Matthew 8:19–20 19And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
What would you say to someone expressing to you that they want to be a follower of Jesus and will follow Him wherever He goes? Many believers would see this as red-hot opportunity to see a convert come to Jesus. The reaction of Jesus to such an individual should give us pause and cause us to reflect on our Lord’s response.
Context is always relevant, and there is context to Matthew’s account. They were coming off high and notable religious experiences. Jesus brings remarkable and challenging messages in His Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7) and then engages in amazing displays of healings (e.g. leper, centurion, Peter’s mother-in-law, and many others). The atmosphere was probably electric with expectation. The enthusiasm of the masses was growing steadily, and this scribe is likely caught up in the emotion of the moment.
Scripture is clear. Salvation is not the result of works, in whole or in part. Salvation is by God’s grace alone, by faith alone in Christ alone. However, the gift of salvation does not mean that those who have eternal deliverance from condemnation are not supposed to demonstrate new hearts and new lives with Christ-centered devotion and God-empowered fruitfulness.
The passage of Matthew 8:19-20 documents the account of a scribe who desires to become a follower of Jesus. As a scribe, he was in the care of a Rabbi of some reputation in the Jewish community. Keeping his options open, he honorably addresses Jesus as “Teacher,” and request to be His follower, indicating being in the care and under the tutelage of Jesus. The scribe’s opinion is that the wave of growing popularity and powerful ministry of Jesus will be an excellent opportunity for his reputation, once he becomes part of the inner circle of Jesus.
Jesus quickly gives this enthusiastic scribe a reality check. He says, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Gospel ministry leads Jesus to leave His home in Nazareth and His job as a carpenter. Jesus is not destitute but depends on the housing and care of a variety of friends and associates. Worldly possession and notoriety are unimportant to Jesus. Consequently, following Jesus is not prestigious, but frequently costly and challenging.
There is no indication of the decision of this scribe, but Jesus wants him and us to know what it means to become His follower. The power, provisions, and fellowship Jesus supplies are a blessing to all Christ-centered followers, but they do not supply the earthbound benefits and ego-gratifying positions those tethered to this world crave.
The commitment to follow Jesus involves sacrificing self-centeredness. However, it comes with many Christ-centered blessings, bringing delight and satisfaction to all whom Jesus sets free. Those desiring to follow Jesus genuinely are given new eyes to see the joys of life with Christ and new hearts to empower surrender and sacrifice in life as they press forward in life toward eternal satisfaction in Jesus in the life to come. Those who truly belong to Jesus follow Him through thick and thin in this life. Those looking for a quick fix of spiritual thrills and prestige eventually fall away.
May God inspire and empower us to be Christ-centered followers!