Today we reading Matthew 8.
After teaching his disciples the difficult ethics of his kingdom to emphasize our need for true spiritual rebirth, Jesus went on a tear, healing people in rapid succession. He healed man who who had leprosy just after coming down the mountain (8:1-4), the servant of a centurion (vv. 5-13), Peter’s mother-in-law (vv. 14-15), and a gaggle of demon-possessed people and others who were ill (vv. 14-16). Matthew told us in verse 17 that Jesus did all this to fulfill what Isaiah prophesied about Messiah in Isaiah 53:4.
In response to Jesus’ teaching and power display, men began offering to follow him. One of them was a prestigious “teacher of the law” (vv. 18-19) who volunteered to go with Jesus everywhere. Jesus told him to get ready for an unsettled life. Every wildlife creature may have its own home, but not Jesus. He owned nothing but the clothes on his back. He found a place for himself and his disciples to sleep every night, but it was a different place every night and none of them ever felt like home (v. 20).
Another would-be disciple wanted to follow Jesus but on his own terms. When he asked to bury his father, there is no indication that his father is dead, dying, or sick. The passage suggests that he is promising to follow Christ later, when he is out from under his father’s authority. Jesus’ answer was, “‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’” Both the man’s wish to wait and Christ’s use of the word “dead” suggests that this man’s father was an unbeliever. The man wanted to honor his father first and receive his father’s approval, then follow Jesus when his father’s approval was no longer an issue.
Both of these men were invited by Christ to take risks for the gospel. Christ described discipleship as a chaotic living situation (at best) instead of stable home life and a situation where one must do what God commands even when it costs you the approval of the person whose approval you want the most. This is living by faith. It is counting on God to take care of you and reward you instead of finding those things by the usual human ways. Jesus demonstrated his ability to be trusted, however, by demonstrating his power over nature (vv. 23-27) and over the supernatural world (vv. 28-34). So the “risk” of no home and family disownership was really no risk at all because all things are subject to the power of Jesus, so he can be trusted to take care of you.
Are you struggling with the cost of discipleship? Are you tempted to hide your faith in Christ around friends of colleagues who think that our faith is backward, unscientific, and bigoted? Do you encourage your children to live by faith–go to a Christian college and enter Christian ministry or to find a safer, more conventional career that will provide a stable life. The cost of discipleship is unequally distributed. God calls some disciples to literally lay down their lives for Jesus; others he calls to risk their professional reputation or their economic prosperity and stability. The cost of following Jesus may be higher or lower for you than it is for me but it will cost each of us something.
Do you trust Jesus enough to take the risk?