Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple

& LOY Commentary 32 Comments

When three eager prospective disciples asked permission to follow Jesus, Jesus responded to each of them with a riddle. Why would God allow Jesus and his followers to sleep on the ground when he provides safe places even for the animals to sleep? How can the dead bury a corpse? Why would a disciple set his hand to a plow when Elisha had given up plowing in order to follow Elijah? These riddles would have to be puzzled over before their meaning was fully understood. But each of the riddles were ominous, and it appears that each of the three prospective disciples reconsidered his desire to join Jesus.

Matt. 8:19-22; Luke 9:57-62

(Huck 49, 138; Aland 89, 176; Crook 93, 195)[1]

Updated: 23 September 2022

וַיִּקְרַב אָדָם אֶחָד וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ רַבִּי אֵלֵךְ אַחֲרֶיךָ אֶל אֲשֶׁר תֵּלֵךְ וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ יֵשׁוּעַ הַשּׁוּעָלִים יֵשׁ לָהֶם פִּּירִים וְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם יֵשׁ לָהֶם מִשְׁכְּנוֹת וּבַר אֱנָשׁ אֵין לוֹ אֵיכָן לְהַנִּיחַ אֶת רֹאשׁוֹ וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ אַחֵר אֲדֹנִי הַנַּח אוֹתִי תְּחִילָה לָלֶכֶת וְלִקְבֹּר אֶת אָבִי וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ לֵךְ אַחֲרַי וְהַנַּח אֶת הַמֵּתִים לִקְבֹּר אֶת מֵתֵיהֶם וַיֹּאמֶר אַף אַחֵר אֵלֵךְ אַחֲרֶיךָ אֲדֹנִי וּתְּחִילָה הַנַּח אוֹתִי לִנְשֹׁק לְבֵיתִי וַיֹּאמֶר יֵשׁוּעַ כָּל הַנּוֹתֵן יָדוֹ עַל הַמַּחֲרֵשָׁה וּמַבִּיט אַחֲרָיו אֵינוֹ הָגוּן לְמַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם

A certain individual approached Yeshua and said to him, “Rabbi, wherever you go, I’ll follow.” But Yeshua said, “Beasts and birds have homes, but those who join me won’t even enjoy that basic comfort.”

Someone else said, “Lord, I’ll follow you after I’ve seen my dad through to the end of his days.” But Yeshua said, “Come join my life-giving mission, and let those who have not been brought to life take care of everyday existence.”

Yet another said, “I’ll follow you, Lord, but first let me go say good-bye to my family.” But Yeshua said, “The person who commits himself and then takes it back isn’t fit for my band of disciples.”[2]


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Comments 32

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  27. Have you considered that foxes do not live or even sleep in foxholes, nor do birds live or sleep in nests? These are both places where babies are nurtured until they are able to stand on their own. If you read it from that standpoint then how does the third part about the head fit into this construct?

    1. Joshua N. Tilton

      Hi Joshua,
      Thank you for your question, although I’m not sure I fully accept its premise. According to the sources I’ve read, foxes in Israel do have burrows where they sleep. Likewise, the saying probably doesn’t refer to a bird’s nest, but to a roost, where it would spend the night.
      The provisional conclusion I’ve reached is that this saying is about how God automatically supplies animals with their needs whereas human beings have to work for their sustenance. Therefore it would require extraordinary trust for a disciple to abandon his means of livelihood in order to follow Jesus on his tour through the towns and villages of Israel.

      1. Yes, as I have read through much of the content on the site I am much more persuaded of your argument here. Your work really highlights the utter difficulty of becoming a full-time student in the kingdom of heaven that is evident in the synoptic gospels. Thanks for the response!

        As I read through the commentary on this portion again (L25), I thought of something that may be way out there, but wanted a second opinion. Considering the saying, “and let those who have not been brought to life take care of everyday existence”, I am reminded of Gen. 27:41 ” Esav said in his heart: Let the days of mourning for my father draw near and then I will kill Yaakov my brother!” I know the concept of killing Yaakov really is unrelated; I am looking more at Esav’s waiting for Yitzhak to pass before acting, which eventually took around 20 years. I assume Esav would be considered a spiritually dead stereotype in the Rabbinic worldview.

        1. Sorry for the redundancy, just thinking a little more about this. I believe there is some rabbinic commentary about Yaakov once he leaves to go to Harran ends up in Bet-El and supposedly receives discipleship there for a number of years under the tutelage of Shem. Even if this idea is not something Yeshua would have ever heard ( a later rabbinic development), I think Bet-El could have certainly been a beginning of Yaakov’s learning. I don’t know where this reference is perhaps located, but just trying to connect thoughts a bit haphazardly.

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  • David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin
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    David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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    Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton studied at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where he earned a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies (2002). Joshua continued his studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, where he obtained a Master of Divinity degree in 2005. After seminary…
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