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. Andrea Bailey says:

    My dear husband sent this to me after a discussion of this scripture. He cares about my spiritual soul. Thank you God!

  2. Danielle says:

    My husband may quote this but he does not understand this thank u Jesus for opening my eyes and my ears praise be to you even when my husband is the enemy I ask you for everything and forgiveness even when he denied it to me

  3. Ronnie Dixon says:

    I had often wonder what the statement meant, you really clarified it for me

  4. Robert W. Foy says:

    The answer I received to my question of the dead burying the dead resonated with me strongly, and now for the first time I have a clear answer. Thank you.

  5. William Hanson says:

    Thank you. So simple yet so profound.

  6. Deborah Simon says:

    Thank you for clarifying that for me. I have heard different meanings but I agree with this one.

  7. Zion says:

    This is incredible. I have gained more knowledge, I must confess. Thank you