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Monday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time. The reading is from Gospel of Matthew 8:18-22.

The Would-be Followers of Jesus – Matthew 8:18-22

When Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side.

A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

Another of [his] disciples said to him, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”

But Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.

This passage about following Jesus found between the first and second group of miracles is taken from Q source. It is also found in Luke.

The Would-be Followers of Jesus – Luke 9:57–62

As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “[Lord,] let me go first and bury my father.”

But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”

[To him] Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.

The third of the three sayings found in the source

  • And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” [To him] Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61–62)

is present in Luke but absent in Matthew.

In these sayings, Jesus speaks of the severity and the unconditional nature of Christian discipleship.

For Matthew, the designation of Jesus “Teacher” in

  • A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” (Matthewv 8:19)

is true, for he has Jesus using it of himself

  • No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master. (Matthew 10:24)
  • It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more those of his household! (Matthew 10:25)
  • As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. (Matthew 23:8)
  • He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”’” (Matthew 26:18)

yet when it is used of him by others they are either his opponents

  • The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11)
  • Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” (Matthew 12:38)
  • When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” (Matthew 17:24)
  • They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. (Matthew 22:16)
  • On that day Sadducees approached him, saying that there is no resurrection. They put this question to him, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies without children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ (Matthew 22:23-24)
  • “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” (Matthew 22:36)

or, as here

  • A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” (Matthewv 8:19)

and in

  • Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16)

well-disposed persons who cannot see more deeply. Thus it reveals an inadequate recognition of who Jesus was.

In Mark phrase “Son of Man” occurs in

  • He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. (Mark 8:31)

The phrase “Son of Man” in

  • Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” (Matthew 8:20)

is the first occurrence in Matthew of a term that appears in the New Testament only in the sayings of Jesus, except for

  • But he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55-56)

and possibly

  • But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” (Matthew 9:6)
  • But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth” — he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” (Mk 2:10-11)
  • But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” (Luke 5:24).

In Matthew the phrase “Son of Man” refers to Jesus

  • in his ministry (seven times, as here),
  • in his passion and resurrection (nine times, e.g., Matthew17:22), and
  • in his glorious coming at the end of the age (thirteen times, e.g., Matthew 24:30)

The demand of Jesus in

  • But Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” (Matthew 8:22)

overrides what both the Jewish and the Hellenistic world regarded as a filial obligation of the highest importance.

According to Jesus, even family ties and filial obligations, such as burying one’s parents, cannot distract a person no matter how briefly from proclaiming the kingdom of God. What Jesus really meant was to let the spiritually dead (those who do not follow him) bury their physically dead.

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