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. Daniel says:

    I agree, Luke 9:23 has so much to be said for. What if those who are alive and suffering were appointed to you to witness the gospel to, and you were attending to the dead? You cannot minister to the dead, nor can they be saved after death. Our physical attendance is required to come after me (Jesus). Was Jesus present when Lazarus died? Did Jesus drop what he was doing, and make in haste to the grave? No. He said Lazarus was asleep, he must be awoken. We must deny ourselves daily and take up his cross to be where God wants us to be.

  2. Ponalo Max Gwate says:

    Thank for the explanation for I didn’t know burying your father meant staying with your father who is still alive until death.

  3. James Meservey says:

    So many people misinterpret God’s word. Its always good to know the truth.

  4. Ruth Franklin says:

    I’m thankful for confirmed information. God dose speak in a soft voice. We are most often distracted by our enemy. The disrepute, disputing His voice. Praise God for your wisdom.

  5. kizito says:

    Philippians 2:4 GOD’S WORD
    Don’t be concerned only about your own interests, but also be concerned about the interests of others.

  6. Roberr says:

    I appreciate very much the content of your explanations.

  7. Victor hernaez says:

    It’s so encouraging to know something worthy. Thank you sir.

  8. Ray says:

    Thank you for the explanation.

  9. pastor Solomon mwaura says:

    It’s a brilliant revelation that the young man’s father was not dead and was only avoiding becoming a follower of Jesus Christ.

  10. Catherine says:

    Thanks, I had really​ strugged with this one