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Jesus as Number One (Matthew 8:18-22)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

“Jesus as Number One”

(Matthew 8:18-22)

Series: God’s Fulfilled Promise [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

March 10, 2019

The Passage

Read Matthew 8:18-22

18 When Jesus saw a large crowd around him, he gave the order to go to the other side of the sea. 19 A scribe approached him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20 Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

21 “Lord,” another of his disciples said, “first let me go bury my father.”

22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Introductory Comments:

Illustration: A lot of young men (and some middle-aged men) dream about becoming Navy Seals some day. The Navy Seals are some of the most elite warriors on the face of the planet. You know, there’s a reason why not everyone is a Navy Seal. It takes a tremendous commitment to become a Navy Seal. A young man can’t just hop up off of the couch after playing video games and eating Doritos, and get pinned with the Navy Seal pin. He has to put in the sacrifice; he has to live by different standards. It costs something to become a seal. 

Today we’re continuing our series in Matthew and Jesus is on the move ministering to people. 

Matthew is going to tell us today about two short conversations that Jesus had with two men who wanted to follow Him. Jesus will tell them that it takes sacrifice and it will involve them living by different standards. 

Let’s pray together as we look at Matthew 8:18-22. 


Look with me if you will at your Bible and notice verse 18. 

18 When Jesus saw a large crowd around him, he gave the order to go to the other side of the sea.

When we were on a trip to Israel last Fall the tour guide would always tell us that when the Bible says Jesus crossed over to the other side of the sea, it meant that he would go to “the other side.”

What’s happening here is that Jesus is leaving Jewish territory and going into Gentile territory. 

Part of the reason is that He is escaping the crowds that are gathering around Him. 

However, Jesus also has ministry to do in Gentile territory.

So, as He’s getting ready to leave to cross the Sea of Galilee, these two men speak up and say that they want to follow Him. 

Jesus responds to their requests. From these encounters, we’re going to learn two aspects of what it means to follow Jesus. 

The first aspect of following Jesus that we are to learn is . . .

I. Following Jesus requires uncommonsacrifice (18-20) [on screen]

Look at verses 18-20. 

18 When Jesus saw a large crowd around him, he gave the order to go to the other side of the sea. 19 A scribe approached him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20 Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

As Jesus is preparing to leave, this scribe says he will follow Jesus wherever Jesus goes. 

A scribe would have been a teacher of the law. He’s somebody that would have been knowledgeable and useful to Jesus and His ministry. 

The man had skill and he seemed eager. He would have been just the right disciple for Jesus to have. 

Despite the man’s skill and eagerness, Jesus seemed to want to talk him out of following Him. 

Jesus said foxes can sleep in dens, birds can sleep in nests, but I have no idea each night where I’m going go to lay my head. 

Now, why does this matter to the scribe? It matters to the scribe because if he follows Jesus he may not have any place to lay his head!

Jesus is basically saying, “If you follow me you will have to sacrifice something! Life may not be comfortable for you. You may not have all of the things that are common to everyone else. Following me requires uncommon sacrifice.”

Jesus wanted to make sure that the scribe understood what it meant to follow Him. He wanted him to know what he was getting into. 

I believe that Jesus also wants us to capture this truth. Listen, church, it takes uncommon sacrifice to follow Jesus!

We may not be able to have all the things of this world that everyone else has. 

Living as a disciple of Jesus is not a life of luxury and comfort. 

However, here’s the beautiful reality: if you follow Jesus, you have Jesus!

Jesus is more valuable than any place where you may lay your head! Jesus is more satisfying than the free cinnamon rolls at the Holiday Inn Express. He has better hospitality than the Ritz Carlton. He offers more comfort than the pillows at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City! He is better than anything this world has to offer!

However, following Jesus does involve commitment. 

Jesus wants the scribe to consider the commitment to following Him. He wants him to count the cost. 

Have you counted the cost of following Jesus?

One of the challenges in the American church is that so many people have been duped into thinking that following Jesus is no big deal, that it takes no commitment, and that it involves no sacrifice. Not so, says Matthew 8:19-20!

The scribe may have wanted to be part of the excitement of being with this great teacher and miraculous healer. He probably couldn’t wait to see what was next. However, Jesus is essentially asking, “Are you sure that you’re ready to follow me?”

Following Jesus requires uncommon sacrifice. 

Second, . . .

II. Following Jesus requires unusualstandards (21-22) [on screen]

Look at verses 21 and 22. 

21 “Lord,” another of his disciples said, “first let me go bury my father.”

22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Now, this may seem a bit odd to us.

All of us know that family should be important to us, right?

In fact, God’s Word commands that we honor our father and mother. It’s one of the ten commandments!

Yet, here Jesus is telling a follower of His that it’s more important to follow Him than to bury his father. 

This is certainly an unusual standard for Jesus to have. 

Those of you that have studied this passage before know that there are different explanations for what it means for this man to bury his father. Let’s talk about those briefly. 

First, is the most natural interpretation based on our American way of thinking. This verse could simply mean that the man’s father has passed away and that he needs to literally bury his father.

A second interpretation is that this man has to finish the burial process for his father. You see, in ancient Israel, families would bury their loved one and then go back up to a year later or so and collect the bones of their loved one. They would then put those bones in a box called an ossuary. The box would then be kept in a cave or tomb with the other ossuaries from the family. So, the man could be saying that he needs to wait quite a while to finish the burial process for his father. 

A third interpretation is that the man’s father is not even dead, but he is elderly. In this view, the man is basically saying, “I need to take care of my father in his old age. Give me some time for my father to die before I follow you.”

I’m not exactly sure which interpretation we are to take here, but here’s the secret, church: it doesn’t really matter which one it is, the meaning is the same.

Look at what Jesus says.  He says, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

When we follow Jesus we follow the one with life!

The world is full of spiritually dead people, and physical death abounds, so we must be seeking out life

Jesus says to us, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly!” 

Jesus says to us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

Jesus says to the man, and to us, “Follow me.”

You see, it doesn’t matter if the man has to miss his funeral, or delay the completion of the family burial, or miss out on taking care of his aging father, following Jesus is more important than any and all of that!

There is nothing in this world that should take precedence over following Jesus! Nothing! That’s the point of verses 21 and 22!

Family, fortune, fame, fantasies, fortitude, and even Flintstones vitamins can’t give you what Jesus can give you. Jesus can give you life and give you real life!

Nothing should take the place of Jesus!

Jesus is presenting the man with an opportunity to make a decision about what will be most important in his life. 

You might say to me, “Pastor, isn’t family good? Isn’t it good to bury your father?” 

Yes. It is good to bury your loved one. There are a lot of good things in this world that we should do and those things even please God whenever we do them. However, no good thing should take the place of the best thing: following Jesus!

Remember, church, we must genuinely and faithfully follow Jesus. Our hearts must be devoted to Him more than anything else. Truly following Jesus is more important than loving our parents. It’s more important than loving our children. It’s more important than loving our church. It’s more important than parenting and preaching. It’s more important than our health, our finances, our popularity, our longevity, our legacy, our notoriety, our philanthropy, our work, our play, our preferences, and our priorities.  

Don’t let anything get in the way of you following Jesus. 

Followers of Jesus don’t have the standards of the world when it comes to what is most important to us. Jesus has unusual standards. You should want the usual standards. 

Concluding Thoughts:

The first man was eager to follow Jesus but Jesus cautioned him to consider the cost. He wanted to jump in too quickly. The second man was too slow to follow Jesus because earthly matters took priority in his life. 

On the outside, these conversations may seem odd. These words from Jesus may even seem strict and rigid. However, we must realize that Jesus wants us to know what it means to follow Him. It requires uncommon sacrifice and unusual standards. 

Jesus requires total and radical devotion. He does not want to take second place in your life. 

That leads us to our bottom line this week:

Bottom Line: To follow Jesus, He must be numberone[on screen]


Jesus can totally change your life. Here’s the thing: He wants all of your life, not just part of it. Don’t hold anything back!

Count the cost. It takes commitment, but the rewards are wonderful!

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Examine Jesus’ priority in your life. [on screen]

Where does He rank?

What’s most important to you?

Is Jesus number one? Is He even on your radar?

  1. Ask yourself, “What would it take for me to not faithfullyfollowJesus?”  [on screen]

We don’t know fur sure, but these men could have walked away and not followed Jesus.

What would it take for you to walk away and not follow Jesus?

Some of us have already stopped following Him and we don’t even know it. We’re just walking through the motions. 


Let’s see Jesus for who He is and really follow Him, church!

Following Him requires uncommon sacrifice and unusual standards. 

Let’s not play around! He’s number one!

If you’re not following Him, you can start following Him today and He will totally change your life. Are you ready to follow Him?

(Gospel Presentation)

(Closing Prayer)

Invitation Song – Where He Leads Me


If you have any sort of spiritual decision that you would like to make, you can contact me or Pastor Richard and we would be glad to talk to you anytime.

We’ll be back here tonight at 5:30 PM for our study in world religions and cults. Tonight, we’ll be looking at Roman Catholicism. 

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

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