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“How Long Will You Wait?

(Matthew 8:21-22)

Introduction: This morning, we were considering the fact that everyone who wishes to follow Christ must
first sit down and count the cost to see if they are willing to pay that price before they ever begin. There are
so many today who believe that they are Christ’s and that they are on their way to heaven, when in fact they
still belong to themselves, having never let go of their lives. Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes
to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save
his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. For what will a man be profited, if
he gains the whole world, and forfeits his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
For the Son of Men is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will them recompense
every man according to his deeds” (Matt. 16:24-27). Now what does Jesus mean here except that we must
be willing to forsake ourselves and our own lives in order to follow Him. We must deny ourselves. We
must die to ourselves. And we must follow Christ wherever He may lead. If we try to hold onto our lives,
we will end up losing them, eternally. But if we give our lives to Christ in this life, we will gain them,
eternally. Whatever it may be that we think we have to gain by hanging onto our lives now, we will find in
the end was really worthless compared to the salvation of our souls. We must be willing to pay the price.
But we learn from Christ’s encounter with the second man in our text this evening that there is
something else we must do.

We must not only be willing to pay the price which Jesus demands, we must be willing to pay it

II. Let’s look now at the second man who approached Jesus.
A. Matthew writes that before Jesus was able to depart to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, another
man approached Him and said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.’”
1. Now notice first of all the high level of respect which this man shows Jesus.
a. The word “Lord” in Scripture can be used in different ways. It can be used as a word which
shows honor. The word we use for this is ‘sir.’ But it can also be used to show the highest
honor. This word is also used as the NT name for God. He is the Lord of heaven and earth.
He is the infinitely worthy Lord of the Covenant, the One who is in sovereign control of the
destinies of all men.
b. I don’t think we can know for sure which of these two meanings was in his mind, but one
thing we know for sure: he could not have been saved apart from the recognition that the
One before Him was none other than Yahweh Himself, the Lord of the Covenant.
c. In order for this man, or for you or me, to be saved, we must recognize who Jesus is. He is
not a mere man. He is not just a good teacher. He is not simply an example of the high
moral standard of living which God calls us to. He is the Lord God, the Covenant Lord; He
is God in human flesh. Now He is not the only person who is in the Godhead. There are two
others. Nor is He the Father or the Spirit. He is the eternal Son, the second person of the
Triune God, the One who became flesh, who took upon Himself our nature, that He might
reconcile us to God. Yes, He was a man in the fullest sense of the word. But He was more
than merely a man. The person of the man Christ Jesus is the eternal Son of God, the Word
of God. He is therefore God in the fullest sense of the word.
d. If we don’t see this, if we don’t realize this and acknowledge it, we can’t be saved.
(i) No mere man is worthy of worship, no matter what he has done. Only God is. But we
owe worship and obedience to this One who has saved us from our sins. If He is not
God, then we owe this worship to a creature, and that is idolatry.
(ii) But if Jesus was not God, then He couldn’t have saved us, for it is the fact that He was
God that made His sacrifice valuable enough to pay our debt to God’s justice. We owed
an infinite debt to God, for we have sinned against an infinitely worthy Being. Therefore,
only One who is infinitely worthy could ever have satisfied that justice.
(iii) But lastly, the Bible says that Jesus is God. John writes, “In the beginning was the

Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). It is this Word
which became flesh and dwelt among us. If we do not believe in a Jesus who is God, we
do not believe in the biblical Jesus, and a Jesus who is not the true Jesus cannot save us,
only the real One can.
(iv) Whether this man acknowledged Christ’s deity or not, we don’t know. But we do know
that we must acknowledge it, if we are to be reconciled to God.

2. The second thing we notice about this man is that, like the first, he had a desire to follow Jesus,
only not right away.
a. There was obviously some desire there. The reason he came up to Jesus in the first place was
that he wanted to tell Him that he would go with Him.
b. But there was something else he wanted to do first, and so he was asking Jesus for His
permission. He said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” He seemed to be
willing, but he was not willing just yet. He wanted to wait until his father was dead, do the
duty of a son to him, and then follow Jesus.
(i) The Jewish burial was usually performed on the same day in which a person died. It is
very likely then that this man’s father was still living. If this was the case, then he was
saying, “Let me go back first, and wait until my father dies. Then once he is properly
buried, I will come and follow you.”
(ii) Now what he wanted to do was not sinful; far from it. It was a noble and righteous
thing. It is the duty of all children to care for their parents until their time on earth is
ended, as we saw last week in the morning and evening sermons. We are told in the fifth
commandment that we are to honor our parents, not only when they are raising us, but
even after we are grown. Our obligation to them will not end until they die. This means,
among other things, that we must take care of them, especially when they are old, even as
they cared for us when we were young. This appears to be what this man was intending
to do.
(iii) Perhaps he had begun to follow Jesus while Jesus was in Capernaum. Perhaps he had
seen the miracles of Christ in healing the sick and in casting out the demons and had
begun to associate with Him. But now Jesus was leaving. He was going to the other side
of the Sea. The next place Jesus will go is the country of the Gadarenes. Gadara was on
the Southeastern corner of the Sea of Galilee, while Capernaum was on the Northwest
shore. Now if he wanted to follow Jesus, he would need to leave his home. And if he
left his home, then he would not be able to fulfill his duty to his father. What was he
going to do? What was the right thing to do?
(iv) Apparently, either because he thought that taking care of his father was really more
important, or because he really didn’t want to give up his home and family to follow
Jesus, he had decided to stay at home with his father until he died and was buried. And
so he told Jesus, “Not yet. Let me bury my father first, and then I will come.”

B. But this isn’t acceptable to Jesus. Jesus tells Him, “Follow Me” (v. 22), and of course He meant
right away.
1. If this man really wasn’t sure what the right thing to do was, now there was no longer any
question. His excuse for procrastinating was gone. The only question remaining for him now
was, Will he obey Jesus? And he didn’t have much time to make up his mind either. Jesus had
already given orders to depart to the other side. He had perhaps only a matter of minutes before
the boat would leave, and with it, his chance to obey Christ.
a. The question he was faced with is one that we are faced with everyday: Will we follow
Jesus? Will we follow Him today? And will we follow Him without delay? This is really
the kind of obedience which the Lord expects from us.
b. When Jesus called Simon and Andrew, and James and John, to leave their boats and to follow
Jesus, when did they do it? After their fathers died and had been laid to rest? No. Matthew
tells us, “And they immediately left the nets, and followed Him” (Matt. 4:18-22). They left
right in the middle of their employment. If they had waited, they would have missed out on
the highest calling that a man could ever have: to be one of Christ’s apostles.

c. When Jesus called Matthew the tax-collector, when did he obey? Did he take a week to think
about it? Did he tell Christ to come back tomorrow, and he would let Him know what his
decision was? No. He immediately arose and followed Him (9:9). Again, he left right in the
middle of his work to follow Him. Now does this mean that their work was unimportant?
No. It was important. It was the means of their support and the support of their families.
But Jesus had something for them to do which was more important, and He needed them to
do it right now, and so they did.
d. God does not delight in hesitation. He wants us to clearly and unwaveringly obey Him
without delay. When the children of Israel were wavering between whom they would serve -
- either the gods beyond the River and in Egypt, or the true and living God --, Joshua said to
them, “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve . . . but as for me and my house,
we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). There was no question for him. The Lord was the
true God. His was the right way. All the other ways were false and led down to Sheol.
Therefore, he devoted His heart and his life to the Lord to be His and His only.
e. This disciple was also faced with a choice. Burying his father was important, but what Jesus
wanted was more important.
(i) The kingdom of God was now near. Jesus had need of those who would go out and
(ii) Taking care of his father and mother was important, but the work of Christ was a higher
priority. Jesus was calling him to a higher calling. He wanted him to labor in His
kingdom. In the parallel passage in Luke, Jesus says to him, “Go and proclaim
everywhere the kingdom of God” (9:60).
(iii) Brethren, as we saw this morning, Christ calls us to love Him more than our closest
relations, more than our earthly possessions, even more than our own lives. And because
He does, we must be ready at all times to set these things aside for whatever the Lord
may call us to. Now He will never violate His own Word, and call us to forsake those
whom He also commands us to take care of. But there will be times when following Him
will require some sacrifices. And when He calls us, we must obey Him, and we must
obey Him immediately. We must not allow ourselves to make any excuses. We must not
procrastinate. We must be willing to sacrifice anything and everything to do whatever
our Lord calls us to do. Our love and allegiance to Him must excel all. We must place
no conditions on our following Him.
(iv) And this is to be our daily attitude as well. God does not want us to serve Him one day
each week, or two or three. He wants all of our time, all of our talents, and all of our
physical and spiritual resources, at all times. He has not left us in the dark about what
His will is. He has spoken to us as clearly as He did to this disciple. We can read it for
ourselves in His Word. The Lord expects us to read it, to study it, and to do it. And
when we learn that there is some area of our lives which is not as it should be, something
we are doing that we need to give up, or something we are not doing which we need to
begin, He wants us to change right away.
(v) Now often we don’t. Oftentimes we procrastinate. We put off until later what we know
we can do right now. But we mustn’t do this. We need to repent of that attitude.
Realizing that the Lord takes His Word very seriously, we need to take it seriously as
well. And the way He wants us to show Him that we are is by responding to His Word
(vi) This man knew what Jesus wanted. There was no question that he was going to get
around to it eventually. He even seemed to have a good reason to put it off. But this
wasn’t good enough for Jesus. He wanted him to do what He said right away. So we
must also learn that delay is most often only another form of disobedience.

2. But what of his father? If this man was to leave his father, who would take care of him? Who
would bury him? Notice that Jesus is not insensitive to his concern, but tells him who should do
it. He says, “Follow Me; and allow the dead to bury their own dead” (v. 22).
a. He says, “Someone will take care of it, but it shouldn’t be you. I have called you to a higher
task. Leave that responsibility instead to others, to those who are in the same condition as

your father: to those who are dead.

b. Now what does Jesus mean here?
(i) Apparently, this disciple’s father was unconverted. This is what Jesus meant by the fact
that he was dead. Obviously, Jesus was not saying that there were those who were
physically dead who would be able to do the job, for once a person dies, he can do
nothing. Those He was referring to were those who were spiritually dead: they were
physically alive, but spiritually dead to the things of the Lord.
(ii) Perhaps this man had others in his family who had rejected Jesus. Perhaps there were
other relatives who had. But since they were dead and were therefore of no use to Him or
His kingdom, they could still do something useful in burying this disciple’s father.
(iii) Now notice how the Lord makes a clear distinction between the two different kinds of
people who are in the world: those who are alive and those who are dead. Those who are
alive are those who have been raised from the dead by the power of Christ’s Word and
Spirit. The Bible says that everyone who comes into the world, comes into it spiritually
dead. They do so because of the sin of Adam. When he sinned in the garden and died
spiritually, that same sin was imputed to everyone of his children, and when they are
conceived in the womb, they also die spiritually. But Christ is able to make men live.
Jesus said in John 5:25-26, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is,
when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live. For
just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son to have life in Himself.”
Christ had been preaching in Capernaum, and those who heard, who were enabled to hear
because of the Spirit’s work in their hearts, were made alive. This disciple appears to be
one of them.
(iv) But there were others who didn’t listen. They remained hardened in their hearts and
would not receive what Jesus had to say. And so they remained dead. His father appears
to be one of them.
(v) Right now these two groups of people live together in the world. They don’t mix very
well, because one loves the Lord, and the other really hates Him, but they must remain
together until the harvest. But once that time comes they will be forever separated.
Those who are alive will be admitted by God into the eternal kingdom of God where they
live with Him forever. But those who are dead will be cast whole into the lake of fire
where they will be tormented forever and ever.
(vi) The question which you must ask yourselves tonight, of course, is, Which category are
you in? Are you alive to the Lord and dead to the things of the world? Are you alive to
the world and dead to the things of the Lord? You may know by where your treasure is,
for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
(vii) If you are dead to the Lord and alive to the world, then you will perish with the world,
unless you turn to Christ. The Lord tells you tonight that you must repent and believe on
Him. You cannot put this off. You cannot wait until tomorrow. You cannot wait until
next year. You must come to Him now, and if you don’t want to come to Him now, you
must get on your knees and plead with Him to change your heart now, or you will be
forever lost.
(viii) But if you are alive to the Lord and dead to the world, the Lord wants you to show
Him tonight and every day of your life that you are, by your immediate and unswerving
obedience to Him. If you have failed Him, realize that you will, but don’t use that fact or
God’s grace as an excuse to fail Him more. By the love which He has put in your heart
by His Spirit, stir yourself up to a greater and more perfect obedience. Love the Lord
with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Serve Him with all your might while you
live. This is what He wants from you. And the love that you have for Him dictates to
you that this is the right thing to give Him. People of God, let us not hesitate any longer.
As we consider this week what Christ has done for us as we look forward to the Lord’s
Supper next week, let us also consider what we should do for Him. Amen.