The Cost of Following

When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:18-22)

In a day of cheap grace and virtually nonexistent discipleship, these words of Jesus seem harsh and uncaring. A man wants to follow Jesus but wants to go bury his father first. Our response today would be, “Of course. Go take care of your family responsibilities and we’ll be ready to welcome you back as soon as those are taken care of.” But Jesus said, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” How could He say such a thing?
We need to remember that the culture in Jesus’ day was very different from ours, even though the human attitudes remain the same. This potential disciple’s father had not died yet. He wouldn’t have been there if he had. His response to Jesus’ call to follow Him was basically, “Someday I will. As soon as my father dies, however long that may be, and as soon as I take care of wrapping up all my family responsibilities . . . then I will follow.” It was an excuse not to follow and Jesus saw through it immediately.
He sees through our excuses too. “I’m not ready to follow.” “I’m in process.” “It’s a tough time in life for me right now.” The list goes on. It’s not so much a rejection as a putting off, a delaying tactic. We are so attached to our earthly relationships, activities and things that we have great difficulty leaning into the actual reality of setting them aside to serve Jesus. Yet, most of us know at least one or more people who have done just that. They have left parents, children and even grandchildren as well as lucrative jobs and nice homes to obey His call to the mission field. They endure much hardship and struggle to minister to the least and the lost. They have given up weddings, funerals, reunions, births and so much more because they counted the cost and know that the eternal significance of their obedience is worth it.
Jesus listens to our horizontal excuses—family, job, timing, or whatever it might be—and points us toward His vertical purposes. Delay is dangerous to our spiritual lives. Obedient discipleship without excuse pleases the heart of our Father.

Listen: Spend a few quiet moments seeking God. Be attentive to whatever He may speak to your heart.

Reflect: How is the Spirit leading you to respond to what you have heard from God?

Confess and Repent: If there is something the Spirit convicts you of, take time to prayerfully confess it. Resolve to turn from it if it is sin, or step toward whatever He is leading you into that you have either neglected or not seen before.

Ask: Lord, You have called me to follow You. I affirm today that I will commit to do so with all the strength You provide me with. Forgive me where I have backtracked and made weak excuses. Teach me how to be a fully committed disciple so that I am prepared and willing to count the cost of obedience. Empower me by Your Spirit to look always to You and follow wherever You lead.


  • What is your best excuse/reason for why you must wait to be a fully committed disciple? Slowly read through Matthew 8:18-22 out loud. Read it again and imagine you are the disciple giving your excuse to Jesus. In the place where the disciple gives his explanation for delay, insert your own. Perhaps it is, “Lord, first let me raise my children. Then I will be fully committed.” Or perhaps it is, “Lord, first let me get my act together.” Next, insert the response Jesus will give to you personally: “Follow me, and raise your children on the journey. I love them more than you do.” Or, “Follow me, and let me transform your life.” What does it feel like to hear yourself giving an excuse to the Lord of the Universe? And, what does it feel like
    to hear Him reassure you that He can overcome whatever seems to stand in your way of full surrender?
  • Encourage a missionary or someone involved in a missions organization today. Ask the Father to show you a passage of Scripture to share with that person as an uplifting gift to his or her spirit. Record a prayer with the Abide app and text or email it to that person. (Search “Abide” in your phone or tablet app store to download the app.)
  • Perhaps you are right in the center of God’s will for you right now! However, if God were to call you to uproot your life and move somewhere else to serve His kingdom cause, what would stand in your way to saying, “Yes!” right away? How can you loosen your grip on the things that prevent you from responding in immediate obedience to the call of Christ on your life should it involve a drastic change in your world?

Taken from Vertical with Jesus by David and Kim Butts. © 2022 PrayerShop Publishing.