Matthew 8:18-22 … burying the dead
18 Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side.
19 And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
Yeshua is trying to explain to the man that He has no particular place of refuge or nothing that would be considered as a “stronghold” in the eyes of men. That his journey is one of a mission that has no stopping place.
21 And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
The disciple was requesting time to fulfill his family obligation regarding the burial of his father. Once this was discharged, the disciple would return and follow Jesus.
In the first century, when a person died, they normally were taken and buried immediately in the family burial cave that had been hewn out of bedrock. This custom is based on the injunction found in the Mosaic Law, not to leave the corpse on an executed person on the tree overnight [Deut. 21:22-23].
Immediately after the burial, the family would separate itself and mourn for seven days. This mourning period was called shivah. This initial mourning period was followed by a less intense 30-day period of mourning, called shloshim. However, the entire mourning period was not fully over until the flesh of the deceased had decomposed, usually about a year later. It would have been impossible for the disciples to make their request if their father had just died, so this is a request with no real time stamp on it.
22 But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.
This looks on the surface to be a cruel statement unless one sees it for what it really is…. A call to earnest discipleship. If their concern was for eternity and not just the day to day they would not be asking to stay behind.
What is it in this world that you are hanging on to that keeps you from earnestly following the Savior? Is it a past relationship, is it a hurtful situation, or is it a commitment to earthly activities?