In today’s gospel passage Jesus says a strange thing when asked by a follower to allow him to bury his father. The Lord tells this man to “let the dead bury their dead.” What does this mean? Shouldn’t we be allowed to mourn and bury our loved ones? How can the dead bury anyone?
As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding
on their journey, someone said to him,
“I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him,
“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
And to another he said, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
Jesus answered him, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”
The statement of Jesus is not intended to disparage taking care of those we love, nor is it a command that we shouldn’t be involved with family burials. Instead, Jesus wants us to understand that those who reject him are already dead in sin. They are the dead who bury their dead, living futile and meaningless lives until physical death takes them from the Earth.
Following Jesus is always an exercise in looking forward to the new Heaven and the new Earth. Those who see him as he truly is can never look back.