When it comes to Jesus and social media, some of his tweets come across as being downright offensive.
Actually, Jesus never used Twitter. But if he had, “Let the dead bury their own dead” would have surely been blasted as one of the most offensive things the holy fingers had ever tapped into his holy smart phone.
You can find it about halfway through Luke’s gospel, when three people offer to follow Jesus. But even as they offer to follow, they make excuses of why they can’t follow right that moment. You can read the entire account in Luke 9:57-62.
At least one of the excuses sounds legit. It even pulls at our heartstrings. “Lord, let me first go and bury my father,” a potential follower said.
Shockingly, Jesus replied, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
“Let the dead bury their own dead.” Seriously, Jesus? Is this not one of the most #offensive #tweets ever from #Jesus?
One new translation of the Bible tries in vain to soften the impact of what Jesus said. “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead,” is the way the New Living Translation puts it.
Is calling the man’s father “spiritually dead” somehow less of an insult than telling the man to skip his dad’s funeral?
Clearly, we’re missing something. Jesus wasn’t a rabbi employing a scorched-earth campaign technique to destroy his rivals or potential disciples.
Because we live in a completely different time and culture, it’s not surprising when we don’t immediately understand something in the Bible. In the same way, would people in the Bible have comprehended the social-media culture we live in now?
Let’s ask an obvious question. In a Jewish culture that called for a funeral and burial on the same day of a person’s death, why would this grieving son be talking to a traveling rabbi at all? He shouldn’t have had either the time or the energy to be relaxing with Jesus.
The most obvious answer is that his father hadn’t yet died.
Almost certainly, the man’s father was simply aged. He might have even been sick. Or perhaps the father had died, but the son was waiting on the one-year anniversary of the death to gather his father’s bones for placement in an ossuary. This, too, was a local custom.
Following Jesus is not a part-time task. It’s an all-in commitment. It’ll occupy your time, thoughts and resources 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
This won’t work for someone who says, “I’ll follow Jesus as soon as I get my life straightened out.”
This isn’t an option for the person who says, “As soon as I finish school, I’ll be ready.”
Following Jesus isn’t for the person who wants to “one day” follow Jesus.
Let’s switch gears. Suppose a person in serious debt seeks the guidance of a financial counselor. The counselor in this illustration is the rabbi. The person in debt is the potential disciple.
“I’d like to follow you,” says the want-to-be disciple. “OK,” says the counselor, “give me all of your credit cards.”
“OK, I will … soon.”
Don’t count on it. If she’s got no plan to actually take steps to eliminate debt, change her spending habits and begin a savings program, there’s not a financial counselor in the world who can make a disciple out of a shopping addict.
The only way we could possibly make a disciple out of such a person would be to introduce new disciplines to the one who’s made a mess of things. The counselor — the rabbi — knows which disciplines are needed.
But until he gets a fully-committed follower, it’ll be impossible for the rabbi to create a success story.
Jesus is much more than a financial counselor. He’s more than a spiritual adviser, even. If he is who he said he is, he is worth giving up everything to follow.
Would Jesus really ask a disciple to miss his father’s funeral?
History is filled with people who followed Jesus to remote locations of the world, where they stayed for several years. Some them, indeed, missed some of the most important family events of their lifetimes — funerals, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, family vacations …
They gave it all up for the sweet privilege of following Jesus.
You want to follow Jesus? Then let the dead bury their own dead.
Just don’t say you’re following if you aren’t actually following.
From where Jesus stands, that’s #offensive.
Andy Cook lives in Peach County and is the founder of Experience Israel Now.