Today we have a collection of saying and incidents in Jesus’ life that help us to focus on a true and good relationship with Jesus as the center of all things in our lives. There are many reasons to look to Jesus or to want to follow his way. Conversion, living free of sin, and serving others is the central reason for a Christian life. When our life is centered in the person of Jesus, we experience joy.
For the first disciple in the story – the one who spontaneously comes up to Jesus and offers to follow him: Jesus sees an off-centered start. Jesus is quick to point out that if we are looking only for a good time, more food, or a good place to stay with him, we are mistaken. He clearly says he has nothing to offer along those lines. As far as material goods, he has less than the wild animals. How easy it is for us to approach God looking for some benefit or reward. Even in our prayer life we insist on asking for things, material goods, or prized benefits.
For the second and third disciples, who Jesus specifically called or invited, we see another off-center response. As human beings, family is essential to us. We cannot live long without family. The burial of family members was a cultural imperative in Jesus time. The burial was probably done within 24 hours of the death because there was no embalming at that time. There was an established time of formal mourning after the burial. Everything else had to stop in the face of family needs or burial duties. Thus, the request by new disciples to take time to say farewell to the family or attend to a burial seems reasonable. Yet today we hear Jesus saying that our relationship with God and our duties to proclaim the kingdom of God are more important than family. There can only be one center: God.
The phrase: “Let the DEAD bury THEIR dead” is so difficult. The phrase generates an image of a repetitive circle of the dead taking care of the dead. The attitude of living tied to relationships and things displaces God in the center of our lives and makes us dead. A Christian cannot maintain the same relationships, values, and lifestyle as before coming into contact with the Word of God. Everything has to be subordinated to God – the only true, life giving, joy producing center.
Image: “Darts” by Richard_of_England is licensed under CC BY 2.0.