Consider the Cost

Aug 22, 2021

Consider the Cost

Passage: Matthew 8:18-22

Preacher: Jeff Crotts

Series: Matthew: We Need a King

Category: Sunday Morning


Intro: We have been learning about the healing miracles of Jesus.

  • A Leper, Centurion’s slave, Peter’s mother-in-law, and the masses.
    • But let us take into account the miracle of conversion.
      • Every conversion is a miracle, a supernatural act of God.
      • For some, this miracle is more evident than others.


  • Matthew’s conversion could be listed as another miracle.
    • Comparable to all nine miracles listed in Matthew’s Gospel.
    • Because Matthew, by occupation, was a tax collector.

We will unpack Matthew’s conversion when we come to chapter 9.

  • Still, it is relevant to understand Jesus can save anyone because he saved Matthew.
  • Rabbinical tradition said, “It was impossible for a man in his position to repent.”
    • Why, would a tax collector be too far gone?
      • Tax collectors were known traitors to the Jews.
      • Gauging people for Roman wealth.
      • Bilking the system for personal gain.


  • Matthew 9:9 has Matthew “sitting at the tax booth” (Mt. 9:9).
    • Not standing back, delegating but leading with the chin.

Matthew would have positioned himself at the North Port of Galilee.

  • A strategic intersection, catching travelers to and from Damascus, moving east and west.
  • Primarily taxing fishermen!

Matthew’s greed put him on par with the “sinners” (Matt. 9:11).

  • The brash, bold, profligate people.
  • Matthew, synonymous with scandal.

ESV  Matthew 9:11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, a"Why does your teacher eat with ztax collectors and sinners?"

  • Matthew leaves off a detail that Luke puts in.

ESV  Luke 5:28 And aleaving everything, he rose and followed him.


  • What did Luke mean, “leaving everything?”
    • Matthew’s conversion was costly.
    • A fisherman following Jesus meant you could still fish.
    • A tax collector following Jesus meant permanent termination.
      • The door closed and someone else took your seat.
      • Livelihood gone.


  • Fishermen could just go back to fishing but not someone serving Rome.
    • Following Jesus made you a threat to Rome.
    • Alignment with Jesus raised the stakes.

Current circumstances may find you in similar situations. 

  • Will you have to sign on to the LGBTQ agendas to stay employed?
    • Will our identification to Christ be viewed as an increasing threat?
    • It shouldn’t be!


  • Christ should make us the best employee a company has.


  • When our news makes concessions for the Taliban (Afghanistan), doing their best under Sharia Law, we are upside down.

The cost is high!

  • Jesus makes hard statements to bring things authentic!
    • For a tax collector.
    • Unwinnable, hopeless, Matthew.
    • For you and me! Anyone!

Jesus’ hard sayings do something else. 

  • Expose false converts.
    • People with half-faith have no faith.
      • People making extraordinary claims.
      • People pledging allegiance to Christ.


  • Hard tests, expose the heart.
  • The stakes are high.  


  • This is the cost of discipleship, truly following, authentic, reality.


At this point, Jesus has two public exchanges with two would-be followers. 

Christ’s hard sayings exposing real motivations.    


Two would-be followers:
1. A Scribe (vv. 18-19)

Verse 18 Jesus has been healing all evening, casting out demons, bringing heaven down to earth, and now he lifts his head and comes to himself. 

  • He “saw a crowd around him” (v. 18) and gave the order “to go over to the other side” (v. 18).
    • Not condemning the swarming crowd.
    • Jesus identified possible consumers and gave a hard challenge.


  • On the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus, fully human, needed rest.
    • As the crowd pressed to go with him.
    • He pressed back with a hard challenge.


  • Mark accounts for people already getting in other boats to cross (cf. Mk. 4:36).


A scribe comes up and says he wants to follow Jesus. 

  • “What is his motive for what he says” (cf. v. 19).
    • “Does he want to follow Jesus for what Jesus will do for him?”
    • Following Jesus for miracles is compelling.


  • “Was he enticed by miracles to say…?”
    • “This is the Jesus I want”
    • “I want Jesus to “zap” me!
    • “Make me whole.”

That evening, heaven came down, but nothing in what the scribe says, he wants quid pro quo from Jesus. 

  • Based on what he says, he is making an extraordinary and public commitment.
    • Pledging full allegiance to a man with no religious pedigree.
      • Who was breaking all religious tradition.
      • Set by scribes.


  • All scribal religion was built on legalism.
    • What Jesus was destroying.
    • A scribe was breaking from scribes.


  • A scribe, much like a Pharisee, was a master teacher and applier of the Law so for him to come up and call Jesus, “Teacher” was no small thing! Rabbi! 
    • The highest title in this discipline.
    • Followed with, “…I will follow you wherever you go” (v. 19).
    • “I will cross the sea to prove it.”

“Did he mean it?” 

  • Sure, he did.
    • Like Peter, convinced in his own mind, he would follow Jesus, so did this scribe (cf. Matt. 26:3, 35).
      • Human nature.
      • But do we really know ourselves as well as we assume we do?
      • Time and truth go hand in hand.


  • We should not condemn him; he was enthralled with Jesus.
    • Jesus is enthralling.
    • This can be dangerous.


  • Jesus answer’s this scribe’s public vow with the hard truth of what it will mean to follow Him.

Verse 20, is Jesus’ first of two proverbial statements. 

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (v. 20). 

  • Not calling the scribe (nor anyone else for that matter) to a life of homelessness.
    • Jesus was not homeless.
    • Jesus had places to stay.
    • Peter had a home.

John 7:53-8:1 records, the dispute about the blind man, where afterward, “everyone went home” but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 

  • He spent the night under the stars, praying to his heavenly Father.
    • When you follow Jesus, you hold everything with an open hand!
      • Property ownership?
      • This might not work in itinerant ministry.
        • Will you let certain things go?
        • Or do you want to add Jesus to what makes “you, you?”


  • Back up in verse 17, Matthew captures Jesus’ life’s mission quoting Isaiah 53:4.
    • Jesus was our Suffering Servant.
    • [Plummer] “Jesus’ life began in a borrowed stable and ended in a borrowed tomb.”
    • The mindset Jesus demands.   

This scribe put religion aside to make a camp promise, saying “I am now publicly stating that I am willing to follow.”


“Was this enough, for Jesus?” 

  • Important (in today’s church) to see, this was not enough.
    • No whimsical promise, no matter how extreme, is ever enough.
    • Jesus’ reply comes as a test.


  • Statements are tests for would-be “disciples” to see if they are true disciples?


Here comes the test. 

  • A test like this today is where Jesus strips away what we live for here on earth.
    • What about your “hole” or “nest?”
    • Is this more to you than Christ?


  • You say, “Well, shouldn’t I provide for my family?”
    • There are whole Christian ministries built around this question.
    • Providing for your family is biblical but what is the true and best way forward.

“Is your family your highest priority?” 

  • On a lesser level, are your house and comforts your highest priority?
    • Not speaking to the sin of idolizing wealth or opulence.
    • I am talking about basic comforts being above Jesus.

“What is the true essence of your life?” 

  • Our lives should be a sieve, not a bowl.
    • We are being poured through, serving Jesus.
    • Not pouring into our container to consume.


  • Jesus calls you to live on the move that will be uncomfortable.

[Lenski] A person, “sees the soldiers on parade, the fine uniforms, and the glittering arms and is eager to join, forgetting the exhausting marches, the bloody battles, and graves, perhaps unmarked.” 

[Barclay] “An explorer may recruit many volunteers to go on an expedition-until he explains the team will work in scorching heat, sub-zero cold, or sweltering swamps…”

  • There is so much shallow, celebrity pastor worship.
    • Promising comfort.   
    • Jesus never wanted to be followed as a celebrity.

[JC Ryle] Nothing has done more harm to Christianity than the practice of filling the ranks of Christ’s army with every volunteer who is willing to make a little profession and talk fluently of experience. 


“Who would you be if everything is stripped away?”

  • You rightfully do not want to leave your family, to follow Christ.
    • You do want to take them with you when you follow Christ.
    • Following Jesus at all costs is the only authentic path.

I to quickly touch on the title Jesus uses for himself. 

  • He calls himself “the Son of Man” 83x throughout the Gospels.
    • Used of Ezekiel to show the mighty prophet was mere flesh and blood.
    • The title was used by Daniel speaking of exalted Messiah in the clouds, coming with power and glory and might (cf. Daniel 7).


  • Which vision is Jesus calling us to see? Both! 
    • Fully human, the Son of Man.
    • Is Messiah, fully God.
      • This lamb returns as the lion.
      • Exalted forever!     


This leads to the next verse with another questioner:

“Can I at least go and bury my father before I follow you?”

 2. A Disciple (vv. 20-22)

Verses 21-22, now someone labeled “disciple” comes to Jesus. 

  • Whether labeled “scribe” or more generically, “disciple” the challenge is the same.
    • The question still must be answered, “Are you truly a disciple?”
    • I am not sure the text says one way or another about this man.
    • Not the point!


  • Jesus returns with an even harder statement!
    • This is the test diagnosing someone’s true intentions.
    • This “disciple’s” non-response silence, is deafening.


“Was this man’s request unreasonable?” 

  • Was Jesus too harsh?
  • What does it mean “to leave the dead to bury their own dead?”

There are two ways to understand this disciple’s request and both hinge on whether this father is still alive or dead.

  • To go and bury your father in Near Eastern language did not then and now mean someone was already dead but could mean someone wants to join the family business so that when his father dies, he would inherit everything.

[Barclay] The expression is still used in parts of the Middle East today…a missionary asked a rich young Turkish man to go with him on a trip to Europe, during…this, the missionary hoped to disciple the man. 

When the young man replied he must bury his father, the missionary offered sympathy and expressed surprise that the father had died.  The man explained, however, that his father was alive and healthy. 

  • The expression “bury my father” meant staying at home and fulfilling his family responsibilities until his father died and he received his share of the inheritance.  

If you apply this to the immediate context you see this disciple is stalling on Jesus


“Was this request for a brief time away from Jesus, or a significant time away?”

  • Was the father still alive or not?

“It does not matter!”

  • Either case, Jesus says, “Let’s go!”
    • The disciple is saying by his request: “I will get to You eventually.”
    • “Postponing full commitment.”


  • Jesus confronts inaction, indecision, lethargy, and procrastination.
    • There are certain “moments of impulse when you are moved to higher things.”
    • INACTION is a disaster.

Jesus knew human nature. 

  • If you do not follow in that moment, you never will.

I can remember sitting with my best friend as a 17-year-old, together in his dad’s large Ford truck, making a pact that though we had both been struck by a youth pastor’s challenge to commit ourselves to Christ, We would rather make the most of your younger years, and live it up.  We will make our full commitment to God, when we were older.  This was dangerous!  And we both knew it!  Soon after, we both made full commitments to Christ!

 “Still, is this request to bury someone’s father wrong?” 

  • Most circumstances say you can “bury your father” (cff. Gen. 50:5; 1 Kings 9:20-21).

ESV  Genesis 50:5 My father made me swear, saying, 'I am about to die: in my tomb athat I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there shall you bury me.' Now therefore, let me please go up and bury my father. Then I will return."

ESV  1 Kings 19:20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, a"Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you." And he said to him, "Go back again, for what have I done to you?"


ESV  1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for amembers of his household, he has bdenied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.


  • Still placing cultural norms, (here again family) as higher priority above what Jesus asks is a disaster.
    • Placing terms and conditions on what Jesus is never right.
      • Today is the day of salvation.
      • It is always urgent, to follow Christ.   

Jesus is everything to you, or he is nothing at all to you. 

  • These statements form a dividing line.
  • You are my everything, so I will follow you.

Ironically, the greatest ministry you can have to your family is giving full allegiance to Christ. 

  • When your spouse or children observe your true and sincere devotion to Jesus, then and only then will they truly follow Jesus.

ESV  Acts 16:29 And the jailer1 called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he afell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, awhat must I do to be bsaved?"31 And they said, a"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you band your household."32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.33 And he took them athe same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he bwas baptized at once, he and all his family.


ESV  1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. aOtherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

ESV  1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, wives, abe subject to your own husbands, so that beven if some do not obey the word, cthey may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives


ESV  Deuteronomy 6:1-5 "Now this is athe commandment, the statutes and the rules1 that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it,2 that ayou may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and bthat your days may be long.3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, aas the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.4 "Hear, O Israel: aThe LORD our God, the LORD is one.15 You ashall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.


  • Conversely, when they see a lapse in your devotion to Jesus, they have a license to rebel.
    • Against the home.
    • Against the Lord.

ESV  Exodus 34:7 akeeping steadfast love for thousands,1 bforgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but cwho will by no means clear the guilty, dvisiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation."


ESV  Deuteronomy 5:9 You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me


  • Think of Hophni and Phineas who were obviously products of Samuel’s neglect as their father.
    • Drunkenness and prostitution, parading sin on the temple steps.
    • Integrity or lack thereof leads to sad and tragic outcomes.

On the face, this request to “go and bury [his] father” does not seem unreasonable and even seems responsible. 

Back to the immediate context of that evening. 

  • Jesus has been healing and delivering people by the thousands.
    • So where was this man’s head?
      • This disciple was concerned to deal with the dead.
      • Rather than following the life-giving Savior.

ESV  Mark 12:27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong."



Jesus’ response exposed this man’s heart!

  • I would compare this to being on the battlefield as a soldier.
    • Times where soldiers are given leave from a battlefront.
    • Times when to leave your mission even for what is normally acceptable would be going AWOL.
      • Here, you have one of these cases.
      • Leaving now might mean leaving forever.


  • This is coming to the Crossroads.


  • Reevaluating your responsibilities is in order, even in the case of burying your own father.


The phrase, “let the dead bury their own dead” (v. 22) makes Jesus’ point!

  • When someone dies, the remaining family senses great loss, left to evaluate what truly matters in life.
    • For the unbeliever, death is the end.
      • No confidence in the afterlife,
      • So the ceremony of death


  • The Funeral becomes Significant!
  • You see this in burial ceremonies in tribal cultures.   

Death marks the end!

  • If you are dead inside, you truly have nothing more to do than bury your dead father.
    • You bury him both the inside and outside.
    • Then you go on as a dead person inside of yourself.


  • [Quote] “Let the world that is spiritually dead, take care of what is mundane.”


  • Here the “dead is truly burying the dead.”


As Christ’s true disciple (spiritually alive) you see beyond death. 

  • You evaluate your life with Christ as higher than ceremony.
    • If your loved one is a believer, and he or she dies, you bury him or her as someone who is still alive.
      • Burying the living.
      • Death hurts, but Christians still have HOPE.


  • There may be a circumstance where you cannot be with a dying loved one.
    • I know people who have!
    • You are still present by faith.


  • Navigating these things takes discernment and is case by case.

There is a stark contrast between how unbelievers and believers deal with death!

  • Being spiritually alive or being spiritually dead determines how you see things.
    • What Jesus brings out.
    • Everything is evaluated according to someone’s spiritual condition.


  • Jesus’ statement is proverbial.
    • Spiritually dead people are given to dead activities.
      • Christ is saying, “Get out of the dead society.”
      • Get out now or you will never get out.

Luke fills this out with one more thing.

ESV  Luke 9:60 And Jesus1 said to him, "Leave athe dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and bproclaim the kingdom of God."

  • The mission for souls.

[Wiersbe] It is better to preach the gospel and give life to the spiritually dead than wait for your father to die and bury him. 


“How do Jesus’ hard statements harmonize with Christian joy?” 

  • Christianity is not sadism.
  • Christians are called to sacrifice but also joy.


A few years ago I looked up a wrestler from my high school. 

  • I used to wrestle his younger brother, Chris Fussel, in jr. high, but his older brother Jonathon was a state champion.
    • Jonathon went on to be a highly decorated Navy Seal.
    • Member of Seal Team 4.
    • A sniper and weapon specialist.


  • In an interview with ODU, he talked about training to become a Seal and said:


“It is putting yourself in the most miserable of circumstances while loving every minute of it.” 

  • By the way, Chris also became a Seal.
  • So, wrestling him would be different now!     


  • This instead is a shocking statement for heart evaluation and the call to “life” eternal instead of memorializing death in the here and now!


“How does your commitment to Christ measure in the light of Jesus’ challenge?”


[Carson] If the “scribe” was too quick to make a promise, then the “disciple” was too slow to perform.”


JC Ryle said, “The saddest road to hell is the one that runs under the pulpit, past the Bible, and through the middle of the warnings and invitations!” 


Do not miss Jesus’ point. 


He calls with the highest standard for the highest commitment, so you will truly follow him!


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