Let the Dead Bury Their Own Dead

by Roger Anthony Farinha

Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let
me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told
him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their
own dead.” (Matthew 8: 21-22)

The sun beat down oppressively on the inhabitants of this land, their lives a seeming endless toil, yet he could not deny the great love it demanded of his heart. This is Israel, the promised land of his ancestors, a place of miraculous placement, endless interruption, and, though he was oblivious of it, future displacement. Lately, however, a certain book of sacred scripture gnawed at him—“I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14).

This emptiness had of late been infecting his heart. Roman occupation just added to the fatalistic truth. Here are his people, rising by morn, toiling by day, and collapsing at night—yet that energy, that stubborn, optimistic energy—that hope which leaves a snail’s trail—even an afterthought, a lingering taste, of mockery—but hope nevertheless. He has been growing tired lately, weary of soul, as if time itself had ripened, as if destiny verged on her pivotal move—final death, or…new life. He could swing either way. His father, at least, had his answer. He slipped away the day before, from a mockery of a life into death itself, the only honest movement in existence, setting in motion his son’s movement into town, to make arrangements for the funeral.

As he navigated the crowd at market his thoughts continued to hover in the void of his soul, even as his country folk senselessly jostled, like so many ghosts chaotically afloat, under the beating sun. He would not have been surprised if they passed right through one another. But, bumping into each other, he realized, if even faintly, that these people counted for something. Nature, or Creation, did give them substance, and perhaps…perhaps there is then some residue of hope as well.

As he trudged forward he began noticing a greater concentration of bodies, unusually immobile, lingering encircled. He pressed through the mass, unapologetic, for dead men had no right of protest. And there in the middle was one, and unusual one. The man’s voice was gentle, controlled, and wise. He addressed the crowd as a father addressed his children, though he was an ordinary man by all appearance.

But something was amiss. This man was different. As he approached Jesus, he felt a strange sensation. It was as though he was on the edge of a cliff, and a great chasm separated him from some mysterious, yet infinitely prized object, of his desires and hopes—a chasm as though between the living and the dead itself. Daring not to confront the man Himself, the man inquired with Jesus’ cohort, a group of others betraying their discipleship by their proximity and bold acquaintance with Him.

“Who is this man,” he asked.

“He is the Messiah,” the disciple Peter answered, surprised at having been moved to reveal this most intimate of secrets to a total stranger.

The man looked at Jesus again, and by his perspective, he read in the scene a message, as if encoded just for him to decipher. Before him sat a man in quiet dignity, exuding life—not like the rest. Surrounding him stood the walking dead, yet now different, for their faces reflected the life of their teacher. Even the chambers of their hearts, wherein hope recoiled like a hibernating snake, seemed somehow opened. Here finally is a close-knit group, in on the secret, on the hope of hopes, and he amidst them, where he should be. “Where he should be?” The thought invaded. He thereupon heard words so strange, yet so fitting, that he was pricked in his heart.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11: 28).

Reflexively, courageously and without second thought, he broke his silence, and addressed Jesus. Stepping into the chasm he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Silence.

As he fell headlong he realized that he too was dead, as dead as his father, as dead as the rest. He could only then wait, and hope, that Jesus would catch him.

If you enjoy Spirit imbued parables — creative tales of spiritual inspiration, or if you perceive yourself as a writer of such, you might consider visiting:


Matthew 13:35

So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”[13:35 Psalm 78:2]