18 “Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:18–20 ESV)
Matthew groups together nine stories containing ten specific miracles in chapters 8–9. There are three miracles in 8:1–17, teaching on true discipleship (8:18–22), and then three more miracles (8:23–9:8). This is followed by Jesus’ teaching again about true discipleship (9:9–17), and finally three more miracle stories; one of which includes two miracles (9:18–33). Today, we begin examining the cost of following Jesus (8:18-22).
“As people witnessed the mighty deeds of Jesus, as they saw crowds gathered around, many concluded that they might wish to become disciples. Seeing this, Jesus had to explain what discipleship entails. He wants no one to underestimate the cost. People may want to follow Jesus on their terms. But just as Jesus wields authority over disease and over nature, so He exercises authority over His disciples. Disciples must follow on His terms,” explains commentator Daniel M. Doriani.
Doriani’s point highlights Jesus’ interaction with two individuals. Were they willing to follow Jesus; whatever the cost? The first individual was a scribe.
Many people were surrounding Jesus. His healing of a leper (8:1-4), a centurion’s servant (8:5-13), Peter’s mother-in-law (8:14-15), and many others (8:16-17) generated great excitement among the multitude. Seeing this, Jesus gave orders to go to the other side.
In light of what Matthew records later in this chapter (8:23-27), the order involved Jesus and the twelve disciples entering a boat, or boats (Mark 4:35-36), and crossing over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee to the eastern shore.
As Jesus and the twelve were preparing to enter the boat, a Jewish scribe approached Him. A scribe (γραμματεύς; grammateus) was an expert teacher of the Jewish Law. He was also a scholar and a teacher.
“Scribes were employed for their ability to transcribe information. After the exile (532 B.C.), scribes were a class of scholars who taught, copied, and interpreted the Jewish law for the people,” states the Tyndale Bible Dictionary.
The scribe came up to Jesus and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Disciples were literal followers of a rabbi or teacher. Where the teacher would travel, his disciples would follow. When he sat, they sat. When he rose, they rose. The scribe was saying that he wanted to be a follower of Jesus; a disciple.
“As a scribe, this man was breaking with his fellow scribes by publicly declaring his willingness to follow Jesus. Nonetheless, Jesus evidently knew that he had not counted the cost in terms of suffering and inconvenience,” explains Dr. John MacArthur.
My wife and I recently had our house re-roofed. Before the workers arrived to remove the old shingles and install the new, we sat down at our kitchen table and discussed with the roofing company’s representative what the cost would be for the project. We had to determine if we could afford to have the work done.
The scribe had not considered the effort, suffering and sacrifice involved in following Jesus. Following Jesus involves more than just singing praises to His name, having an emotional experience, and being on a perpetual, spiritual high. It may include hardship, persecution and death. Following Jesus involves an ongoing battle with the world, the flesh and the devil. It may involve inconvenience, interruptions, and insults.
Jesus told the scribe, ““Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Various created beings have their respective homes; whether that be a hole in the ground or a nest in a tree. The irony is that the sovereign, creator of the universe, the Son of Man (Dan. 7:13-14), did not have a home to call His own.
“Though Jesus desired disciples who would follow Him and work in His harvest fields, He wanted only those who were properly motivated. Jesus’ reply to this scribe demonstrated His lowly character for He, in contrast with animals such as foxes and birds, did not even have a place where He could lay His head at night. He had no permanent home. The Lord obviously knew the heart of this person and saw that he desired fame in following a prominent Teacher. Such was not Jesus’ character,” explains The Bible Knowledge Commentary.
Have you evaluated the cost in following the Lord Jesus Christ? While ultimately fulfilling, it can be temporarily hard (2 Cor. 4:17-18; James 1:1-5). Make sure you count the cost. Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!