Friday, 8 November 2019
Luke 9:59-60 To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." And Jesus said to him, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
This second vignette comes as a challenge to family commitments and Jewish tradition. It is considered one of the more important commandments to properly bury the dead, particularly those for whom you are responsible, let along a parent! In fact, if this man's father had just died and was not yet buried - which should be done within no more than 24 hours of death - what is he doing here? He should be arranging the funeral and preparing for the intense seven days of 'sitting shiva', mourning!
So perhaps this isn't saying exactly what it might appear to be at the first reading. In response to a call from Jesus, the man is offering an open-ended delay: my father is or may be close to death and I have to attend him until such time as he has died and been buried. In other words, the man is trying to say 'yes' while actually putting it off indefinitely.
Jesus' response is therefore not as callous as it sounds. He knows perfectly well about custom and family responsibilities. Perhaps the 'dead' here is referring to those who have not or will not hear God's call - this might even be a little jibe at the man himself: are you dead? And notice how He switches the verb: first He said, 'Come', but now He says, 'go'. Being about the business of the kingdom is something that everyone can do wherever they are and whatever they are doing.