There is a joke we often use in our churches. When will Christ return to earth? Hopefully he wonxe2x80x99t come back on the last Sunday of the month. Because then the church is empty. All of us must attend our societies.
We can joke about it. But it is a serious problem. Attendance is low, because we are involved so much with death. Going to a funeral. A meeting of our society. xe2x80x9cSorry, I really want to come. But what will my relatives and my neighbours say?xe2x80x9d
As a pastor, I have to accept that. Suppose I would say: xe2x80x9cNo, I donxe2x80x99t accept it. You must come to the church. Leave the funeral and the society to the non-Christians. Let the dead bury their own dead." I guess you wouldnxe2x80x99t like it. Maybe even leave the church.
But these are not my words. I am quoting our Lord Jesus. Matthew 8 verse 22:
But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."
How can Jesus say so? It is his reaction to a request, verse 21:
Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."
We donxe2x80x99t know exactly why this man asked permission to bury his father.
- Maybe his father had just passed away. He must be buried properly. You canxe2x80x99t just leave your family in such a time. xe2x80x9cLord, I will follow you after the funeral.xe2x80x9d
- Maybe his father was old. How can you leave your old parents? xe2x80x9cLet me take care of him. As soon as he is dead and buried, I will come after you.xe2x80x9d
Whatever the case, it is a reasonable request, isnxe2x80x99t it?
- We remember the 5th commandment: Honour your father and your mother … Godxe2x80x99s law.
- What Moses said: Cursed is the man who dishonours his father or his mother. Amen.
- Solomonxe2x80x99s wisdom: Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. He does not exclude a funeral, does he?
So maybe Jesus is a little bit too harsh. This man is a disciple, who calls him Lord! xe2x80″
Yes, but it is not enough to call him Lord. Remember 7 verse 21:
Not everyone who says to me, xe2x80x98Lord, Lord,xe2x80x99 will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
A true disciple must listen to his Master. A true servant must be obedient to his king.
Imagine you are a professional soldier in the SANDF. And you are summoned by your general to appear immediately xe2x80″ the country is attacked by terrorists. What will you do?
Here is a soldier in Godxe2x80x99s kingdom xe2x80″ a disciple. He is summoned by his Lord for a highly important mission. Jesus has started preaching, teaching and healing. Spreading light and life. This soldier must follow him. He is needed in the ministry.
He canxe2x80x99t stay behind now. Burying your father is important. But preaching the gospel of life is even more important than that. Leave that to those who do not know Christ. Those who are xe2x80″ spiritually xe2x80″ dead. "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."
This is not against the 5th commandment. It is about making choices. Like Jesus says in chapter 10:
Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me …
Making choices in 2011. How do you choose?
Why is being part of a society so important? Must you really attend every possible funeral, even from distant relatives and people you hardly know? Often we do it because people expect it from us. Motho ke motho ka batho ba bangwe, isnxe2x80x99t it?
No it isnxe2x80x99t. Motho ke motho ka Jesu Kriste. Christ is the only one who can give you life. He saves you from sin. He saves you from misery. He saves you from death. There is no life without him.
And the living Lord summons you to be part of his congregation. Hebrews 10 verses 23-25:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one anotherxe2x80″and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
- The Day is approaching, meaning the day of his coming, Godxe2x80x99s final judgement. And Jesus wants all of you to be there. He came to give you eternal life.
- Therefore you need the other church members. To stimulate one another. To encourage one another. You canxe2x80x99t stay on your own. You need the congregation.
- You must take part in church life. Meet with other Christians. The Sunday service. Bible study and prayer meetings. Not because of the people xe2x80″ it is a command straight from God.
And yes, that means sometimes you must leave family members and neighbours and society members behind. Maybe they wonxe2x80x99t understand. Because they are dead. Spiritually. They donxe2x80x99t know the living Lord like you do. So be it. Let the dead bury their own dead.
So my request to you is one. Take note of these words in 2011. Store it in your cell phone. Write it on a large piece of paper. Put it up on your wall. Copy & paste it on your computer. And every time you must make a choice, please remember what Jesus said. Do you want to please people or God? Do you follow traditions or are you a true disciple of Christ? Make the
Remember, the Day is near. When will Christ return? Or you might even die before that …
Even if you are buried by 5 pastors, 7 societies and 4.000 people xe2x80″ none of them can give you eternal life. Only Christ can make you alive. Forever and ever. Follow him. Amen.