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Nowhere, now!

The reason that we should take Jesus’ demand so seriously is because His mission cost Him everything.

BIBLICAL PREACHING AUTOR 108/Peter_Mead 07 DE MARZO DE 2024 10:07 h
Photo: [link]Gray[/link], Unsplash CC0.

What is the greatest commitment we see in our world today?  Is it the commitment of a classical musician, or a sports professional?  They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to really master any skill. 

Apparently, it takes nine to twelve months of specialist training to be ready to attempt to climb Mt Everest. While the idea of commitment may be dismissed by so many in our society, there are still countless people dedicating themselves to various pursuits.

In Matthew 8:18-22, Jesus speaks about commitment at an extraordinary level.  After three chapters of the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7), Matthew seems to be shifting to an all-action presentation of Jesus performing healing miracles. 

He heals the leper, the centurion’s servant, and Peter’s mother-in-law.  It feels like we have left the teaching block behind and settled down for an action-adventure section of the Gospel. 

But then we come to these few verses and two powerful sayings of Jesus about commitment.  

Essentially, Jesus declares that to follow him means to belong nowhere and the demand is to follow now.

Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 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.”  Matthew 8:18-20


Belong nowhere!

The scribe sounded so committed. He would follow Jesus anywhere! 

[destacate]Jesus declares that to follow him means to belong nowhere and the demand is to follow now  [/destacate] But Jesus pointed to the rhythm of creaturely life.  A fox?  It gets up and puts in a night shift touring its territory, marking the boundaries, catching a vole or two, enjoying some worms and bugs, even feasting on some berries if the opportunity arises. 

Then, when its work is done, it returns to its hole and lays down its head to sleep.  Work done, it heads for home.

Just to reinforce the point, Jesus mentions birds too.  They wake up nice and early, some get in a singing practice before dawn, then head out and fly the skies looking for food. 

Some catch flies mid-air, others swoop down for voles and mice, while others prefer seeds and worms. 

Then, when their work is done, they return to their nest and lay down their heads to sleep.  Work done, they head for home.

Every creature is the same.  Including humans.  Wake up, work, head home, and sleep.  But not Jesus.  His work never seemed to be done.  When he finished healing Peter’s mother-in-law, then many more were brought to him late into the evening. 

When he headed out early to a deserted place, he sometimes found crowds looking to get more from him there too.  And Jesus was not home. 

We never read of him heading back to Nazareth for a home-cooked meal with mother Mary. 

To follow Jesus is not about a shift and then back to base for some relaxation and creaturely comforts.  To follow Jesus means to belong nowhere in this world.  It means we are not really at home in our home town, nor if we move to the other side of the world in missionary service. 

If we follow Jesus, then our citizenship is in heaven, and our home town is still in the future (Philippians 3:18-21; Hebrews 11:13-16). Those are challenging words, especially if we have grown too much at home in this world.

Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:21-22


Follow now!

The disciple’s request seems reasonable. Surely, Jesus is not against family funerals, is he?  I don’t believe he is.  The point here is a striking one.  Nothing can come before following him. 

[destacate]To follow Jesus is not about a shift and then back to base for some relaxation and creaturely comforts [/destacate] Not a funeral that is scheduled for next week, nor a Jewish reburial in a few months, or even an anticipated death in order to collect an inheritance (all are explanations given for this cryptic moment in the text). 

As Jesus said elsewhere, if we are to follow him, then we must first hate everything we hold dear. 

Jesus wants his followers to honor their parents and so hatred seems extreme, but that is the point.  There can be nothing that comes first.

How often we can fall into the same problem?  Not so much with funerals, but with other things.  “I will be completely committed to Jesus, but first I . . . “  What?  What comes first?  Career first?  Promotion first?  Payrise and then folks will see my dedication to Jesus?  Or maybe family first? 

Once married, once there are children, once they are grown, then the commitment will show?  Of what about fun first?  So many say they will live a little and be committed to Jesus when only a little life is left in this world.  Bucket lists get elevated to the level of an idol as Jesus is left to wait his turn.

No.  To follow Jesus at all means that we need to follow him now.  Not later.  Not after.  Now.


Reasonable demand?

How can Jesus be so demanding and expect us to belong nowhere and follow now?  The demand is so extreme.  But the key is to look at who is saying the words.

Jesus had no home in this world.  He left his eternal home and entered into this world in the most humble of circumstances.  He was born in a peasant town and laid in a manger. 

He was an infant refugee in Egypt, then grew up in Nazareth – a place with a rubbish reputation.  Nazareth was a rest stop on the way to somewhere better.  And then, once he launched into his ministry years, he had no home of his own in this world. 

Jesus’ work never seemed to be done.  He had nowhere to lay his head, not only because of a lack of address, but also because his work demanded so much. 

There was always another person to heal, another demon to cast out, another crowd to feed, another dispute among the disciples to unpick, another conflicted conversation to navigate. 

His work, his mission demanded so much.  Actually, it demanded everything.

As we read through the Gospels we find that Jesus did eventually lay down his head.  When was that?  It was in John 19:30, when his mission was accomplished, when he cried out “It is finished!” and then lay down his head and gave up his spirit.

The reason that we should take Jesus’ demand so seriously is because his mission cost him everything.  Since he gave his all for us, his call is for us to give everything in response. 

Belong nowhere in this world, and follow now.  Nothing else would make sense in light of who said it.

Peter Mead is mentor at Cor Deo and author of several books. He blogs at Biblical Preaching




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