Summary: The essential characteristic of the Christian life is discipleship. This section is a warning to those who would become disciples of the Messiah.
MATTHEW 8: 18-22 [THE MESSIAH REVEALED SERIES]
GOING TO THE OTHER SIDE
At this point Matthew interrupts the series of miracles. He is transitioning from the three miracles of healing (8:2-15) to three miracles of power (8:23-34; 9:1-8) over the forces of nature, over evil spirits, and over sin and it’s consequences.
The essential characteristic of the Christian life is discipleship. This interjection section is a warning to those who would become disciples of the Messiah. The fellowship of Jesus’ love, wisdom, and power though does not make discipleship easy. Discipleship is costly because of its importance and each must count the cost before joining Him. Those who have joined Him must constantly remember the conditions of His service. To have a life-changing encounter with Jesus should mean that we fully follow Him.
The two men brought before us here are almost opposite types. One is too swift with decisions the other is too slow to take a decisive step. Jesus treats each of them according to their weakness. He represses the too spontaneous and stimulates the too sluggish. What Jesus teaches both of them is the conditions of discipleship. The Son of Man claims the right of undivided loyalty no matter what our personality or situation (CIT).
I. UNCONSIDERED COMMITMENT, 18-20.
II. AVOIDANCE OF COMMITMENT, 21-22.
The call to discipleship begins in verse 18 with Jesus’ command to accompany Him to the other side. “Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea.”
The crowds [literally “many crowds”] had gathered to be awed and entertained by Jesus’ healing ministry. Jesus was often surrounded by crowds. He also often dismissed them. Though He was completely divine, He was completely human. He needed time for prayer, for rest and sleep. So did His disciples. The large crowds were also too worldly for Him to disciple. He wanted to get away with a smaller number of disciples so that He could teach them how to be better followers of God.
So Jesus was making plans to escape the crowds, to depart to the other side [literally - into the beyond]. Who is going with Him? Who wants to be alone with Jesus and learn to become a better disciple?
Jesus’ imminent departure to the east side of Lake Galilee prompted certain people to consider being part of the inner circle of disciples going with Him.
Verse 19 begins an interview with a would be disciple. “Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”
As He was leaving, an impetuous scribe who probably taught school in the local synagogue approaches Jesus and volunteers to follow Him as a disciple [some see it as part of Jesus inner circle]. Jesus’ words examine the man’s understanding and sincerity about discipleship. This scribe in listening and learning from Jesus had been filled with admiration for Jesus’ wisdom, morality, courage, and power and his swirling emotions motivate him to this desire. Many scribes or teachers were hostile to Jesus yet here is one who warmed up to the point of all out enthusiasm.
This scribe proposes to follow Jesus wherever He goes. He offers to become not simply an approving admirer but a permanent disciple of Jesus. With self-confidence he promises to follow Jesus for better or for worse, not stopping to consider what such a commitment involves.
What was this decision to follow as a statement of commitment Jesus’ teachings as a way of life based on? Was it made because of a transitory or fleeting feeling? Did he make this commitment without knowing what it meant, without counting the cost? Did he make this commitment on the basis of his own strength? Commitments which rests on no firmer foundation than these are sure to sink, or falter. Discipleship cannot be built on mere emotion. Persuaded effervescence cannot last through the hardships Jesus’ disciples encounter in life, not then and not now.
What this admirer of Jesus gladly offers to do by following wherever Jesus would lead him, and doing whatever Jesus would ask him, is no more than Christ requires of every one who comes to Him to be His follower.
[The essential characteristic of the Christian life is discipleship. We learn from the Master and we identify with the Master. He is our Savior because He is our personal Lord and as disciples, we live under His lordship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer has said, “Only he who obeys truly believes, and only he who believes truly obeys.” [Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. New York: Macmillan, 1960. p. 69.] The disciple has been to the Cross for forgiveness and the work of the Cross in the disciples life expresses the new life in Christ. To accept Christ is to accept the whole Jesus, what He taught and what He modeled, as well as what He did in dying for us on the Cross. Comfort, Philip Wesley: Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 11. Carol Stream, IL.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005. S.129]