Advertisement

For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

Matthew 8:18-22; The Cost of Following Jesus (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

“Lord, first let me go bury my father,” a disciple said to Jesus, asking to defer his commitment as a follower of Christ. There were three historical circumstances that could have prompted that request:

1) The man’s father had just passed away, and so the disciple needed to take a short break to attend to the funeral. It was highly unlikely this was the case, though. Dr. Lawrence Richards informs us that, “Jewish burial customs involved the disposal of the corpse immediately upon death. If the father had died, the young man already would have been on the way to the tomb with the corpse.” Instead, Scripture indicates he was hanging around here, having a conversation about discipleship with Jesus and a teacher of the law. The context suggest that his request about burying his father was actually a response to Jesus’ statement to the teacher of the law about the cost of discipleship (Matthew 8:18-20).

Advertisement

2) The man’s father had passed away within the past year. In Jewish society, it was the responsibility of the oldest son to handle his father’s burial. Craig Keener reveals that, “The initial burial took place shortly after a person’s decease…[and] a year after the first burial, after the flesh had rotted off the bones, the son would return to rebury the bones in a special box in a slot in the tomb’s wall. The son in this narrative could thus be asking for as much as a year’s delay.” This is more probable than the first option, but again unlikely. Since Matthew identifies this man as “another disciple,” his leaving to perform a second burial of his father would’ve meant the man was reneging on his previous, solemn oath to follow Christ in order to perform a chore any other member of his family could have handled.

Advertisement

3) The man’s father had not yet died. This is the commonly-held view among most Bible historians. The man wanted to take an indefinite leave from following Jesus so that he’d be present to claim an inheritance at the time of his father’s death—whenever that might be. Being in charge of the burial of his father would have ensured that he received his father’s estate. Maybe he reasoned this kind of “time-out” from commitment right now would give him greater resources to use in future service to Christ’s ministry. Or maybe he just didn’t want to give up his inheritance in order to follow some itinerant preacher. We’ll never know.

Regardless of the exact situation, we do know this: Jesus took no circumstance as an excuse to postpone dedicating one’s life him—and he demanded nothing less than total commitment from all of his disciples.

Advertisement

This was a hard truth to face, and it’s one we must still wrestle with today—and every day.

 

Works Cited:

[BAH, 275; BBC, 68; IBC, 1130]

 

ΩΩΩ

About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Advertisement

Matthew 8:18-22; The Cost of Following Jesus (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

In Jesus’ time, it was customary for a would-be disciple to pick the rabbi who would become his mentor/teacher. He would scout a “master” much the same way an aspiring student today picks a college, studying his options and picking the rabbi he felt would best equip him for future success.

In this kind of environment, some potential disciples were inherently more prestigious than others. For instance, a lowly, uneducated fisherman would rank near the bottom of a rabbi’s wish list. A scribe on the other hand would’ve been a prized recruit for just about any rabbi.

Although many ancient Jews could read and write, only a small number had regular access to writing and reading materials, and an even smaller portion actually had access to the Scriptures—but a scribe had both. A scribe, then, was already well-educated, skilled at reading and writing, and very knowledgeable about the Old Testament books. Within the elite group of scribes an even more prestigious group of leaders had emerged: experts in teaching and interpreting Scripture. These were “teachers of the law. It was one of these super-elite scholars who declared his intent to choose Jesus as his rabbi/mentor (Matthew 8:18-20).

Advertisement

Jesus should have been thrilled by the man’s decision. This was like an NFL team signing a coveted, free-agent quarterback. A teacher of the law would’ve been a prestigious addition to Christ’s team of disciples, everyone knew that. Perhaps even this particular teacher of the law knew it. Maybe he thought he was doing Jesus a favor by joining his followers, we can’t be sure. But we do know he liked the idea (maybe the reciprocal prestige?) of being associated with the immensely-popular Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus’ response to landing this prized recruit was unexpected. “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head,” he said. It appears he was actually trying to talk the man out of his decision!

Instead of welcoming the star disciple into his fold, Jesus redefined discipleship for him. There would be no prestige or perks waiting for him as a follower of Jesus. Rather, he would have to give up his place of honor among the religious establishment. He’d be expected to endure sacrifice, hardship, and a deliberate abandonment of the demand for basic human necessities such as home and hearth. It was going to be all or nothing—just the way Jesus lived it and also the way he intended it to be.

Advertisement

We assume today that, upon hearing Jesus response, this teacher of the law changed his mind about following Jesus. It’s certainly possible this is true, but Matthew doesn’t tell the final outcome of this encounter. So, until we know otherwise, I like to believe this man meant it when he said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go”—even when it meant humbling himself and abandoning all the comforts and prestige he’d know before.

 

Works Cited:

[ZB1, 58-59]

 

ΩΩΩ

About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Advertisement

Matthew 8:18-22; The Cost of Following Jesus (Cross-Reference Comparisons)

posted by Mike Nappa

Jesus’ encounter with would-be disciples (Matthew 8:18-22) is the first time that Matthew records Christ calling himself the “Son of Man.” In all, Matthew will document 32 times that Jesus used this culturally-charged title for himself.

The phrase “Son of Man” was not unique to Jesus. In the Old Testament it generally referred simply to one who was part of the human race (i.e., Numbers 23:19, Job 25:6, Psalm 8:4, Isaiah 51:12 and so on). Most notably, God called the prophet Ezekiel “Son of Man” as a proper name, addressing him this way early and often (Ezekiel 2:1 and throughout the book of Ezekiel).

However, most scholars agree that when Jesus called himself “Son of Man” he was identifying himself with a well-known Messianic prophesy from Daniel 7:13-14, which says in part, “There before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven…He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshiped him.”

Advertisement

That had to have been a confusing, ironic moment for the first would-be follower of Jesus. Matthew reveals this man to be a “teacher of the law”—someone who would’ve been well versed in Messianic prophesies like Daniel 7:13-14. The “Son of Man” reference would’ve been immediately recognizable as a claim by Jesus of “sovereign power” and even Messianic worship. Then, immediately after making that divine claim, Jesus gave a promise of degradation to any who would follow him: “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

The all-powerful Messiah is homeless and destitute? What?

We’re not told how this teacher of the law responded to that mixed messaging of Jesus. Perhaps he walked away confused and disappointed. Or maybe he took up the challenge, even though he didn’t understand it all. Perhaps he became one of the many, unnamed, dedicated followers of Christ throughout his time on earth. And maybe Matthew deliberately left out the conclusion of this man’s encounter in order to prompt people like you and me to ask the question:

Advertisement

How will I respond to the Son of Man?

 

Works Cited:

[DBI, 447]

 

ΩΩΩ

About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Advertisement

Matthew 8:14-17; Jesus Heals Many (Cross-Reference Comparisons)

posted by Mike Nappa

In Matthew 8:16-17, the gospel writer reports that Jesus “healed all the sick” in order to fulfill the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53:4, which Matthew paraphrases as, “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.”

This is an odd Scriptural connection given the circumstances just described. There’s no indication here or anywhere in the Bible that the act of healing “all the sick” around him caused Jesus, in turn, to fall ill or to contract any disease. So what was Matthew talking about?

Most Bible commentators extrapolate this to be a reference to Christ’s upcoming redemptive work on the cross. “It is also important to remember,” says Lawrence Richards on this topic, “that the Jews, and Scripture itself, view all sickness as a consequence either directly or indirectly of sin … [Jesus’ healing] was a witness to his intent, through his suffering and death, to provide a salvation which will ultimately destroy all sickness.”

Advertisement

It’s hard to disagree with Richards’ theology in the broad perspective, but the reasoning seems forced within the context of Matthew 8:17. The gospel writer here appears to be referring very specifically to the healing and exorcisms Jesus had just performed (referenced in Matthew 8:16)—not to the future healings that would result from his vicarious suffering and death. So, again, what was Matthew talking about?

New Testament scholar, A. Lukyn Williams, theorizes that perhaps Christ’s healing ministry did take some unseen toll on the Savior. In commentary on Matthew 8:16-17, he wrote:

The thought is far-reaching, and implies that he [Jesus] bore the ultimate cause of sickness, the sin of the world (John 1:29), and also that each miracle of healing meant for him a fresh realization of what bearing the sin of the world included. In other words, the passage in Isaiah, as interpreted by St. Matthew, refers not only to the Passion as such, but also to Christ’s suffering an earnest and a foretaste of it at each miracle. May not this have been in part the cause of his sigh at one miracle (Mark 7:34), and his deep emotion at another (John 11:33)? Observe that this may be the complementary side of his experience recorded in Mark 5:30 (parallel passage: Luke 8:46), that “power” went out of him. A miracle of healing, though performed in momentary unconsciousness of what was taking place, still necessitated personal contact with sin, which to Christ’s whole nature meant moral effort.

Advertisement

It’s possible that both Richards and Williams are right in their interpretations of Matthew 8:16-17, that one is right and the other wrong, or that both are part right and part wrong.

What do you think?

 

Works Cited:

[NTL, 43; PC15, 326]

 

ΩΩΩ

About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Previous Posts

Bible Resource Spotlight: Matthew: A Theological Commentary on the Bible
Reader Appeal: Pastors, Bible teachers Genre: Commentary FBSN Rating: B+   It seems strange that asking a theologian to write a Bible commentary would be considered, well, strange. But in the “academic silo” world we live ...

posted 12:00:18pm May. 01, 2015 | read full post »

Bible Resource Spotlight: After Acts
Reader Appeal: Bible teachers, students, Bible Study Nerds Genre: Christian History FBSN Rating: B   Dr. Bryan Litfin is a theology professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He also holds a Ph.D. in the field of ...

posted 12:00:16pm Apr. 29, 2015 | read full post »

Bible Resource Spotlight: Reformation Commentary on Scripture, New Testament III: Luke
Reader Appeal: Pastors, Teachers, Seminary Students Genre: Commentary FBSN Rating: A   The risk with Christian history and theology is that voices from our shared past are often drowned out by the voices of today’s popular ...

posted 12:00:14pm Apr. 27, 2015 | read full post »

Matthew 11:1-19; Jesus and John the Baptist (Inductive Studies)
“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” It’s interesting that John asked an academic question, recorded in Matthew 11:3, and Jesus responded with a legal answer (Matthew 11:4-6). John’s question really ...

posted 12:00:44pm Apr. 24, 2015 | read full post »

Matthew 11:1-19; Jesus and John the Baptist (Bible Difficulties)
When John the Baptist was in prison and heard that Jesus was nearby, he sent his disciples to ask of Christ himself: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3). Why did he ask this ...

posted 12:00:43pm Apr. 22, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.