By   •   October 5, 2004   •   Topics:


What did Jesus mean when He said to let the dead bury the dead? I've heard it quoted many times, but it doesn't make any sense. It must have a hidden meaning, but I've never heard anyone explain it.


One day Jesus invited a man to follow Him and become His disciple—but the man refused. He said he would follow Jesus later, but first he wanted to go bury his father. Jesus responded, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22).

What did He mean by this? Jesus wasn’t saying that people who were physically dead should bury other dead people; as you say, that wouldn’t make sense. Instead He was speaking of those who were spiritually dead—those who were alive physically but dead toward God in their souls. We may be very strong and healthy physically, and yet be spiritually dead—which is far more serious.

To us Jesus’ words to this man might sound harsh—but that is because we don’t understand what the man was really saying. When someone in Jesus’ day said they wanted to go bury their father, it didn’t necessarily mean he was already dead. Instead they really were saying that they wanted to stay with their father until he died—something that might be years away. This man was simply looking for an excuse to avoid becoming Jesus’ disciple.

What keeps you from following Jesus as you should? Almost anything can come between us and God; the devil will make sure of that. But Jesus’ call has not changed: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

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  1. Amy Martin says:

    My stepson that I raised from a child overdosed and died last month. I am heartbroken. No words can explain the hurt. My mom said to me let the dead bury the dead…does it mean he is dead in spirit?

  2. Linda Yaron says:

    I should have said my DEATH EXPERIENCE was actually a visit to ETERNAL LIFE! I was THERE!

  3. Linda Yaron says:

    I had a death experience; not a near-death experience, A DEATH EXPERIENCE that lasted at least five days, then parts of it continued for two years. I think what Jesus meant by this is that this existence on earth is not life. It is death. When we die here, we are actually born.

  4. Hazel tulk says:

    Thank you so much for your explanation.

  5. Scott Rogers says:

    Very well spoken about the truth of God’s Holy Word!

  6. VALERIE says:

    Thank you for making your explanation very clear/understandable; easy to read without having all the extra big words added to make the answer more difficult to understand! I listen to the Billy Graham station every morning as my alarm clock setting. It’s refreshing to know that I’m under God’s umbrella, safely in his arms. Thank you for explaining to me how much God loves me and that my life is predestined by the Lord! What keeps dropping into my heart/spirit is that God is calling me to become an evangelist as well! How do I know for sure that this is my calling?

    1. BGEA says:

      Valerie, here’s a short article to help answer your question about God’s will:

  7. Judite says:

    When I first read this verse, I was so depressed because I couldn’t understand the message beyond. Thank you for your explanation.

  8. Michael Sharpe says:

    Since my childhood, Billy Graham has been a rock in my life. Today I am grown, I am a minister, and he is still my rock.

  9. Geneva Hairston says:

    That was an awesome word and meaning.