Summary: This message looks at the level of commitment that Jesus expects out of His followers.
Americans have developed a softer view of commitment in regard to the church. George Barna after nearly twenty-five years of collecting and studying spiritual data and trends believes that the statistics show that Americans are showing a much more limited commitment to faith. Barna explained. "Americans are willing to expend some energy in religious activities such as attending church and reading the Bible, and they are willing to throw some money in the offering basket. Because of such activities, they convince themselves that they are people of genuine faith. But when it comes time to truly establishing their priorities and making a tangible commitment to knowing and loving God, and to allowing Him to change their character and lifestyle, most people stop short. We want to be ‘spiritual’ and we want to have God’s favor, but we’re not sure we want Him taking control of our lives and messing with the image and outcomes we’ve worked so hard to produce." The truth is that this less than full commitment to Jesus Christ is nothing new. In fact it has been happening for centuries. Our text reveals three offers being made in regard to following Jesus. Two were made by individuals and one was made by Jesus. Each one of them had noticeable conditions attached to them. Jesus’ response to each of the individuals reflects the idea that true commitment requires great sacrifice. As we study this passage today, our goal is to answer the question, “Is 99.9% good enough?”
I. Commitment to Jesus requires a willingness to put aside worldly security.
A. Many people think following Jesus is a good idea until they realize what it is going to cost them.
1. We discover in Mathew 8:19 that this first man that comes to Jesus is a Teacher of the Law.
2. After the man willingly expresses his desire to follow Him, Jesus relates His common fate: He does not even have a place to lay His head.
3. Jesus’ teaching is that his followers surrender their claim to even the most basic of creature comforts—the knowledge that at the end of the day at least there will be a good place to go to sleep.
4. Jesus wants the man to understand the willingness to sacrifice that is necessary in order to be one of His disciples.
B. Jesus simply did not grab on to everyone who said that they wanted to follow.
1. Those that wanted to follow Jesus needed to realize that it would cost them something; they could not expect luxury or even a warm welcome.
2. The main emphasis here is less on the loss of creaturely comfort (a place to sleep) than with the rejection.
3. Discipleship requires resolve because it means rejection. The premise behind the remark is that disciples will have to follow the same path as the Son of Man.
4. Discipleship requires trusting God even in the midst of hardship and rejection.
5. Following Jesus is far more valuable than anything the world has to offer.
II. Commitment to Jesus must take precedent even when it competes with other loyalties.
A. The second encounter has Jesus taking the initiative and inviting the man to follow Him.
1. This man would gladly follow Jesus but first he had some other business to take care of, he needed to go bury his father.
2. For a Jew this was a religious duty having precedence over everything else. Only in the case of a temporary Nazirite vow or if one were the high priest could one be absolved from this duty.
3. If the father was already dead the funeral procedures would have been underway right then, because in Jewish society the dead were buried the same day or one of the next two days in exceptional circumstances.
4. More than likely the man is asking for permission to wait until his father died which could take years, an indefinite delay.
5. Let the dead bury their own dead. This saying contains a play on the word dead. “Let the [spiritually] dead bury their own [physical] dead.” In this pun the spiritually dead are those who do not follow Jesus.
B. Jesus demands an allegiance transcending even this greatest of obligations that a child could have to their parents under Jewish Law.
1. We are not told this man’s motives, he might have wanted to be sure that he claimed his part of the inheritance or maybe he did not want to face his father’s wrath for leaving the family business.
2. Whether his concern was fulfilling a duty, having financial security, keeping family approval or something else, he did not want to commit to Jesus just yet.
3. Jesus sensed this reluctance and challenged the man to consider that his commitment had to be complete, without reservation.