Matthew 8:18-22

8.18 Ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὄχλον περὶ αὐτὸν ἐκέλευσεν ἀπελθεῖν εἰς τὸ πέραν. 8.19 καὶ προσελθὼν εἷς γραμματεὺς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Διδάσκαλε, ἀκολουθήσω σοι ὅπου ἐὰν ἀπέρχῃ. 8.20 καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Αἱ ἀλώπεκες φωλεοὺς ἔχουσιν καὶ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατασκηνώσεις, ὁ δὲ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἔχει ποῦ τὴν κεφαλὴν κλίνῇ.  8.21 ἕτερος δὲ τῶν μαθητῶν εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Κύριε, ἐπίτρεψόν μοι πρῶτον ἀπελθεῖν καὶ θάψαι τὸν πατέρα μου. 8.22 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς λέγει αὐτῷ, Ἀκολούθει μοι καὶ ἄφες τοὺς νεκροὺς θάψαι τοὺς ἑαυτῶν νεκρούς.

8.18 And seeing a crowd around him, Jesus gave the order to go to the other side [of the lake]. 8.19 And a scribe coming up to him said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 8.20 Jesus said to him, “Foxes have dens and the birds of the air have nests, but the son of man does not have a place to lay his head. 8.21 Another one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father.” 8.22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow me and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”


Verse 18 has the phrase “the other side [of the lake]”. This is similar to the NIV rendering – though the lake is not directly referenced in the text, and seems somewhat removed from the passage . Chapter 8 begins with Jesus coming off the mountain (verse 1). Verse 5 he enters Capernaum. Verse 14 is Jesus at Peter’s house. Actually, we have to go all the way back to the end of chapter 4 and beginning of chapter 5 to find the reference to Jesus by the side of the lake, walking around Galilee, then finally going up the mountain.

Prior to that, we find the word for “crowds” stuck between a participle phrase and the main verb. Does crowd act as an accusative for the participle “seeing”, the verb “commanded”, or both? Once again, my limited Greek knowledge hinders me a bit. Position in the text certainly helps make both plausible, but I don’t know enough myself to say one way or the other. My Greek just isn’t good enough.

In verse 19, the scribe says, “If you go, I will follow.”; though he emphasizes the following aspect by putting it first: “I will follow if ever you go.”

As for verses 21 and 22, I agree with Nick who last month covered this verse extensively: I see no reason for this to be taken as contrasting physically dead/spiritually dead. The commonly stated opinion that the disciple here refers to a death that has not yet occurred does not seem convincing to me, upon further review. I won’t rule it out, but I think the evidence is far from overwhelming.

But I also don’t find Jesus to be disallowing someone to fulfill Mosaic law. The statement is certainly abrupt and counter-culture, but I don’t think it calls Jesus’ observance and devotion to the law into question. The tradition may have made the obligation to bury once, twice – whatever. But the law only required that children honored their parents by caring for them while they were alive (IMO).

I am more struck by the relationship to be found here with 1 Kings 19:19-21. Elisha’s request to go back and say goodbye is granted. Jesus sees following him as more urgent!

Jesus is not trying to make discipleship easy, that is for sure. He doesn’t want us to have a false impression about it. It will make us uncomfortable – no place to rest, no place to call one’s own. It will make us choose who is Lord: the world, the culture – or Jesus. I suppose it’d be nice to know how these men responded. But not knowing puts the question back on us.

Are we prepared to follow Jesus where he leads?


About George

I'm interested in theology, languages, translation and various sorts of fermentation.
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