Monday, November 05, 2007

Barriers to Following Christ

I know I've missed a few days, and a Narnia post will be coming soon, but in the meantime here's what's been on my mind lately.

In my Sunday morning bible study class we've been going through the Gospel of Matthew. Over the last three weeks we've looked at Matthew chapter 8. During this time, we've witnessed Jesus' demonstration of His divine power, but also of His love for those that society rejected. In the first part of the chapter, Matthew gives account of three healings that Jesus performs.

Jesus first heals a leper who comes and bows down before Him (Mt.8:1-4). It stirs my emotions when I see that Jesus, who could have healed with a word, touches this leper. Secondly, Jesus encounters a Roman Centurion (vv.5-13). Here we find a Gentile, who, according to Jesus, has more faith unlike any in Israel. He believes Jesus to heal his servant, even while they are some distance away. In the third and final healing story in this chapter, Jesus heals a widow - Peter's own mother-in-law (vv. 14-15). After this he proceeds to heal many others. I find it fascinating that Jesus breaks so many stereotypes here and shows His power and compassion to such people as these (who remind us of ourselves sometimes).

This sets us up for the section that the title of the post refers to (vv.18-22). Two men in particular are highlighed in these verses. The first is a "scribe" or "teacher of the law", notice he's not a novice, and he already has a career. He declares to Jesus that he will follow Him "wherever you go." But Jesus seems to just shoot him down, declaring that while foxes may have holes, and birds nests, Jesus Himself (the Son of Man) is homeless. And that's all we ever hear of this gentleman.
Next another man says he wants to "bury his father." This can seem pretty deceptive to us today. Some commentators explain that the man's father is not necessarily dead, but that this guy wants to stay with his father in order to collect his rightful share of the inheritance (perhaps he's the eldest and stands to collect 2/3 of the total). In this case, Jesus again seems to put him down hard, declaring "let the dead bury their own."

This sort of thing seems typical of Jesus. He has a way with people. Think with me about the people who claim that they want to follow Jesus. He seems to put many of them down hard. The rich young ruler, for instance, is confronted about his wealth and goes away sad. Jesus has a unique way of cutting to the heart with the people that He encounters. In this passage, as with the others, Jesus identifies the real issue in the hearts of the individuals. The first man seems to have had an issue about his home or his comfort. Jesus speaks to the main barrier in his life - his home. With the second, He deals with the man's desire to collect his inheritance, or perhaps His relationship with his father. Whatever the issues are, Jesus cuts straight through all the smoke and mirrors and straight to the real matter.

You and I all have things in our hearts, we may seem to emphasize this or that, but Jesus knows what's most important to us. When we encounter Christ, He demands to be #1 in our lives, whatever is currently in the #1 spot of our hearts must take a back seat. I know that for me, when we discussed this, I was challenged to consider my priorities and values. Was there a barrier that was keeping me from following Christ? This is a question we must all ask ourselves, because Christ demands preeminence in our lives.

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