PASSAGE: "Another of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father.' But Jesus said to him, 'Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead'" (Matthew 8:21-22 NRSV).
QUESTION: It doesn't sound like an invitation to Christianity.
COMMENT: It seems clear that Jesus was willing to be deliberately shocking in order to make an important spiritual point. No duty was more sacred or important to a Jewish son than that he honor his parents and see to their proper burial when the time came. So on one level Jesus is emphasizing that the “narrow path” to which he was calling people had to be the most important—indeed, the only—priority in their lives. He is denying the importance of death and the priority of the physical body. He says, in essence, “Let those who still believe in death concern themselves with its specifics. We don't recognize death in Christ consciousness, so we can't give its demands priority in our consciousness.”
The message is equally strong—and equally challenging—today. Moving forward in spiritual awareness requires that we release old priorities, old concerns, old rites and rituals. We don't reject them outright—we don't judge them—but we also don't give them more importance than the demands and opportunities of our personal spiritual unfoldment.
Jesus was never trying to invite as many people as possible to join him on his spiritual path. He makes it clear again and again that it's not for everyone. His interest is in supporting those who are beginning to awaken to Christ consciousness, to offer them guidance and support on the process that lies before them.