LORD, LET ME FIRST GO AND BURY MY FATHER
By Nana Yaw Aidoo
After delivering the last discourse in His great Galilean ministry, Jesus Christ "steadfastly set His face to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51). His death was drawing ever closer but our Lord "marched resolutely towards that dark event." On the way to Judea, our Lord encountered three prospective disciples and through these encounters, we are taught lessons on the cost of discipleship, for all time (Luke 9:57-62).
Jesus Christ when He met the second prospective disciple said to him; "Follow Me" (Luke 9:57). In response, the would-be disciple said; "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." This elicited a very forceful response from Christ. Our Lord then said to him; "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:60). In view of the fifth commandment in the decalogue, which explicitly stated; "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you" (Exo.20:12), the response of Christ to this prospect, is on the surface, quite baffling.
What did the Lord mean when He said, "Let the dead bury their own dead..."? Was He telling the prospect to dishonor his dad? That cannot be, for if that were the case, then our Lord would have been guilty of sin, something we are certain He wasn't guilty of (cf.Heb.4:15; 1 Pet.2:21).
The thing is that, Jesus Christ who knew what was in man (John 2:25), knew that the prospect was simply making an excuse. There is no indication that the prospect's father was dead. If his father were dead and unburied, he wouldn't have been standing by the roadside for Christ to say to him, "Follow Me." Rather, he would have taking care of his responsibilities since in bible lands, the burial of dead people took place immediately, and even if possible, on the same day with the subsequent ceremony taking a week or more (David Roper. The Life of Christ 2, pp.21).
Please don't forget that it was Christ who requested this person's discipleship and not the other way round. Thus, the would-be disciple's response to Christ was more like, "Later! I'll consider it." David Roper wrote of this text; "Those who have lived in that culture give many examples in which the words "Let me first bury my father" indicated that in the far distant future, the speaker would consider the proposal." (ibid). Jesus knew that this would-be disciple was making an excuse and thus, the reason for not wanting to follow Christ was an illegitimate one.
However, friends, may we for a moment consider the excuse of the second prospective disciple. He told Christ; "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." The word "first" ought to catch the attention of us all. Roper wrote; "The tragic word in the man's excuse is the word "first"" (ibid). All who have read the bible, know how much emphasis Christ places on Him being first in our lives. He said; "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness..." (Matt.6:33). He also said; "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me" (Matt.10:37).
If we would seek first things first, then Christ would be or ought to be topmost priority in our lives. Our love for and loyalty to Christ must trump our love for and loyalty to even our most beloved relatives. However, this prospective disciple by telling Christ to allow him to "first" go and bury his father, was calling "for a radical transference of loyalty."
How many times have we not seen the attitude that characterized this prospective disciple, in many prospective disciples today? So many young ones moving from Junior High to Senior High or from Senior High to the Tertiary institutions say; "I am too young to think about God. Let me enjoy myself a little bit first. Then I'll follow Jesus". When these young ones complete their tertiary education and become professionals, they then say; "I need to make it in life and so I need to work hard. My work is demanding and thus I am too busy and I get too tired often. Let me first of all become established. Then I'll follow Jesus".
Then, due to the brevity of life, in a short while, these ones find themselves so much advanced in years. This time round they say; "I need to plan my retirement because I need to enjoy life at that age too. So let me get my affairs in order first. Then I'll follow Jesus". All these people seemingly forget that, since it is appointed unto men to die, they who were at one point "young ones", will die too unless Christ comes first. Then finding themselves in "torments" (Luke 16:23), they will realize that it's now too late to think about God. "Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these. It might have been."
Dear friend, are you a Christian? If not, I urge you to run to Jesus for the cleansing power and be washed in the blood of the Lamb. There is no other day but today because "you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" (James 4:14). Believe with all your heart that Jesus is the Son of God and that He was raised from the dead (John 8:24). Repent of all your sins (Luke 13:3). Make that great confession that you believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Matt.10:32). And upon that confession, allow yourself to be baptized in order to wash away your sins (Acts 22:16). From the watery grave of baptism, walk in the newness of life, continuing in faithfulness to God (Rev.2:10) and you shall receive eternal life as your victor's crown as that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).
"...Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor.6:2). Jesus loves you and He is calling you today.
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