And a scribe came up and said to him, Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go. 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 8:19-20
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Commentaries and preaching about this verse typically focus on the poverty of Jesus or the fact that the poor person who has no great possessions may be more like Christ than the rich. Because of the context, I think we can allow that Jesus is issuing a challenge to the scribe who offered to follow Him. He is not, He makes clear, the ordinary type of rabbi who is interested in finding a place in this world.
The word translated “nests” is related to the word “tabernacle”. It is more like a roosting place for the night than a nest for eggs. There was no place on earth for the Lord to settle, though He had “tabernacled” with Israel and had, to a degree, dwelt in the temple. In Luke’s account of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:26-36), we read of Peter’s reaction: And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah—not knowing what he said. The Lord had no intention of staying here, of building houses, temples, cities, palaces or fortresses.
One reason I have probably remained a Protestant is because I find a disconnect between the primitive (in the sense of primacy) “Book of Acts” church and the kind of medieval tradition of Catholicism and Orthodoxy with the tendency toward cathedrals and an emphasis on buildings. Of course, Protestants learned that worshipers like nice facilities with good parking, and that become one of the trademark gimmicks for “church growth” in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It probably still is today, but I pay a lot less attention.
The church is not a building, though parts of it may meet in one. Jesus says that wherever two or three gather in His Name – where there are relationships, communion, and fellowship, there He is. His dwelling place is in us, and ours is to be in Him.