Matthew Bible Study (The Gospel of the King and the Kingdom of Heaven)

Matthew 8:18-22, Faith To Follow


Jesus has a great crowd following him. Matthew 8:1 reads that there were great crowds following him. Matthew 8:18 says that Jesus saw the crowd around him. But what is so interesting about Jesus and his work is that he is not content to have crowds follow him. Jesus is not interested in doing whatever it takes to have a bunch of people walking next to him. He is seeking true followers. Jesus always will say things and do things to whittle down the crowd. To state this another way, Jesus does not want superficial followers. Jesus does not want people who say they are disciples. Jesus wants people who are deep rooted followers. Jesus is not interested in people who say they are followers. In the second half of Matthew 8 we are going to see Jesus determining who are really followers and who are superficial followers. As we consider Jesus, I want us to consider ourselves and determine if we are really followers or just superficial followers. As we look at this, I want to remind us that Matthew by the Holy Spirit has placed these short accounts together so we will see the common theme and develop another important picture about who Jesus is and what he came to do. Let’s begin in Matthew 8:18-22.

Following Is Uncomfortable (8:18-22)

Jesus sees the crowds and gives the order that he and his disciples are going to go over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But before crossing over, a scribe comes up to Jesus and says he will follow Jesus wherever he goes. When you read about a scribe in the gospels, you are to think about someone who really knows the word of God. He has dedicated his life professionally to knowing and writing the scriptures. This would be someone who would certainly be a great disciple. But notice what Jesus says to him in verse 20.

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20 ESV) There is no praise for this scribe’s declaration. Jesus warns him that if you want to follow him, then you are not going to have a comfortable life. Have you ever thought about how the scriptures never say, “Then everyone went to Jesus’ house?” The scriptures never say that Jesus went home. The scriptures never say that he enjoyed the comforts of his own home, sleeping in his own bed, making his own meals. Jesus is living an uncomfortable life. What Jesus is doing is not unique to him. He is telling this scribe that if he wants to follow him, then you are signing up to forfeit the comforts of this world. Following Jesus does not mean you are going to be comfortable. There are many commands that Jesus gives that are quite uncomfortable and very difficult to follow. There are many things that Jesus asks us to do that goes against our nature, goes against what sounds good, goes against what is easy, and goes against what is comfortable.

I want to consider how what Jesus said is often the complete opposite of how the gospel is presented in many churches. Jesus is not calling us to comfort. Jesus is not calling us to do what is easy. Jesus is not telling us we will have money if we follow him. He is not telling us that we will have possessions or comfort or ease. In fact, Jesus is telling that he might require us to give those things up. Jesus is telling us that it might be really uncomfortable to follow him. He might put it to us to lose it all in this world. Would we still follow Jesus if we could not have a home? Would we follow Jesus even when we are called to do what is uncomfortable?

Following Is Immediate (8:21-22)

Then another disciple comes up to Jesus. He wants to follow Jesus to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But he has a request. He wants to go and bury his father first. We are now getting a sense of what Jesus is doing. Jesus sees the large crowds and proclaims that he is going to go across the sea. Why not stay and teach the crowds? Why is he leaving this crowd? We are seeing the reason revealed. Jesus is going to see who is going to leave it all and go across with him. The scribe needs to know that there is nowhere to sleep on the other side of the sea. Will you follow me anyway? Now a disciple says to Jesus that he will go with him. But he needs to go back home first and bury his father.

Look at what Jesus says in verse 22. “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” It is a startling answer. I think we need to make some observations so that we can understand what this disciple is asking and what Jesus is saying in response. It is obvious from this text that his father is not yet dead. The Jews immediately buried the dead and did not wait to do so. Further, if his father was already dead, he would not have been on the mount listening to Jesus’ sermon and then following him to the edge of the Sea of Galilee. But I do not think this disciple is saying that he will follow in a few years when his father dies. I think his father’s death is imminent. He is simply asking Jesus for a short delay. Give me a couple days and I will be with you. Just give me a few days and then I can commit to following you.

You will notice that Jesus’ response is not that this disciple can catch up with him later. Jesus does not say, “No problem. I completely understand your family obligations.” Jesus does not say that he will wait for this man. Jesus does not say to catch up with him when he gets everything taken care of in his life. Jesus’ answer is that you cannot delay in following me.

Why can’t Jesus wait? Why can’t this man who wants to follow Jesus follow in a few days? Why can’t he catch up later? Jesus is putting his finger on something that is so important and is such a common issue for those who claim to follow Jesus. Something else always comes up that delays us from giving up everything to follow Jesus. If this man is going to allow one thing to delay him from following, then there is no doubt that this man will allow other things in his life to delay him once he has buried his father. So many things compete for our time and attention in this life. What happens is that we allow those things to delay us from following Jesus. We tell ourselves that we are not quitting on following Jesus. We are just going allow this important thing to delay us today. But tomorrow we will do better. Tomorrow we will fully commit to follow him. Tomorrow we can leave home and cross the sea. But we cannot do it today. There is this pressing issue today.

I want us to think about how common it is for us to have the same kind of thinking and make the same kind of decisions. I am going to read my Bible later. But right now I am tired. Right now I just want to watch tv. Right now I just want to relax on my phone. I am going to pray later. But right now I need to take care of some other things. Right now I need to double check my social media account. I want to come to worship tonight. But there are a lot of things I need to do at my house. I need to fix some things. I need to have some family time. I don’t have the time right now. I want to participate in the Bible studies. But I have a lot to do at work. They are working me hard. They are working me to stay late. They are really pushing me to do some overtime work. But I will get to it. I want to study for Bible class so I can be prepared and contribute to the class. I am going to get better at it. But right now I am running my kids around to their activities and sports. I have a lot of chores that had to get done this week. There were so many things that came up. But I am going to do it.

I want us to carefully consider what is always happening. Something is always coming up to delay us from doing what we say we will do. Something is always entering our lives that delays us from following Jesus with the kind of commitment that he wants us to have. Think how many times these life circumstances take turns delaying us from what we should do. We go from being tired, to being busy, to being stuck at work, to having family obligations, to having stuff at home break that needs to be fixed, to having chores that need to be done, needing to get some sleep because it has been a hard week, to needing a minute to just relax and breathe, to needing time for myself, to needing to get away, to needing handle my life responsibilities, to needing to take the kids to all of their activities, hobbies, and sports, to always needing to do the next thing. Then the list starts over again.

Here is the point Jesus is making. If you allow one thing to delay you from following him, then you will always let things delay you from following him. Jesus is not being mean. Jesus is being honest. Jesus is being real. If you are going to wait until tomorrow, then you are always going to be waiting until tomorrow. You are always going to be waiting for a more convenient time. The problem is that there will never be a more convenient time. It is never going to be easier to follow Jesus. That is what Jesus told the scribe. It is uncomfortable to follow him. It will never be more comfortable or more convenient. It will never being easier to pray more. It will never be more convenient to come to worship at night. It will never be more comfortable to go other Bible studies. There will never be a time when you will have more time to read and study God’s word for yourself. It is not going to be more convenient to serve other people. Putting Jesus first is not easy. It is not comfortable. There will never be time when any of these things are more convenient.


Jesus is going to challenge your priorities. Jesus challenges the way you look at following him. If you are looking to follow him when it is easy, then he is going to make it uncomfortable and you won’t follow him. If you are looking to follow Jesus later when it is more convenient, then he is going to make it where you never follow him because there is always something that will arise. The faith to follow says that we are going to overcome those uncomfortable moments. The faith to follow says that even though this is goes against what my flesh wants, I am going to do it anyway. The faith to follow says that even though there is so much in my life I need to do, the most important thing is Jesus and the other things can wait.

Friends, when it comes to Jesus, life can wait. When it comes to Jesus, your comfort can wait. When it comes to Jesus, your money can wait. When it comes to Jesus, your job can wait. When it comes to Jesus, your sleep can wait. When it comes to Jesus, your phone can wait. When it comes to Jesus, your relaxation can wait. When it comes to Jesus, your family can wait. When it comes to Jesus, Jesus does not wait. If you make Jesus wait, then you are not following him. You are telling Jesus to follow you. Jesus is trying to see if we are truly a follower or just a superficial follower. Following Jesus requires reorienting your life. It is easy to say we are disciples but Jesus says it is not as easy to be his disciples.

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