What does Matthew 8:22 mean by "let the dead bury their own dead"?

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What does Matthew 8:22 mean by "let the dead bury their own dead"?

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In Matthew 8:22 Jesus said, "Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead." He was responding to a request from one of His followers who asked to be excused from his responsibilities to "go and bury [his] father" (Matthew 8:21).

It might seem that he was asking to make funeral arrangements for his recently deceased father. However, he was actually asking Christ to excuse him from his spiritual responsibilities, so that he could return to live with his aging father until after his father died. Of course, that could mean the disciple would be gone for a long time. It seems he was skirting his spiritual calling and wanted Christ to give His blessing to this action.

Instead, Christ told him to focus on his calling. A better sense of Jesus' statement would be, "Don't neglect the high spiritual calling I've given you; let the spiritually dead attend to the routine tasks of life." Certainly, Christ would not forbid the man from attending to the funeral arrangements for his father. Christ Himself went to visit the family of His friend Lazarus after Lazarus' death—even at great risk of His life (John 11:1-16).

God wants us to care for the needs of our families (Mark 7:10-13; 1 Timothy 5:8), but not to neglect our spiritual calling in the process.

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  • Chasmetoo

    Okay, as with most scripture we look at it with a western mind set rather than searching out the actual reasoning behind the statement and realizing the occurrence within the culture should be our actual consideration for properly framing of the statement. Yes, there are spiritual aspects to this statement but in the culture of Israel at this time most people did not own a burial location. Due to this fact families would reuse burial locations. (if you have not been visit Israel - there’s lots of rock) This is where the word sarcophagus, flesh eater, comes from because the bodies would be placed in a shallow tomb (dug into stone) and sealed or in a stone cut box that was stored on top of the ground. Here the flesh would rot from the bones over the next year. As the anniversary of the original death would come around the family would regather, if possible, and collect the bones and place them in a whole in the ground or in a smaller box. This is where the statement was applicable, “your bones will be gathered to you father’s “. Thus Jesus was not telling the person to forgo taking care of family, it was an actual call to join Christ. But, the choice was his.

  • Earnease

    The 8th chapter of Mathew is full of Jesus healing sick and finding no faith in all of Israel as of the Roman centurion. Why would you think Jesus would not heal His disciple’s dad of his sickness that may take a long time to finally kill the body to be buried before the disciple could mosey on back to follow Him? Anyway I’ll see if you approve my comment before I continue to where I read someone has actually described what is more appropriate as what Jesus should have said instead of what Jesus said. I want to discuss that with the “our” and the readers of this threading.

  • fire1468

    Peace an love be multiplied to all those in Christ Jesus

    The DEAD is everyone that is not Christs Sheep not baptized not converted, it's in many scriptures, if your not converted to Jesus and your sins are not forgiven you have NO LIFE your are DEAD...walking dead, the Gentiles are not Gods people some are his though by baptism, being called, all other are DEAD, sadly which is most of the world! Ever notice how much death symbolism in the word, rebellions, riots, occultism/satanism yeah the dead! The dead only come to do the lust of their father, they come to steal kill and destroy.

    Jesus told us that if you do not come to him, you have no life in you, and he told us that his father is the God of the living not of the dead. Jesus was referring those in Matthew as it is they are dead no life in them, he is not one of his sheep.

    Paul by the word of God describes those who are dead, Romans 3:9 to 3:18

    All of Christs Sheep are to be on the same page 100%, as you read in the comments everyone wants their own opinion, is Christ divided? Scripture tells that those who put divisions in the body of Christ are not his children. DEAD


  • Preachercg51

    What was Daniel saying in Daniel chapter 7?

  • Mike Haynes

    Hello Jeffrey,
    Not sure if you are inquiring into the entire chapter of Daniel 7 or something specific mentioned therein. For a good understanding of the entire chapter I recommend an article published by UCG as a starting point. The link to that article is https://www.ucg.org/beyond-today/beyond-today-magazine/bible-prophecy-and-you-the-beast-the-false-prophet-and-the-antichrist
    Hoped you find this helpful in answering your question.

  • Nick.Sergio

    This is not a pleasant subject for me. I was going to leave for FOT in Tucson, Az once.
    My father had gone into a coma earlier that morning and since no-one will know when a person will die, I told my mother I had to leave for my plane flight. I went home to get my belonging and catch my flight. My hand was on the door knob when the call came he died.
    I then called my pastor and asked him what should I do. He told me to stay home comfort my mother and family and bury my father and if I wanted to then drive to the local feast site.

    Now if I had stayed home I would have missed out on all the messages at the Feast. But it is not easy to try to celebrate the meaning of the FOT when one of your loved ones just died.
    So it it possible that the man in the scripture could of buried his father but the loss and sorrow might have overwhelmed kept him from continuing to go and follow Christ.

    So I went to the local Feast site and stayed with some friends but I was very sad because I just lost my father.

  • CindyL33

    The disciples father was literally dead, it was his question but he must have also been dead in spirit as well as the rest of his household.
    I believe Jesus' meaning was, "let the dead" in spirit and faith bury the dead (a physical death) as well as spiritually dead, "bury their own"

  • rwp_47
    This fellow was asking Jesus for permission to go and take care of his father's burial. Why would he be asking permission if he hadn't made a commitment of some kind? With that in mind consider Matthew 10 where he makes these statements that seem to have a bearing on this issue ... The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. The issue seems to be that if you make a commitment to him then you must keep it ... he is God ... and you shall have no other gods (nothing else) before him ... including Father and mother ... son and daughter. If you commit your time to him then be sure to give your time to him ... and him first.
  • Rev Mike
    What Christ was saying is this:"Let those dead in Christ Bury their own." Jesus Christ is the living God and was aking him to be one of his followers in the living hope. In other words "The Dead are those of little faith" He was asking the man to take a leap of faith and follow HIM.Not stay behind with those who are dead to HIS word of salvation. You must remember the man was most likely Jewish back in Biblical times all they knew was the law of Moses Until Christ came in the Flesh and many still did not know HIM other than the son of the carpenter Joseph out of their own ingnorance of the Christ or even what it ment or what he was about or his Father's promise... We must also remember Christ taught in perables all the time to bridge the education gap that was part of that time....Amen
  • MarkB
    Jesus statement: let the dead bury the dead" indicates he was speaking of spiritual things. Physically dead people cannot bury other physically dead people. Everyone is spiritually dead until we are “born again” with the new life which only Jesus can give. This man's father then, had to still be alive physically although spiritually dead in his sin. The man's desire to bury his father would mean putting his commitment to following Christ on hold indefinitely until such time that his father died. That shows us that his heart was not in his expressed desire to meet the requirements of following Jesus. He want to be able to dictate the terms of his commitment
  • Ice Mike
    The words of Jesus aren't open to interpretation. Stop trying to trick yourself. Jesus used the word DEAD. He used that word to describe people who are breathing and talking and walking around. He refers to unbelievers as dead. What he meant was everyone who isn't following him was dead. Period. I don't mean to be rude. He's coming back with a sword. By the way, Satan took over your government, enjoy! May the true LIVING Jesus send his spirit to guide you so you don't die dumb.
  • angelqueen
    when Jesus said let the dead bury their dead ,which mean man was made of the earth, and the should bury their dead, in a special field.so a dead person shouldnt be amongs the living . back then, abranhan didn't know what to do with his wife Sahara . so he pray to god as where he should bury the dead and he was instructed to a field. gen:23; 20, talk about bury of the dead , so clearly god didn't tell anyone to ignore their families. people interpt the bible the wrong way. but if we read for our self, we will understand.
  • Lena VanAusdle
    @Chronister I don't think this verse is interpreted as the man trying to get out of his duties to live with his still alive father, although there are verses that address this. We are to care for our families, including our parents (1 Timothy 5:8 and Matthew 15:5-7) if we are able. However, as the article above states, we must not do so at the expense of our relationship with God. That must be first, but we can't use our relationship with God to neglect people either.
  • TomK

    I believe Jesus was saying to the guy, look I'm living, I'm alive and taking care of all the daily things that need to be taken care of while I'm still alive, which is what you should do instead of mourning over a dead body or maybe one that is dying.

    So follow my example and be alive and active, do not sit and waste precious God given time on dead things and let the dead bury the dead. There are many living who need help.

    What I mean by dead is he is saying there are plenty of humans around who love misery, trouble and mournful things, who will never see the light or the kingdom around them. Who will never renew their minds to better things so let them bury your father and you go about life like me...

    To waste our precious Earthly time on dead things/bodies instead of continuing to live our lives and care for those who are alive is foolish.

  • chronister

    I would love to learn more about this. I understood it to mean the man wanted to go bury his recently deceased father and Christ told him "Let the dead bury their dead" because of the importance of following him vs the need to bury a dead person.

    Where/how is the verse interpreted as the man trying to get out of his duties to live with his still alive father?

    I am eager to learn everything I can about the Word and look forward to learning this.

  • ericj58

    Yeah, @Chronister; it can be a bit confusing. The culture back then was a lot different including the way they spoke as we do now. Something to keep in mind is that their culture back then was to honor and respect their mother and father (Ephesians 6:2) just as it is mentioned in the commandments. If Jesus told him to ignore the burial of his father, he would be violating this commandment. So, it's more of a spiritual reference that the 'dead' in spirit - or those not going to or wanting to follow Christ bury their own 'dead'. In this case, his father may not have been a follower himself. He had to make a choice of being spiritually alive - follow the Son of God or spiritually "dead" - neglecting Jesus's teachings and calling. Look at the examples of the apostles when Christ called them. What did they do? Immediately followed Him...

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