Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. - Psalm 119:105

Bible Study Notes

Matthew 8: 18-22

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
The Cost of Discipleship

The Cost of Discipleship

General Idea: This passage has some seemingly strange happenings and words coming from Jesus. Large crowds often followed Jesus, attracted by His teachings (Matt. 7:28-8:1), and His miracles (Matt. 8:16-18). Then, He sees a large crowd coming toward Him so He ditches them. Then individual people come up to Him and He turns them away too, He even turns away a Jewish leader. Jesus gives us the impression He is pushing people away that have come to Him, which would be directly opposed to His character and mission. So, what is going on here?

This passage stresses the radical demands of Jesus' call. His call, above all else for us as Christians, of what God's will is all about, and of what we are to be doing in our personal lives and in our churches is… Discipleship! Nothing else is more important, period. At the same time that He gives us this call, a great cost is placed before us that we need to accept. It is a cost that He paid on the cross, a cost of our will. It is a sacrifice of all that we may think is important, except that with eternity in mind, it is not.
None of these people were really turned away by our Lord. Rather, they, themselves turned away of their own will because they just wanted a show. Those who said they wanted to follow Him refused to pay the cost. Remember, our Lord knows what is in our hearts and what is motivating us (John 2:25).
1.   Great multitudes, Jesus' emphasis was to make Disciples just as His emphasis is today (Matt. 28: 18-20). This must take priority over preaching to crowds. The impact we will have will be more effective and real, as big crowds tend to want a show and have no concern to be educated or to grow spiritually (1 Pet. 2:11). Jesus desires for us to grow in Him, not to merely seek a show.
a.   I will follow you. Most people followed in their family's business or trade. There were few organized schools and universities then. People who did not want to follow their family's trade would seek out a good teacher and plead for them to take them in and mentor them. In the process, they would become a  servant to the mentor, or do whatever it took to get their attention and their admiration, as well as learning from them. Then, one day they would take over or franchise what they had learned somewhere else. This could be any professional trade, from a carpenter to a philosopher. Jesus had both roles!
b.   Here several people come to Jesus seeking His mentoring.  Jesus saw their real intentions. Perhaps these men had ulterior motives, or were not honest in their approach. Maybe they just wanted to go with Him to see more of His miracles. Maybe they were seeking to cash in on Jesus' fame, or make a name for themselves, while uninterested with godly pursuits or real discipleship and learning.
c.   It was common for Greek teachers and philosophers to make hard demands on their potential students to test their resolve, commitment, and intentions. These hard demands were meant to discourage people who had bad intentions and ulterior motives from taking up their valuable time and resources. The best teachers would only take in a few of the worthiest students, just as most universities do today, with screening processes.
d.   Jesus' own profession as a carpenter was considered a very good profession. Many sought to get into it because it was far more lucrative and respected than the other occupations in an agrarian community where farming and fishing were the norm. Jesus must have had a lot of people seeking Him as a carpenter too, prior to His public ministry.
e.   Selfish intentions are common, and a part of our sinful nature that Jesus asks us to purge. We have to be honest and introspective as to why we want to serve Him, why we want to grow and be discipled. Because, if it is for egotistic and selfish gain, it will not be real or loving, and pride, spiritual blindness, and vacillation will become our mentors, and we will not have His will and glory in our sights. Jesus will be bearing with us in our unbelief and failures, but not being the One to help us grow (Luke 9:37-62)!
f.    Jesus called His disciples, all who fallow Him, to a higher standard of commitment beyond poverty and social status into real sacrificial servitude and discipleship lifestyle (Matt. 6:31-33; 10:34-37; 12:46-50; Luke 10:38-42; Acts 14:21-22; 2 Tim. 3: 10-12; 1 Pet. 2:9-10).
2.   A scribe comes to our Lord, wanting to become a disciple. He said he was willing to follow Jesus anywhere, a seemingly commendable offer. But, did he know what it meant? It seems he just wanted to see more of the show. His job was to record the Law and keep records for the nation, a very important leadership position in Jesus time.
a.   Foxes have holes, Jesus told the scribe that as a wandering teacher, He was homeless. Jesus had no place to call home. To follow Jesus at that time would have meant leaving everything, including your home, as the rest of His disciples did (Matt. 4:18-22; Mark 10:28-29). This scribe was, perhaps, a person focused on his home and material positions.
b.   Jesus was, in fact, telling this scribe that he needed to count the cost before becoming a disciple (Luke 9:57-62; 14:25-33).
                                                  i.      We do not have to become homeless to follow Jesus, but we still must love Him more than anything else. That way He is the Lord and Ruler of our life.
                                                ii.      We must consider the cost before we commit. Otherwise, we will not remain, and will become a bigger hindrance than if we never bothered following at all.
3.   Go and bury my father. This was one of the most enduring and basic of responsibilities of a son to his family. The father was perhaps not dead (or he would not have been there, or asked the question), rather, the son's duties were to take care of him and then take over the household, business and any family matters.
a.   One normally did not go into a mentoring position until their family was taken care of first. 
b.   After death, the body was interned into a ground burial. A year later, it was dug up and put into a family crypt or box, much like the one recently discovered that may have belong to James, the brother of Jesus. This process can be one to two years.
                                                  i.      So, this man was seeking something he had no intention of following through with until a later time. Jesus calls us now, not later!
                                                ii.      This man can be described as the "reluctant disciple," who needed to be reminded of what it means to make a real commitment.
c.   Let the dead bury their own dead. Jesus is telling us the importance of discipleship, and our growth in Him. He is saying to let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead, as they are both dead.
                                                  i.      The time we have on earth and obeying His call is short, so it demands our full attention and commitment.
                                                ii.      Jesus was not telling the man to disrespect his parents, rather, to consider what is important, and to have the right priorities in life.
                                              iii.      We are to make disciples to revive the spiritually dead, not wait around for someone to die and be buried, especially others, and our spiritual life.
4.   Follow Me. Jesus asks us to place Him above all--including occupation, family, personal desires, and aspirations. All we desire and all our work must have Christ as the focus and purpose. A true disciple will not have a pecking order where Jesus is not number one on the list.
a.   There is a price to following Jesus. Most people did not want to pay that price, whether first hand with Christ himself, or today in the Church.
b.   Son of Man. This is the first usage in the NT of this term. This is Jesus' most common title for Himself. It is used eighty-one times in the Gospels, and it is never used by anyone else but Jesus. It is used three times outside of the gospels (Acts 7:56; Rev. 1:13; 14:14). It means, He is Lord and King.
                                                  i.      This does not mean He is just a Man, or His identification of being among humanity, even though He is identified with us. Rather, it is one of His Messianic titles. It is a reference from the book of Daniel (Dan. 7:13-14) as a picture of a heavenly body who in the end times is entrusted by God with full authority, glory, and sovereign power, who is to be worshiped. He will judge the world (Matt. 24:30-26:64). It is also a picture, to show us that Jesus must suffer on our behalf (Isa. 52:13-53:12; Matt. 26:24-64; Mark 9:9, 12, 31; 10:33-34; 14:21, 41), and one of His sovereign Lordship and glory (Rev. 1:13; 14:14).
                                                ii.      Jesus may have preferred this term to Messiah, because most people had a skewed view of who and what a Messiah would be. They wanted a military or political leader, not what God had promised and sent--a Savior from our sin.
c.   We are not told if the man followed Jesus into the boat, or if the storm (verses 23-27) or his inclinations distracted him from this ever so important sojourn.
d.   To really follow Christ, we will surrender all to Him. But, what we give up is nothing to what we gain! Remember, Christ surrendered Himself so you can have eternal salvation. Should there not be a small piece of gratitude within you to say, "Hey, I will go wherever you call me?"
            If we respond to Follow Me with a "but" we will never truly follow. We will never grow in the depths of His precepts, or be able serve Him fully. We will remain in our status quo, saved perhaps, but uninvolved, sitting in a pew, with no impact or reason for being a Christian. If you have reservations, think them through. Do they have more to offer you? Do they have a greater purpose or impact? Will they follow you into eternity? Life is short, make the most of it and just go and follow Him! Be real and be committed! Do not let doubt, the pleasures of this world, or your sin distract you from life's greatest opportunity and adventure…His call!  Embrace His call with unmovable trust and be assured that His plan is the best plan.
1.   What was your best excuse for getting out of a job, chore, or homework?
2.   Why do you think Jesus gave such a response to turn away the crowds, and the people who came up to Him?
3.   How would you respond to their requests if you were in Jesus' place?
4.   How does the fact that our Lord knows what is in our hearts and what is motivating us stimulate your decisions and actions?
5.   What do you believe is the most import call--above all else--for you as a Christian?
6.   Christ calls us to Discipleship (Matt. 28: 18-20). We are called to serve the people around us, and to know what to pursue in our own lives. What are you doing in your life personally, and in your church, to reflect this call?
7.   Why should discipleship take priority over preaching to crowds?
8.   Read 1 Peter 2:11: What is in the way of making discipleship a priority in your ministry?
9.   Do you think that Jesus was testing their resolve, commitment, and intentions? If He did this with you, would you pass?
10. Selfish intentions are common and a part of our sinful nature that Jesus asks that we purge. How do they get in the way of His call for you and the church? How can you purge those selfish intentions?
11. Do hard demands discourage you from commitments? If so, why?
12. How do people with bad intentions and ulterior motives take up valuable time and resources? What can be done about it in a Christ- like manner?
13. What can you do to take an honest and introspective look at why you want to serve Him?
14. Read Luke 9:41: Is Jesus blessing you, or just bearing with you?
15. Are you willing to be taught by Jesus (Matt. 5:1-2)?
16. Are you willing to follow Jesus as your Lord and Master (Matt. 8:19)?
17. Jesus called His disciples, meaning all who follow Him, to a higher standard of commitment. What does that mean for you, and how do you put it into practice?
18. Have you, or have you observed in others, that in the zeal (which is very important) to win people for Christ, we sometimes neglect to tell people the cost of becoming His disciple?
19. We all need to count the cost before becoming a disciple (Luke 9:57-62; 14:25-33). So, what is the cost that you have paid so far? What will be the cost you still may have to pay? What is in the way of your accepting that cost? Are you sure; are you confident, that what you will gain far outweighs the cost you will pay? If not, why?
20. What can you do to make sure that you and your church do not get into, or remain in a status quo of being uninvolved, sitting in a pew with no impact or reason for being a church?
      Have you counted the cost?  Are you willing to pay the price?  Do you know that both are required to follow Jesus?
© 2003 R. J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries

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