What does Matthew 8:21 mean?
ESV: Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
NIV: Another disciple said to him, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father.'
NASB: And another of the disciples said to Him, 'Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father.'
CSB: "Lord," another of his disciples said, "first let me go bury my father."
NLT: Another of his disciples said, 'Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.'
KJV: And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
NKJV: Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
Verse Commentary:
Two would-be disciples approach Jesus as His hand-picked group of twelve disciples prepare to get into a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. The first one, a scribe, promises to follow Jesus everywhere. Jesus seems to warn the man that the road will be hard, since He is basically homeless. That, apparently, is not what this man expected, and he does not seem to pursue Jesus any further (Matthew 8:18–19).

Now another person approaches Jesus. Not everyone described in Matthew as a disciple or follower of Jesus is necessarily one of His chosen twelve. The terms have a literal meaning that's not exactly the same as those terms as used in the context of the modern church. Some who followed Jesus from place to place and believed His teaching may have been referred to as disciples, as well. Since Jesus has just made a remark about the hardship of His ministry life, it's unclear whether this person is one of the Twelve or someone new.

This man seems to think that Jesus expects Him to follow Him immediately. The man responds to this call with an answer of "yes, but…" He asks the Lord to allow him to go and first bury his father, implying that he will follow Jesus after that. Commentators suggest this man's father may not have yet died. Or it's possible that he had died, and the man was talking about the Jewish custom of reburying a loved one's bones a year after passing. In other words, this disciple may have been requesting to delay his role as a follower of Jesus for a year or longer. This was to fulfill what custom and tradition expected from sons, especially firstborn sons.

Jesus will not agree to this request. Cultural expectations are not meant to override God's will for a person's life.
Verse Context:
Matthew 8:14–22 summarizes several events. Jesus cures Peter's mother-in-law from a fever. He then spends the evening healing many other people from diseases and casting out demons with a word, fulfilling another of Isaiah's prophecies (Isaiah 53:4). Jesus next talks to two of His followers. One promises to follow Jesus everywhere. Jesus says this will be difficult because He has no home. The other wants to come back and follow Jesus after burying his father. Jesus tells him to follow now and quips that it's better to "leave the dead to bury their own dead."
Chapter Summary:
Matthew begins a series of stories revealing Jesus' authority over sickness, demons, and even the weather. Jesus heals a humble man with leprosy and great faith. He then heals the servant of a Roman centurion who understands that Jesus does not need to come to his home; He can just speak a word. Jesus praises the Gentile man's amazing faith. After healing many more, Jesus and the disciples get caught in a deadly storm on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus stops the storm with a word. Later, He casts demons out of two men and into a huge herd of pigs.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 8 follows the conclusion of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1–2). He turns to telling a series of dramatic stories to show Jesus' power and authority over every kind of disease, over demons, and even over the weather. Jesus also gives brief teachings about the hard road of following Him on earth. He calms a violent storm with a single command and casts demons from two violently possessed men. Matthew will focus mostly on miracles until shifting focus to Jesus' teachings and parables in chapter 11.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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