Thoughts on the Way Home

Friday, May 02, 2008

Carson on Matthew 8

Have you ever put up a godly barrier for someone that wanted to follow Christ? I talked to a friend recently that said, for his youth group, when someone comes to make a profession of faith, he tries to “talk them out of it.” Interesting thought… sounds sort of like Jesus' response in to a would be disciple in Matthew 8:18-22...

Here are Carson's comments on the passage (I thought they were well put):

“If a raw pagan from the streets of one of our major cities came up to us and told us he or she wanted to follow Jesus, we might well respond with delight. The new convert would soon be baptized, introduced to brothers and sisters at church, and invited to share a “testimony.” But here (8:18-22) we find two brief scenes where Jesus actually repulsed such enthusiasm. In the first, He warned the volunteer that following Him closely during the days of His ministry meant homelessness. In the second, He found the offer of discipleship too conditional, even though on any understanding of the test this man’s request fell within the bounds of expected filial responsibilities. But like the disciples of 5:1,2, this “disciple” was uncertain he wanted to follow Jesus regardless of the cost or sacrifice.

Many want to follow Jesus, but want to follow personal preferences as well. Yet the very heart of the gospel, according to Jesus, involves utterly unqualified allegiance to Him. Repentance and faith are meaningless categories if there is no turning from self-will to Christ’s will, no abandonment of proud self-confidence in favor of confidence in Christ.

And thus while we are prone to inflate numbers and try to cajole people into the kingdom, Jesus Himself put up barriers. Despite enormously broad invitations (see 11:28-30), He nevertheless insisted that there is a cost to be paid (see Luke 14:25-33), and therefore no one should profess undying allegiance to Him without careful thought. “Nothing was less aimed at by our Lord than to have followers, unless they were genuine and sound; he is as far from desiring this as it would have been easy to attain it.” Here is wisdom, mingled with profound integrity.”