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. Crystal says:

    Amen Amen good answer

  2. Mike Kent says:

    Re: Matthew 8: 22 & Luke 9: 60
    For the first time in more than forty years I have understood this word of the LORD!
    It seems to me the LORD will never call us when we are going through emotional turmoil – after all He is the one who maintains life in both the father and the son – to whom he was talking.
    Any time the LORD calls – we just need to be immediately obedient, and the details of the uprooting of our lives will take care of themselves or He will help to smooth the way.

    Mike Kent

  3. Anita says:

    Thank you, this was very helpful. God bless you.

  4. Sheldon Don Charley says:

    Thanks for clarifying. Appreciate it.

  5. Alicia Mack says:

    I am trying to be obedient and finish the bible this year. The text can often be misunderstood, which prompts me to search the Internet for understanding. Thank you for clarifying Matthew 8:22 😊

  6. Yvette Thomas Ray says:

    I see what you mean very clearly. Thanks for the wisdom.

  7. Don Severson says:

    Pastor Graham As I stare at your picture and the words We won’t back down we won’t retreat. I have the biggest smile and all I can say is Amen. Keep speaking the truth and sharing in Love. This is a great time to be a Christian in the US. Remember a single match shines bright in the dark. Make no mistake our world is dark so let the light of the Gospel shine

  8. Connie says:

    That’s right. Jesus meant those who were spiritually dead bury their own. when you believe in the Lord and in the gospel and have faith then you are not dead , you are alive .
    those who do not believe in those things are spiritually dead. dead on the inside. because when we die our spirit is free and alive.
    it is no longer dead in this living vessel.

  9. James H. Peace says:

    I wish it was where I could go and tell people so many things that the scriptures meant rather than letting them believe big mamas interpretation. I am sixty eight an school trained as a pastor. God has given me a new pulpit. Critically ill and hospice.

  10. Elaine Mayes says:

    What about a man that has lost his wife of many years to cancer, but continues to keep the routine as though she’s still alive. Refusing to have a social life for the grown kids and grandkids sake? He lost his wife and brother 30 days apart April 2016.