Matthew 8:22 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 8:22, NIV: "But Jesus told him, 'Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.'"

Matthew 8:22, ESV: "And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”"

Matthew 8:22, KJV: "But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead."

Matthew 8:22, NASB: "But Jesus *said to him, 'Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.'"

Matthew 8:22, NLT: "But Jesus told him, 'Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.'"

Matthew 8:22, CSB: "But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.""

What does Matthew 8:22 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Jesus' words, here and in other parts of the New Testament, can sound harsh to modern ears. That's at least partly due to the misconception that Jesus was soft, passive, and weak. This comment likely seemed harsh to those hearing Him for the first time, as well. A man described as a disciple has requested that Jesus allow him to go and bury his father before following Jesus (Matthew 8:21).

Jesus now commands the man to follow Him, apparently meaning immediately. He tells the man to "leave the dead to bury their own dead."

Two things are important to understand. First, the man most likely wasn't asking to simply go to his father's funeral and come back a few days later. It's possible his father was not yet even dead. Commentators also suggest the man may have been planning to follow a custom of the day to re-bury a loved one's bones a year after their death. This was thought to be the responsibility of a son, especially a firstborn son. It fell under the traditional obligations associated with honoring one's father and mother. The man may have been asking Jesus for up to a year's delay before returning to follow Him—no matter what, his real statement is "I will come when I've done some other things first."

The second thing to understand is that Jesus absolutely asks those who would follow Him to place a greater commitment on their love and loyalty to Him than to anyone else, including parents, spouses, and children (Matthew 10:37–38).

Jesus tells the man to let the spiritually dead bury those who are physically dead. In other words, only those who follow Christ are on the road to true life (Matthew 7:13–14). No human relationship or other obligation can provide a good enough reason to leave that road behind.

As with His response to the scribe (Matthew 8:19–20), Jesus' remark is meant to challenge assumptions—forcing someone to confront their own sincerity. If this man is not willing to "follow" Jesus until it's socially convenient, he's not really willing to follow, at all.