Follow me! — Matthew 8:18-22
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 28, 2019
Who or what you follow says a lot about what you believe in life. I’ve always found it humorous when folks tell me that they go to a “nondenominational” church because there is no such thing. If you have a pastor who preaches and is your church’s leader you follow a specific “denomination” or theology whether you want to admit to it or not. Pastors are trained by someone and that someone was trained or trains in a particular denominational bent.
When Jesus called his disciples he did not give them any false pretenses and in fact often went out of the way to teach them exactly who they followed and why. While some of the gospel writers do not necessarily focus on those who were outside of the inner circle of disciples they do touch on the fact that there were many who did indeed follow Jesus even if they were not part of the core group he specifically chose. And it is here that Matthew focuses us this morning as we take a look at those who wanted to “follow” Jesus. Let’s take a look at what it meant when Jesus said, “Follow me!”
READ: Matthew 8:18-22
In this section Matthew gave a couple of illustrations to demonstrate the right Jesus had to ask who he desired to follow him and to deny requests from those who were motivated improperly. In this first example we discover…
I. Following Jesus requires hardship! (Vv. 18-20)
When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
1. We find Jesus’ compassion often displayed by what he does or how he responds to certain situations. Evidently the crowds were becoming increasingly large and therefore probably more aggressive and perhaps even inconsiderate of Jesus’ time. Matthew writes that “When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.” We had previously learned that “When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.” (v. 8:1) and so it had become increasingly difficult to go from one place to the next so Jesus decides to cross the lake, the Sea of Galilee, and preach there. In one instance John relates that the people wanted to forcefully make Jesus their king, but he would have none of it and used the lake as a means to get away. However, as Jesus evidently lands on the far shore “a teacher of the law came to him” declaring “Teacher I will follow you wherever you go.” Instead of Jesus choosing him this man had decided for himself and we discover his impulsiveness isn’t what Jesus was looking for. Jesus replies, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” God has created a place for every living thing he has created but in his ministry and mission to the world he would not have a place of his own and this young man had to realize that the hardship he was asking for might be more then he could bear. Jesus had no permanent home. Perhaps Jesus saw that this young man desired more than just following him to be his disciple. Some think he wanted fame and fortune but Jesus desired neither and in fact had already flatly turned them down when Satan tried to tempt him in his humanity with such enticements. Creation is not Satan’s to give and God has no need of such things. In fact when “large crowds” were following Jesus, he turned to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-27 NIV)” The road of being a disciple of Jesus is not an easy well paved path like that broad way the world offers. Following Jesus requires hardship!
EXAMPLE: Many families that started out on the Oregon Trail did not finish it intact; disease, accidents, starvation, wild animals, and attacks placed a huge hardship on early pioneers. We have no idea the dangers they faced and yet they did in order to find a new life in a new land. One of their favorite hymns they sang around campfires was On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand and yet nowadays many refuse to come to the land that is fairer than day and a relationship with Jesus Christ. Hardship for us is misplacing our cell phone, not having free Wi-Fi or a fast food restaurant every 25 feet. Here in Matthew we discover that following Jesus requires hardship!
In our lives we can begin to place the improper focus on things that may not matter as far as eternity is concerned. Friends, jobs, school, finances, or even family can blur our vision as to what truly matters in life especially where it concerns following Jesus. In the second example we discover…
II. Following Jesus requires knowing what is vital in life! (Vv. 21-22)
Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
1. At first glance we might think Jesus was uncaring in his next response to the second man but he was not. The wording in the original language teaches us what is happening here. We often get so caught up in this life we forget there is another one waiting for us. Our world has become so cynical that there are those who try to ignore life after death. Jesus made no illusions to the fact that once you pass from this existence you will either be in the presence of God or separated from him for eternity. Jesus absolutely knew what he was talking about because he is God! Matthew related that “Another disciple said to him, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’” Luke tells us it was just “another man” and not one of the inner twelve so here disciple is used for a close follower. And like I said before we tend to forget that there is more to life than just this life! When Peter complained that he and his fellow disciples had “left everything” to follow Jesus, he told Peter, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” However this promise of a wonderful future was not just reserved for the inner twelve disciples! Jesus continued by relating, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Now Jesus is not teaching some name-it-and-claim-it heresy but rather that there is more to living for him than we know. If we follow him we will be wonderfully rewarded. In fact Paul would write, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him! (1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV)” Matthew related therefore, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Jesus wasn’t uncaring but the man wanted to go back home and wait until his father got older, he buried him, and then he would follow Jesus! Jesus desires you make the decision to follow him today, not later. Paul would state that “now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation! (2 Corinthians 6:2 NIV)” Make no mistake that following Jesus requires knowing what is vital in life!
EXAMPLE: What we consider vital in life is far different than what was considered essential when I was a child. Children can live without cell phones, video games, or the latest clothing fad. In Walt Disney’s classic The Jungle Book based on Kipling’s book of the same title the bear Baloo sings a song called The Bare Necessities in which he encourages his young protégée to go after the simple bare necessities of life. Baloo finds everything he needs from the forest around him. We live in a time when even the poorest among us has more than most of the rest of the world. Following Jesus requires knowing what is vital in life!
Following Jesus requires hardship! Following Jesus requires knowing what is vital in life!
This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.
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Follow me! — Matthew 8:18-22