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Let the Dead Bury Their Dead

The Difficult Sayings of Jesus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction - Sermon Series: “The Difficult Sayings of Jesus”

Matthew 8:18–22 ESV
18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

“The Difficult Sayings of Jesus”

Matthew 8
Jesus is the greatest teacher of all, the Bible says He taught as One with authority. He used great illustrations when He taught His disciples. At times, especially when He spoke to the bigger crowds, Jesus uttered radical statements that made people uncomfortable
Jesus did not mince words. He was not a politician who attempted to please everyone. He said things that were a lot of times hard to swallow to emphasize the importance of what He is teaching.
(Disclaimer Image Here)
Three bases for understanding the difficult statement:
The Background of the Statement
The Character of Jesus
The Rest of Scripture
Matthew 8:18–22 ESV
18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
“Let the Dead Bury Their Own Dead”
What did Jesus mean?
If we are not careful, this may bring certain images to our imagination.
(Image of the Living Dead.)
Did Jesus mean to say that the “dead should bury the dead”?
We’ll see as we study the scripture that Jesus did not mean that the physically dead should bury the dead, let us examine in closely.
Illustration John McNeill.
John McNeill (1854-1933)
Illustration John McNeill.
You probably have not heard of a Scottish preacher named John McNeill. He was a less known preacher to us but he was famous at his time and actually earned the title of “The Scotch Spurgeon”. He even preached alongside the famous American preacher D.L. Moody.
There was a story of him that he was scheduled to begin a series of meetings in England.  His father died in Scotland on the day the services were to begin.  He was told that it would be OK to cancel the services, everyone would understand.  But hear John’s reply:  “This same Jesus stood by me and seemed to say, ‘Now, look.  I have you.  You go and preach the Gospel to those people.  Would you rather bury the dead or raise the dead?’ And I went to preach.”
“Would you rather bury the dead or raise the dead”?
There can be a thousand reasons for people to delay following Jesus. Jesus knows every single reason that you have. In fact, some of them may seem so urgent, like burying one’s father.
“The Work of God’s Kingdom is not Postponed”
People are walking dead..spiritually dead. The Lord needs workers to reach them with the gospel message. People need to be led in discipleship. People need to be nurtured, cared and prayed for.
Let’s study this passage in light of our three standards:
The Background of the passage.
The story starts with two people among the crowd approaching Jesus and expressed their desire to follow him. But Jesus had to tell them that there is a cost to discipleship.
One of them wanted to bury his father first.. Jesus said “Leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
Seems harsh for Jesus to say that and some take this to mean that the dad wasn’t dead yet. So the guy was just using an excuse to postpone. However, this makes Jesus’ call less immediate and important..
But to give you a background, in the Jewish writings called the Talmud, their Bible and Book of Discipline rolled into one stated:  “He who is confronted by a dead relative is freed from reciting the Shema, from the eighteen benedictions, and from all the commandments stated in the Torah.”  The Shema is like their pledge of allegiance and it comes from
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
The 18 benedictions were their prayers at morning, midday and evening, so they were relieved of praying.  And they were released from obeying all the commands in the Torah.  In other words, according to the rules and traditions, nothing is more important than a funeral.  But Jesus shocks this man and the whole crowd. 
Jesus being the radical that He was in effect said,
“Nothing is more important right now than The Kingdom of God.” 
Jesus is saying that the old way of doing things is long gone.
2. The Character of Jesus
Grace, Jesus paid the ultimate price.
Salvation is free. But there is a cost to following me.
“Freely you have received. Freely give.”
He gave a glimpse of His nature and character when He said: “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head”
Whenever Jesus uses the words the “Son of Man”, which He did 80 times.
Common understanding is that He identifies with mankind, as one of them being the son of man, or born of a woman. So people think He is claiming to be 100% man and 100% God.
But Jesus being the radical meant to say something else, there is always something radical about what he says, there is no offense if Jesus says “I am a human being, a son of man.”
But for those who had ears to hear, they understand that the Son of Man is taken from the “Son of Man” from the Old Testament book of Daniel, chapter 7. There, the “Son of Man” is an exalted figure . So in calling Himself the Son of Man, Jesus was claiming this exalted role in the history of redemption. He meant to do it and it was His favorite self-designation.
He purposely inserted the words “The Son of Man in “Foxes have holes ,  and birds of the air have nests ,  but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
In light of Who He is the most important figure in all of creation, the choice becomes easier
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.In light of Who He is the most important figure in all of creation, the choice becomes easier
In light of Who He is, the most important figure in all of redemption history, the choice becomes easier, because what He is saying is in losing “this life’s comfort, you gain Me, the Son of Man - The greatest figure in all of history. “
Because the truth is if you don’t choose to follow Jesus, because He is the Son of Man You will still face Him someday in the future. So make the right choice now!
Jesus is saying: If you choose to follow Me you have everything you need in this life and beyond and much more.”
We talk about the cost of discipleship. YEs there is a cost, salvation is not just a ticket to heaven, but listen to this:
“In light of having Jesus, the cost of discipleship seems very small.”
The cost of not following Jesus is actually far greater.
3. The Rest of Scripture:
If we study this passage from Luke, we see that Jesus added a few words:
Luke 9:60 ESV
60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:
Here we can see, Jesus added “but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God”.
Jesus in saying “let the spiritually dead bury their own dead” is clearly saying this is more urgent. The kingdom of God is at hand”.
Raising the dead is more important than burying the dead.
He followed it with a command, “go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
The last command that Jesus left us before He went up to heaven is “Go, go and make disciples...”
It is interesting that in Luke’s account there is a third person that approached Jesus from verse 61.
Luke 9:61–62 ESV
61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
So the gospel of Luke, gives us a more complete picture for our study today:
There are actually three people,
So the gospel of
First one wants to follow Jesus but does not want to give up his personal comfort.
Second wants to follow Jesus but did not want to do it immediately.
Third wants to follow Jesus but was half-hearted.
He wants to say good bye to His family first.
Three reasons why discipleship is costly:
It Costs us Personal Comfort.
It Requires Immediate Commitment.
It Requires Full Commitment.
All Jesus is saying is: “Make up Your Mind!”
There is a strong trend in our culture to want “Jesus Lite”
“Jesus Lite”
A church exploded in membership because they advertised these things on their front lawn. Ready?
30% Less Commitment
We are the Home of the 1% Tithe
We only have 10 minute sermons, 15 minute tops.
30 minute worship services. May even be less if your football team has televised game that Sunday.
We only have 8 commandments and you get to choose.
We use just 3-spiritual laws instead of 4.
Christianity 101 is optional. You have better things to do.
“Everything you wanted in a church… and so much less”.
If you want “Jesus Lite” or “Church Lite” or “Bud Lite” on Sundays, CrossWind is not the church for you. This church preaches and teaches the full counsel of God. We will not hold back, we will challenge you..
People are “Blessed but not Challenged”.
“Blessed but not Challenged”
People don’t want to be challenged or hear about eternal things, Facebook..
Some pastors will tell you, that the secret to life’s happiness is merely finding your calling.
You may be called to be:
A chef..
A carpenter..
An engineer. You are called to do the work of an engineer..
A computer programmer. You are called to program..
A nurse. You are called to care for people, the sick..
A pharmacist. You are called to know about people’s prescription medications , to expertly dispense them and educate people about them.
If a pastor tells you that the secret to joy and happiness is finding your calling no matter what it is, don’t believe him. Why?
Because if you follow that line of thinking.. what he is telling you is that only he, the pastor is called to do the work of the Kingdom. I’ll be selfish if I tell you that. Because there is so much joy and fulfillment in following Jesus and serving in His Kingdom.
Let me ask you a silly question: I know some of you are business owners, nurses, carpenters, doctors, engineers. But who among you are Christians? May be a silly question..
“Since you are a Christian, what is your calling?”
You are called to follow Jesus, be discipled and make disciples. Not just a title..
“Who wants to follow Jesus today?
You will see that you can follow Jesus in your business, as a nurse, as an engineer, an whatever vocation.. “he will give you true success”.
It will start with a change of perspective, follow Jesus first.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus story
Lilias Trotter (1853-1928)
Lilias was born in England in 1853 to an upper-middle-class family. She was an extremely gifted artist and was told she could be England’s greatest living artist, but in order to do so, she would have to give herself totally to her art. At the same time Lilias had a growing faith which encouraged her not only in her personal spiritual growth, but also in service to others.
Lilias felt the call from God to go to North Africa and serve Him there. She had to choose between pursuing her career as an artist and answering the call God had placed on her heart. She chose to follow God. As a single woman who was denied support from a mission agency because of health issues, and didn’t know the language or culture, this was a radical decision.
Lilias served in Algeria until she died in 1928. For the last 29 years, she kept a diary in which she recorded seasons of her life. Author Miriam Rockness states that Lilias looked with “heartsight as well as eyesight,” recording in watercolors and words her observations filtered through her heavenly vision: God working out His purposes on a land and in a people.
While Lilias turned her back on fame, she did not turn her back on her art. In addition to art found in her journals, she used her art in the pamphlets created to share the gospel with the people in Algeria.
One day, Trotter was writing about the difficulty of maintaining focus while living in a world that provides us with so many choices.  She gave this prescription for keeping one’s life moving in the right direction:
“Turn your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him. “(Lilias Trotter)
A gifted singer, Helen Lemmel, got hold of what Trotter wrote and was so inspired that she wrote one of the most famous Christian Hymns of all time entitled: “Turn your Eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of His glory and grace.”
Helen Lemmel (1863-1961)
Our call is to follow Jesus, but it starts with turning away from all the things that we choose instead of Him, and when we set our eyes on Him, we will see that everything else becomes so dim compared to the brightness of Him.
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