Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Foxes and Birds Three Ways

And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."
-Matthew 8:20
This is one of those verses that I normally have no idea what it means, so when it came around as the passage I was going to focus on for the day, I wasn't sure what to expect. As I started to ruminate on it, I drew the expected blank. But I stuck with it. To my surprise, I came up with three possible interpretations. If these are any good, they were inspiration from God. If not, they're all mine.

The first thing I noticed was a connection with verse 18, "Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side." The crowds are gathering. Things are no doubt getting hectic. So Jesus sends his disciples to the other side of the lake so they will have space. But Jesus himself is the attraction. If he goes to the other side, the crowds go too. Jesus gives his followers rest, but he does not rest.

Then I moved on to how it relates to verse 19, "A scribe then approached and said, 'Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.'" The connection here is obvious. The scribe will follow Jesus anywhere, and Jesus appears not to particularly like that. Is there nowhere he can go to get away from this guy? But why does he want to get away from him? Doesn't Jesus want us to follow him wherever he goes?

So here's what I thought about that. When Jesus calls his disciples he says, "Follow me," and they follow. But this guy has called himself. He steps up and say, "I will follow you everywhere." The only problem I can see is that he's trying to be the one in control. The follower needs to take his cues from the one he's following.

There were a couple of ideas, but neither was entirely satisfying. I thought there must be something more there. So I looked closer at verse 20.

"Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests"

What do fox's holes and bird's nests have in common? They aren't homes, like we think of homes. They are places to raise their young and keep them safe until they are mature enough to take care of themselves. And once the young are ready, the whole group moves out and into the world.

But the Son of Man has no such protective place. His children are in the world, like sheep among wolves. This scribe has come to follow Jesus, but Jesus warns him about what that will entail. It won't be easy. It won't be safe.

I think this third interpretation is the best. In particular, it's the one that seems most applicable to my day-to-day life. With this interpretation in hand, I can look at what my life in Christ is like, and it helps me to understand why it goes the way it so often does. I'm not learning to be a Christian in a nursery. I'm learning in the wild.

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