BibleTools.info

Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Loading...

Matthew 8:22

King James Version (KJV)
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Let the dead bury their dead - It was usual for the Jews to consider a man as dead who had departed from the precepts of the law; and, on this ground, every transgressor was reputed a dead man. Our Lord's saying, being in common use, had nothing difficult in it to a Jew. Natural death is the separation of the body and soul; spiritual death, the separation of God and the soul: men who live in sin are dead to God. Leave the spiritually dead to bury their natural dead. All the common offices of life may be performed by any person; to preach the glad tidings of the kingdom of God is granted but to a few, and to these only by an especial call; these should immediately abandon worldly concerns and employments, and give themselves wholly up to the work of the ministry.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Let the dead bury their dead - The word “dead” is used in this passage in two different senses. It is apparently a paradox, but is suited to convey the idea very distinctly to the mind. The Jews used the word “dead” often to express indifference toward a thing; or, rather, to show that that thing has no “influence” over us. Thus, to be dead to the world; to be dead to the law Romans 7:4; to be dead to sin Romans 6:11, means that the world, law, and sin have not influence or control over us; that we are free from them, and act “as though they were not.” A body in the grave is unaffected by the pomp and vanity, by the gaiety and revelry, by the ambition and splendor that may be near the tomb. So people of the world are dead to religion. They see not its beauty, hear not its voice, are not won by its loveliness. This is the class of people to which the Saviour refers here. Let people, says he, who are uninterested in my work, and who are “dead in sin” Ephesians 2:1, take care of the dead. Your duty is now to follow me.

There may have been several reasons for this apparently harsh direction. One may have been to “test” the character and attachment of the man. If he had proper love for Christ, he would be willing to leave his friends, even in the most tender and trying circumstances. This is required, Matthew 10:27; Luke 14:26. A second reason may have been, that if he returned “at that time,” his friends might ridicule or oppose him, or present plausible arguments, “in the afflictions of the family,” why he should not return to Christ. The thing to which he was called was moreover of more importance than any earthly consideration; and, for that time, Christ chose to require of the man a very extraordinary sacrifice, to show his sincere attachment to him. Or it may have been that the Saviour saw that the effect of visiting his home at that time might have been to drive away all his serious impressions, and that he would return to him no more.

His impressions may not have been deep enough, and his purpose to follow the Saviour may not have been strong enough to bear the trial to which he would be subjected. Strange as it may seem, there are few scenes better suited to drive away serious impressions than those connected with a funeral. We should have supposed it would be otherwise: but facts show it to be so, and demonstrate that if this was one of the reasons which influenced the Saviour, he had a thorough knowledge of human nature. The arrangements for the funeral, the preparation of mourning apparel, and the depth of sorrow in such cases, divert the mind from its sins and its personal need of a Saviour; and hence few persons are awakened or converted as the result of death in a family. The case here was a “strong” one - it was as strong as can well be conceived; and the Saviour meant to teach by this that nothing is to be allowed to divert the mind from religion nothing to be an excuse for not following him. Not even the death of a father, and the sorrows of an afflicted family, are to be suffered to lead a man to defer religion, or to put off the purpose to be a Christian. That is a fixed duty - a duty not to be deferred or neglected, whether in sickness or health, at home or abroad whether surrounded by living and happy kindred, or whether a father, a mother, a child, or a sister lies in our house dead.

It is the “regular” duty of children to obey their parents, and to show them kindness in affliction, and to evince proper care and respect for them when dead. Nor did our Saviour show himself insensible to these duties. He taught here, however, as he always taught, that a regard to friends, and ease, and comfort, should be “subordinate to the gospel;” and that we should always be ready to sacrifice these when duty to God requires it.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
One of the scribes was too hasty in promising; he proffers himself to be a close follower of Christ. He seems to be very resolute. Many resolutions for religion are produced by sudden conviction, and taken up without due consideration; these come to nothing. When this scribe offered to follow Christ, one would think he should have been encouraged; one scribe might do more credit and service than twelve fishermen; but Christ saw his heart, and answered to its thoughts, and therein teaches all how to come to Christ. His resolve seems to have been from a worldly, covetous principle; but Christ had not a place to lay his head on, and if he follows him, he must not expect to fare better than he fared. We have reason to think this scribe went away. Another was too slow. Delay in doing is as bad on the one hand, as hastiness in resolving is on the other. He asked leave to attend his father to his grave, and then he would be at Christ's service. This seemed reasonable, yet it was not right. He had not true zeal for the work. Burying the dead, especially a dead father, is a good work, but it is not thy work at this time. If Christ requires our service, affection even for the nearest and dearest relatives, and for things otherwise our duty, must give way. An unwilling mind never wants an excuse. Jesus said to him, Follow me; and, no doubt, power went with this word to him as to others; he did follow Christ, and cleaved to him. The scribe said, I will follow thee; to this man Christ said, Follow me; comparing them together, it shows that we are brought to Christ by the force of his call to us, Ro 9:16.
More Comments