Weekly Bible Devotional
“Come, Follow Me Home: Commitment”
April 3, 2022
Scripture: Matthew 8:18-27
18 Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 A scribe then approached and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 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.” 21 Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. 27 They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”
Notes on the Text:
The first part of our Bible reading for this week is about the level of commitment that is involved in discipleship. Jesus explains to his followers that discipleship requires risk and faithfulness. Verses 19-22 record the responses of two individuals to the call of discipleship. Jesus warns the first about the harsh lifestyle that is involved. Then he warns the second one about using delays and excuses. When the second man, a disciple no less, asked Jesus for time off to go bury his father, we are already aware that Jesus was talking about a high-risk venture that required a lot of commitment. Jesus’ response might seem unrealistic as the burial of one’s father does not take a lot of time.
New Testament Scholar Craig Keener explains this encounter by providing us with its historical and social context: “Many considered honoring parents a son’s greatest obligation (e.g., Josephus Against Apion 2.206), and burying them was the greatest expression of that obligation (cf., e.g., Tobit 4:3 4; 6:15; 4 Maccabees 16:11). The obligation fell most heavily on the eldest son. To neglect this duty was unthinkable; it would make one an outcast from the extended family and dishonored in one’s village, normally for the rest of one’s life. But a son whose father had just died would not normally be out talking with a rabbi; on receiving news of the father’s death, he would immediately see to the father’s burial. Some scholars note that, “I must first bury my father” sometimes functions as a polite request for delay until the father dies sometimes a delay of years so the son can continue with filial obligations in the meantime. Others suggest that this son refers to secondary burial the custom of reburying the father’s bones a year after the initial burial. On either of these views, the son could be requesting a considerable delay.” Jesus was expecting a high level of commitment, especially as he was getting ready to go to Jerusalem.
In preparation for their time in Jerusalem, Jesus wanted his followers to know that his confrontation with the authorities will test them like never before. All their security and control would be gone and thus their commitment needed to be solid. sugarcoat the discipleship path.
Immediately after these tough conversations, the disciples find themselves in a storm. The disciples act in fear. They are panicking while Jesus was asleep. Imagine the scene. There is a storm, and everyone is shouting and trying to bail water out of the boat, but Jesus is asleep. They literally had to wake him up. Jesus was showing a level of faith and trust that the disciples could not even begin to imagine. Then he sternly rebukes them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?”
This second part of our Bible reading is very important as it helps us to see that the level of commitment in discipleship is directly connected to our level of trust in God’s care for us. Even though the path of discipleship does not take us out of the storms of life and sometimes it seems to take us right into them, God is with us in all of them and that is enough.
Jesus had to teach these lessons of faith so many times and in so many different ways because nurturing a commitment that comes from a place of faith takes time and practice. Commitment takes resilience because we have to stay with it especially when things get tough.
It is not always easy to stay committed to the values and ways of the kingdom of God when we face opposition or hardships. We are invited this week to consider our commitment to discipleship through the image of the boat. In order to grow in discipleship, commitment, and resilience, we have to look at our experiences in the storms of life when our boats seem to be on the edge of destruction. Here are few lessons from our Bible story to keep in mind:
- Jesus is in the Boat: Remembering that Jesus is in the boat with us is a very important part of the journey. We are not left on our own. Jesus knows the struggles of our lives. Even if Jesus seems to be asleep, we are to have faith.
- The Other Disciples: We are not alone when we suffer. We have a community of disciples who struggle and help us through. The beauty of a community of disciples is that others around us can offer us support, understanding, and prayer. One of the ways Jesus works in the world is through his disciples. They are often his hands and feet. I can’t begin to tell you how true this has been in my life recently in dealing with the cancer storm that has engulfed my family.
- Faith: This is about not running away when life gets hard. It is about learning to see God in the hardships even when the outcome is unclear, and the path is hard. This is especially important for a life of deep joy and abundance. Our emotional programs for happiness tell us to run or to control, but faith helps us to know that life is about focusing on the love of the one who leads the journey.
What builds our commitment and resilience is not finding shortcuts or easy ways to live but learning to live by the wisdom and courage of our hearts and through the sacred presence of God. Instead of running away from our loss, grief, hardships, risks, or fear, we stay faithful by learning to access God’s love in such times.
Barbara Brown Taylor writes that the deep secret of Jesus’ words about commitment, “…is that our fear of suffering and death robs us of life because fear of death always turns into fear of life, into a stingy, cautious way of living that is not really living at all. The deep secret of Jesus hard words is that the way to have abundant life is not to save it but to spend it, to give it away, because life cannot be shut up and saved any more than a bird can be put into a shoebox and stored on a closet shelf…Jesus’ words are not an invitation to follow Jesus into death but an invitation to follow him into life, both now and later on. To be where God is to follow Jesus means receiving our lives as gifts instead of guarding them as our own possessions. It means sharing the life we have been given instead of bottling it for our own consumption.”
Prayer by Ted Loder:
Wondrous Worker of Wonders,
I praise you, not alone for what has been, or for what is,
but for what is yet to be,
for you are gracious beyond all telling of it.
I praise you that out of the turbulence of my life
a kingdom is coming, is being shaped even now
out of my slivers of loving, my bits of trusting, my sprigs of hoping,
my tootles of laughing, my drips of crying, my smidgens of worshiping;
that out of my songs and struggles, out my griefs and triumphs,
I am gathered up and saved,
for you are gracious beyond all telling of it.
I praise you that you turn me loose to go with you to the edge of now and maybe,
to welcome the new, to see my possibilities, to accept my limits,
and yet begin living to the limit of passion and compassion until, released by joy,
I uncurl to other people, and to your kingdom coming,
for you are gracious beyond all telling of it. Amen.