimately be abandoned by all of them for the sake of staying true to His life.  He does understand.  We have, as the writer of Hebrews says to us, a high priest who can sympathize with us -having been tempted in every point we are.  But ultimately, His words are solemn.  "Get up... Let the dead bury their own dead... Follow Me.  Keep going."

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