One of Jesus’ most disturbing statements was made in response to a potential disciple who asked for some, “time off.” Before fully committing to the service of God, this man first needed to bury his father. Jesus said to him: “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60)

Jesus explained: “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God”. (Lk. 9:62) In other words, one cannot keep looking back and plow a straight furrow. The proclamation of the Kingdom of God requires one’s full and urgent commitment.

But how is it possible for Israel’s Messiah to call upon his followers to disobey one of the ten commandments – to honor one’s father? (Ex.20:12)

Jerusalem Talpiot Tomb (Jewish Ossuaries). Bone boxes used for secondary burial.
The answer has to do with the first-century Jewish practice of a secondary burial. During the initial burial, the deceased was placed in the cave for a prolonged period until, after the complete disintegration of the body, only the bones remained. Then people who were trained according to the Jewish law in dealing with dead bodies collected the bones and placed them into a bone box (ossuary). This ossuary would then be deposited in another cave with many other ossuaries for permanent rest.

Jesus did not call upon the man to neglect his father’s burial. Attending a funeral is one of the most important things a Jew can do according to both ancient and modern Jewish tradition. Rather, Jesus was telling him that the professionals trained in dealing with dead bodies were more than capable of transferring his father’s bones when the appointed time came. He had no excuse to not join Jesus immediately if he really wanted to do so.

Reason and ethics do not need to be sacrificed on the altar of faith. Jesus’ profound words to this reluctant disciple called him to an urgent commitment to proclaim the Kingdom of God – just as they call us to do likewise!



  1. I didn’t per say follow Christ (Gal 3:24) so I would like to understand who these followers in Luke were. Were they students of a teacher or Messiah followers? I am not sure who Jesus is to them or what they were seeking. I do know that what makes us fit for service would be seeking His righteousness (our forgiveness) and His rule (Perfect Power). I say this because replacement theology made me fit by seeking a Bible believing church and the NT because I was not a Christ follower.
  2. There is a question of obtaining an earthly inheritance if son remains by the dead father. It is also true that some Jews at the time observed a tradition of reburying the bones after a time of up to a year. A man who stays by the father just to get an inheritance rather than follow Jesus was unworthy. As for honoring one's parents, Jesus was God incarnate, so honoring him took precedence over one's parents if that issue really was an issue. Additionally, the Jews used the word dead to mean something valueless; Jesus was not valueless
  3. Excelente comentario sobre la verdadera intencionalidad de seguir a Dios.Nos deja claro además que la razón y la ética no deben ser sacrificados frente a un seguimiento de cualquier doctrina que pretenda interpretar su significado profundo sin atender a esta verdad. Ambas propiedades fueron dadas por Dios y forman parte de la causa y significado esenciales de la presencia del hombre en el mundo creado por este.
  4. Jesus called the walking non believers, dead in their trespasses and sins. It seems only those whom Christ has given life and life more abundantly. For a sinner to be born, is an act of mercy and grace, since God does not countenance sin in any form. No more sinners would be born, would they?
  5. The way I read this passage was that the Lord Jesus was saying to the man "...let those who are 'spiritually' dead (i.e.spiritually not interested in following me) bury the dead - you follow me." I have only recently read about the second burial of the bones. As Linda said on the 11th in response to the article 'Did Paul tell Timothy to eat unclean.', I'm on a low income & can't afford to take the courses but I do love to receive the insights from your emails. Thank you for your insights. Every blessing to you and yours.
  6. Perhaps the man's father was still alive and he wanted to wait until he was free (without a father to worry about) before committing himself to ministry?
    • I think we always need to be open to alternative interpretations of a text but in my opinion, the interpretation I propose above provides us with the best (and most likely) explanation.
  7. My dear friends a small disclaimer may be in order here. I do not think that this is the ONLY possible interpretation (I am 90% sure, however). I am of course aware of the traditional ones like "this is for unbelievers", "the father was still alive, etc. I respect and certainly allow for these as possible interpretations. I suggest this reading of this text as a significant interpretive option that should be considered seriously.
  8. You're making an assumption that Jesus refers to the 2nd burial. The assumption is based on, what? You appear to be engaging in the dangerous practice of eisegesis. Hopefully, I am wrong here, but you must prove your case else you are engaging in the logical fallacy of appealing to authority. Christians must guard against such diversions. So, my concern is sincere and not meant to be insulting. I do appreciate your work.
    • Gordon, Let me assure you - no offense taken. Iron sharpens iron, right? First, please note my disclaimer above. Secondly, I would take exception with your suggestion that this is a case of eisegesis. Exegesis doesn't occur in a historical vacuum. The literary analysis of a text requires that we consider historical background issues which will shape our exegesis and that's what I'm attempting to do here.
    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with Leviticus and The New Testament or The Jewish Gospel of John I: The Arrival of the King. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!
  9. Okay, I understand what you are saying. I have been perplexed for years about this aspect of Revelations. When I review what is said, and the earth's history it always seemed that the prophecies of Revelations have been fulfilled several times. Now you tell me that the number of the beast is Neor! So what are you telling me? Has the book of Revelations prophecies already come and gone? If so what will be the prophecy for us, is there one?
    • Much of Revelation is still for us, but what has already come and gone is MORE FOR US than you realize ;-). Because if we get the original message to THEM, we can apply it powerfully to US.
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