The priority of following Jesus (Matthew 8:18-20)

Jesus decides that he and his disciples should go over to the other side of the sea of Galilee. This simple activity tested the people to see whether they would continue to follow Jesus. Matthew records the responses of two individuals at that time.

The first was a scribe who stated that he would follow Jesus everywhere. No doubt, some of the disciples would have been impressed by the possibility of a distinguished persons like a scribe joint their number. What did Jesus have to say to him?

Jesus mentioned two details in his response. One of the details concerned his name and the other his present possessions. The use of the name ‘Son of man’ may be in response to the name that the scribe gave to him, which was only ‘Teacher.’ Could it be that the scribe had too low an opinion of Jesus? Maybe all he was saying was that Jesus was the best teacher he had heard. After all, the title ‘Son of man’ is a reference to the prophecy in Daniel about God’s chosen Ruler who would have universal power. It is true that a real disciple must have a true understanding of who Jesus is.

The Saviour wants us to appreciate who he truly is. As the Son of man, he is the King of kings, the one who received glory from God because of his amazing work on the cross. He has now been highly exalted and given the name of Lord. Our Master is much more than a teacher, although he is the best Teacher.

The scribe also seemed to have a wrong perception of the benefits of religion. As a scribe, he would have known that the position of religious teacher was a lucrative one, with many social and financial benefits. He may have imagined that Jesus would make a successful career from his abilities and that there would be other benefits for those who followed him. He must have been very surprised to hear Jesus say that following him would not bring riches in this life.

We are not to imagine that Jesus did not have places to stay at times. When he went to Jerusalem, he often stayed with his friends in Bethany. Yet it seems that he also would spend nights in the Garden of Gethsemane – after all, that is how Judas knew where to find Jesus when he was betrayed. His home was in Capernaum, and Jesus could stay there. What we should see Jesus telling this man is that following him was not always a path to worldly promotion and prosperity. A disciple of Jesus should not expect too much from this world and be prepared to wait until the next for the rewards of serving Jesus.

The scribe probably imagined that he was adding to the prestige of Jesus by offering to follow him. This would not be too surprising since he had no conception of the greatness of Jesus. The scribe had no real conception that Jesus came to deliver from sin and to enable people to live a life of holiness. We have no idea whether or not this scribe ever became a real disciple of Jesus.

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