Matthew 8:17-22 Harsh Responses For Wannabe Disciples

18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Harsh Responses for Wannabe Disciples

It struck me for the first time that Matthew classes those asking Jesus to cut them slack as disciples.  these are people who have come out of the general crowd and have made some sort of commitment to Jesus.  Subsequently Jesus tels them that their expectations of discipleship will not be met.  Most Rabbis established themselves in a region, made a name by expounding scriptures and then got rich.  They would share the wealth with their disciples who would then take a share in the fortune and inherit a crowd to teach with sayings of their own.  Jesus doesn’t walk in the footsteps of another Rabbi and he has no plans to establish a home base.  He was not a vagabond, he stayed at houses of friends and family, but Jesus took on very litle in the way of personal property.  This disappointed a disciple who might have expected something different.

The second disciple is looking to bury his family and in effect puts Jesus second.  Jesus will not be second in the eyes of his disciples – not even to family.

Jesus’ kingdom seems harsh, but it is everything to those who understand it.  With a right understanding of God and Jesus’ fulfilment of the law, those who get it cling to him even if it means they lose family, property, and status.  I don’t think we have created a church that is that committed, do you?


  1. With what requests is Jesus presented?
  2. How does he respond?
  3. Why do you think Jesus responds this way?
  4. How do you view having a relationship with this kind of Jesus?
  5. Are you ‘all in’?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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2 Responses to Matthew 8:17-22 Harsh Responses For Wannabe Disciples

  1. Carrie says:

    Wow! This is a deep one! It does seem harsh that Jesus won’t take sympathy on a man that was to be at the burial of a family member BUT I think that it is an amazing testament of how we should be living our lives. God is first! We often put our husbands/wives, children, friends, work, money, entertainment, etc first but God should number one. I think this a great reminder of how we should be living our lives, how we should be teaching our children to lead their lives and how we can be a light to others by leading our lives this way. It is a daily struggle for me to put God first but a struggle I’m interested in working through.

  2. Kristen Patush says:

    With what requests is Jesus presented?
    People from the crowd ask Jesus if they would be disciples.
    How does he respond?
    He tells them that they need to leave their things and leave their family.
    Why do you think Jesus responds this way?
    These things come second to following Jesus.
    How do you view having a relationship with this kind of Jesus?
    How can anyone give any less? This makes complete sense, in light of what Jesus has done for us.
    Are you ‘all in’?
    Of course, how could I not be?

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