Luke 9:51-60 (KJV) (shortened)
And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem… as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.
Jesus had been preaching, teaching, and performing miracles in Galilee, including raising the dead. Everywhere he went, large crowds followed. When he decided to go to the capital city of Jerusalem, some in the crowd wrongfully thought he would lead a rebellion against the Roman colonizers of Judah.
The Bible uses the word ‘stedfast’ meaning ‘resolute’ or ‘unwavering’ to describe Jesus decision to go to Jerusalem, because at this time the Jewish leaders had decided they will arrest him and put him to death. Jesus knew he would face trial, beatings, and the agony of being nailed to the cross, but he was ‘stedfast’ in his decision to bear it.
This is the context in which Jesus told a follower that he had nowhere to lay his head; if this follower thinks they are going to Jerusalem to drive out the Roman colonizers and he will then get a top job for siding with Jesus, he should think again.
To the follower who understood Jesus mission, Jesus says follow me; the man replies ‘let me first go bury my father’. In Judah at that time, the man’s reply meant his first priority were his parental family; he would only commit to the Jesus movement when they die. Jesus questions this man’s order of priorities with his sharp response.
‘Let the dead’ – those who don’t care about their spiritual destiny, ‘bury their dead’ – remain predominantly occupied with fulfilling responsibilities with no spiritual value. He did not ask this follower to come with him to Jerusalem; he asked him to go and preach the message; to go and be a light to his family and society.
Are you far more concerned with ‘burying your father’ – giving more priority to the affairs of material life to the neglect of your spiritual life? Are you far more involved with making money, progressing in your career, caring more for family-friends-society than caring for the health and eternal destiny of your soul and spirit?
Jesus has a word for you – ‘Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.’
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Image: The “Ressurection Angel” on the pinnalce of the sanctuary roof, St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork City, Ireland. By Plasmoid – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2004286