Authority Over Himself: Matthew 8:18-22
“18) Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. 19) Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 20) Jesus *said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 21) Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 22) But Jesus *said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.”” Matthew‬ ‭8‬:‭18‬-‭22‬
This is an amusing text, and at first glance it seems to be more informative than instructive. But Jesus wasted no words, therefore we must assume that the Holy Spirit had reason for including these two stories in the inspired text. Let’s avoid the tendency to skip over these verses. Instead, let’s try to dig for some gold in these verses. There are at least two gold nuggets buried in this text.
First, if we stay the course with our theme that Matthew was presenting examples of area’s where Jesus displayed authority, an interesting insight emerges from these two encounters. It seems that the Son of Man had authority over Himself! Let me explain.
It is natural for people in this world to make a priority of pursuing material security and family approval. These two longings can become huge distractions for those trying to become disciples of Christ. But God wants us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” while trusting Him to provide these things that worldly values count as “essentials.” A fixation on these two longings can become costly distractions for men and women seeking to follow and serve Christ.
The Son on Man had conquered both of these in His own life. You ask, “in what ways?” First, though he was the carpenters son and had built homes for many others, He Himself had no place to lay His own head. He did not even compare well with foxes which had dens or birds which had nests. Was He a failure or had He conquered this innate longing?
Second, as the son of Mary in the absence of His step father, it was expected that Jesus would expend His life caring for His widowed mother and step brothers and sisters. It seems that He did this up until age thirty when He entered His public ministry. At that point he endured much family scorn and public ridicule to focus on His calling. He remained single mined and fixed His focus on the cross that awaited Him. It appears that the Son of Man had authority over Himself.
This is what eventually won the devotion of His step brothers James and Jude. The Holy Spirit later used each of them to write a book of the New Testament. When we put God first in seeking His Kingdom, He writes the chapters for our lives and abundantly takes care of the very things that cause worry, stress and anxiety.
The way Jesus replied to the two men who wanted to follow Him was neither cruel nor insensitive. He was merely saying that they would be their own worse enemy in seeking to follow and serve the Son of Man. Those who want to serve God need to die to themselves. The Son of man was no exception to this principle. He had come to the place of having authority over Himself.
But there is more gold in this text. Jesus knew the battle within each man that approached Him. He understood their struggles. He spoke to their weakness. He personalized His response to each of them. This was not rejection, it was zeroing in on their inner war.
I believe every man and woman who sincerely seeks to follow Christ will fight inner wars. It has been true in my life. I have often been my own worse enemy. Dying to self has not been easy for me. From this text, I understand that Jesus knows my inner battles and He tailors His grace and counsel to my needs. He has a personal interest in each of us!
Through the years, He has faithfully addressed my “current” inner battles and struggles through each stage and chapter of life. Though I have let Him down, He has never let me down. Do not let anyone or anything undermine the truth that Jesus is for you and not against you!
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global