By Ken Asel
A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 8:18-27
18 Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 A scribe then approached and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 A windstorm suddenly arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves, but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a dead calm. 27 They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”
Teacher, the disciples insist, we will follow you anywhere … but notably we never find out if the newcomers actually do so. And Jesus remarks, almost sadly, that while foxes have holes and birds have nests, the Son of God has nowhere to lay his head. Another wants to join the apostolic band, but first must bury his father. We learn through Jesus’ response that burying his father becomes more important than following Jesus. Jesus waits patiently for him to return. Again, a melancholy moment: We never quite know the outcome and whether the man learns the significance of the immeasurable riches of the kingdom of God.
The final encounter in this passage is a familiar one. Jesus and the disciples get into a boat to cross the Lake of Galilee. A storm brews, and the Lord’s companions are filled with fear. Meanwhile Jesus is sound asleep. Someone arouses him. Responds the Master, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” The winds cease and his followers can only reply with, “What sort of man is this?”
Jesus’ encounters with people who test or question him introduce us to the depth of Jesus’ character. We never know who accepts the invitation to stay with Jesus and follow him, even after he responds with unadorned truth, or mercy, or performs wonders. The question haunts us: Do they go with him? Do they stay?
And I wonder about myself. Do I believe enough to cast in my lot with the disciples at a level that can open a personal and intimate relationship with God and put aside anxiety in favor of confidence to obey? I want to believe I can, but more grace is needed to open my longing heart. Help us all, Lord, to trust and obey.
(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest of the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie and he have been married more than thirty years and reside on the Front Range.
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Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Lui – The Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan
Church of St. Edward the Martyr, New York, N.Y.