Matthew 8:18-22. Too fast, too slow.

Did you know that there is a right timing/pacing in following Jesus? I’ve always thought that following Him involves a decision now, right at this moment. However, the Bible shows us two traps believers can fall into – following Jesus too fast, or too slow.

Matthew 8:18-22

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.”

Following Too fast

Scribe: “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

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

  1. Following Jesus is more than head knowledge – The scribe acknowledged Jesus as “Teacher” or “Master”. The scribes were the zealous defenders of the Law, and hence, were the true teachers of the people. He was knowledgeable and was willing to follow Jesus wherever he goes, but was not ready to live a life of faith or apply the knowledge he had about Him. Do you know Jesus in your head or in your heart as well?
  2. Following Jesus means being a follower, not a fan – During this time, Jesus was healing multitudes of people (see Matthew 8) and was gaining popularity. This teacher of the Law was part of the crowd. He wanted to be associated with Jesus and reap its benefits without first counting the costs. The word follow here refers to literally following, attending, accompanying. Jesus doesn’t want us to follow Him as a fan and feast in on the benefits (Psalm 103:2) only. He wants us to follow Him because we want to, but only after counting all the costs (Matthew 16:24).  He cares about quality (disciples), not quantity (fans). After all, He doesn’t want us to be onboard and quit halfway. Did you count the costs before following Jesus? Did you know that the Christian walk, though rewarding, is impossible to live without remaining in Jesus?
  3. Following Jesus means sacrifice – Jesus says that the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. It means giving up a comfortable, esteemed life as a scribe so that he could go around with Jesus (Matthew 10:9-10). This is also an opposite to what prosperity gospels teach today. If prosperity gospel were biblical, then Jesus would have provided an estate for himself and for all his followers, but Jesus compared his living condition worse than the foxes and birds who had physical places (holes and nests) to keep them safe. Are you relying on the roof on your head to keep you safe? Are you sleeping well at night because you have a warm blanket? Jesus and his disciples were willing to leave comfortable lives in order to reach the lost, relying completely on God’s provisions.

Following Too slow

Disciple: “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 

Jesus: “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

  1. Following Jesus even when life’s affairs are not in order – Jesus doesn’t wait for us to have our affairs in order. This man is a disciple already, meaning he has already counted the costs of following Him, versus the scribe who hasn’t. Note what he said, “first let me go and…”. What are our excuses to God? Lord, first let me graduate from college, then I’ll hang out with godly people. Lord, first let me find a work, then I’ll tithe. Lord, first let me finish my report to my boss, then I’ll have quiet time. Lord, first let my kids finish school, then I’ll serve You. Lord, first let me be ready to give up this struggle, then I’ll follow You.
  2. Following Jesus means He is most important – Was it wrong for the disciple to want to bury his father? Was it wrong for him to honor his earthly father? No, this act was an honorable thing and a reasonable request. However, Jesus shows his authority here and calls the disciple to a higher, more important calling. The disciple wanted his house to be in order first, then come back when things have settled. But Jesus called him to follow now. Is there anything in your life that hinders you from saying yes to God? He is telling you right now to follow Him (after you’ve counted the costs).
  3. Following Jesus means really following Him – The man was described as a disciple, and yet ironically, Jesus told him, “Follow me”. Following Jesus is a whole-hearted obedience. At some point, disciples can have their priorities shuffled. But Jesus will call us out and remind us to follow Him first.

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