Matthew 8:20
And Jesus said to him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has not where to lay his head.
Jump to: BarnesClarkeGillGSBJFBMHCPNTSCOVWSWES
8:18-22 One of the scribes was too hasty in promising; he proffers himself to be a close follower of Christ. He seems to be very resolute. Many resolutions for religion are produced by sudden conviction, and taken up without due consideration; these come to nothing. When this scribe offered to follow Christ, one would think he should have been encouraged; one scribe might do more credit and service than twelve fishermen; but Christ saw his heart, and answered to its thoughts, and therein teaches all how to come to Christ. His resolve seems to have been from a worldly, covetous principle; but Christ had not a place to lay his head on, and if he follows him, he must not expect to fare better than he fared. We have reason to think this scribe went away. Another was too slow. Delay in doing is as bad on the one hand, as hastiness in resolving is on the other. He asked leave to attend his father to his grave, and then he would be at Christ's service. This seemed reasonable, yet it was not right. He had not true zeal for the work. Burying the dead, especially a dead father, is a good work, but it is not thy work at this time. If Christ requires our service, affection even for the nearest and dearest relatives, and for things otherwise our duty, must give way. An unwilling mind never wants an excuse. Jesus said to him, Follow me; and, no doubt, power went with this word to him as to others; he did follow Christ, and cleaved to him. The scribe said, I will follow thee; to this man Christ said, Follow me; comparing them together, it shows that we are brought to Christ by the force of his call to us, Ro 9:16.And a certain scribe came ... - It is not improbable that this man had seen the miracles of Jesus, and had formed an expectation that by following him he would obtain some considerable worldly advantage. Christ, in reply to his professed purpose to follow him, proclaimed his own poverty, and dashed the hopes of the avaricious scribe. The very foxes and birds, says he, have places of repose and shelter, but the Son of man has no home and no pillow. He is a stranger in his own world - a wanderer and an outcast from the homes of people. Compare John 1:11.

Son of man - This means, evidently, Jesus himself. No title is more frequently given to the Saviour than this, and yet there is much difficulty in explaining it. The word "son" is used in a great variety of significations. See the notes at Matthew 1:1. The name "Son of man" is given to Jesus only three times in the New Testament Acts 7:56; Revelation 1:13; Revelation 14:14, except by himself. When he speaks of himself, this is the most common appellation by which he is known. The phrase "Son of God," given to Christ, denotes a unique connection with God, John 10:36. The name "Son of man" probably denotes a corresponding unique connection with man. Perhaps the Saviour used it to signify the interest he felt in man; his special love and friendship for him; and his willingness to devote himself to the best interests of the race. It is sometimes, however, used as synonymous with "Messiah," Matthew 16:28; John 1:34; Acts 8:37; John 12:34.

[1] Son of man

See Scofield Note: "Ezek 2:1". Our Lord thus designates Himself about eighty times. It is His racial name as the representative Man, in the sense of 1Cor 15:45-47 as Son of David is distinctly his Jewish name, and Son of God His divine name. Our Lord constantly uses this term as implying that his mission (e.g.) Mt 11:19 Lk 19:10. His death and resurrection (e.g.) Mt 12:40 20:18 26:2 and His second coming (e.g.) Mt 24:37-44 Lk 12:40 transcended in scope and result all merely Jewish imitations. When Nathanael confesses him as "King of Israel," our Lord's answer is, "Thou shalt see greater things. . . the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." When His messengers are cast out by the Jews, His thought leaps forward to the time when the Son of man shall come, not then to Israel only but to the race Mt 10:5,6 8:23. It is in this name, also, that universal judgment is committed to Him Jn 5:22,27. It is also a name indicating that in Him is fulfilled the O.T. foreview of blessing through a coming man. See Scofield Note: "Gen 1:26" Gen 3:15 12:3 Ps 8:4 80:17 Isa 7:14 9:6,7 32:2 Zech 13:7 Isa 32:2 Zech 13:7.

And Jesus saith unto him,.... Knowing his heart, and the carnal and worldly views with which he acted;

the foxes have holes in the earth, where they hide themselves from danger, take their rest, and secure their whelps;

and the birds of the air have nests, where they sit, lay, and hatch their eggs, and bring up their young;

but the son of man has not where to lay his head, when he is weary, and wants rest and sleep, as he did at this time. So that though he was Lord of all, as being the mighty God; yet as "the son of man", a phrase, expressive both of the truth and meanness of his human nature, the most despicable of creatures in the earth and air, were richer than he. This he said, to convince the Scribe of his mistake; who expected much worldly grandeur and wealth, by becoming his disciple. When Christ styles himself "the son of man", it is no contradiction to his being God; nor any objection to trust and confidence in him, as the Jew (z) suggests; for he is truly and properly God, as well as really man, having two natures, human and divine, united in his person; so that he is, as was prophesied of him, Emmanuel, God with us, in our nature, God manifested in the flesh: and since he is so, it cannot be unlawful to trust in him; which it would be indeed, was he a mere man. The Jews ought not to object to this name and title of the "Messiah, the son of man": since he is so called, as their own writers and commentators acknowledge, in (a) Psalm 80:17 and (b) Daniel 7:13. And whereas it is further urged against these words of Christ, that if he was God, why does he complain of want of place? Is not the whole world his, according to Psalm 24:1? It may be replied, that it is very true, that the whole world is his, nor could he be in want of anything, as God; but yet, as man, for our sakes he became "poor", that we "might be rich": nor should this be any difficulty with a Jew, when they themselves say, as some have thought, if he (the Messiah) should come, , "there's no place in which he can sit down" (c). Unless it be understood of Nebuchadnezzar, as the gloss explains it; let the learned inspect the place, and judge: the coming of the Messiah is immediately spoken of.

(z) R. Isaac Chizzuk Emuna, par. 2. c. 12. p. 403. (a) Targum & Aben Ezra in loc, Abarbinel Mashmia Jeshua, fol. 81. 2.((b) R. Jeshua in Aben Ezra in loc. & Saadiah Gaon & Jarchi in loc. Zohar in Gen. fol. 85. 4. (c) T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 96. 2.

And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have {e} nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

(e) Literally, shades made with boughs.

Holes (φωλεοὺς)

Wyc. has ditches, with burrows in explanation.

Nests (κατασκηνώσεις)

Only here and in the parallel, Luke 9:58. Nests is too limited. The word, derived from σκηνή, a tent, has the more general meaning of shelter or habitation. In classical Greek it is used of an encampment. The nest is not to the bird what the hole is to the fox, a permanent dwelling-place, since the bird frequents the nest only during incubation. The Rev. retains nests, but puts lodging-places in the margin.

20. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head—Few as there were of the scribes who attached themselves to Jesus, it would appear, from his calling Him Teacher, that this one was a "disciple" in that looser sense of the word in which it is applied to the crowds who flocked after Him, with more or less conviction that His claims were well founded. But from the answer which he received we are led to infer that there was more of transient emotion—of temporary impulse—than of intelligent principle in the speech. The preaching of Christ had riveted and charmed him; his heart had swelled; his enthusiasm had been kindled; and in this state of mind he will go anywhere with Him, and feels impelled to tell Him so. "Wilt thou?" replies the Lord Jesus. "Knowest thou whom thou art pledging thyself to follow, and whither haply He may lead thee? No warm home, no downy pillow has He for thee: He has them not for Himself. The foxes are not without their holes, nor do the birds of the air lack their nests; but the Son of man has to depend on the hospitality of others, and borrow the pillow whereon He lays His head." How affecting is this reply! And yet He rejects not this man's offer, nor refuses him the liberty to follow Him. Only He will have him know what he is doing, and "count the cost." He will have him weigh well the real nature and the strength of his attachment, whether it be such as will abide in the day of trial. If so, he will be right welcome, for Christ puts none away. But it seems too plain that in this case that had not been done. And so we have called this the Rash or Precipitate Disciple.

II. The Procrastinating or Entangled Disciple (Mt 8:21, 22).

As this is more fully given in Luke (Lu 9:59), we must take both together. "And He said unto another of His disciples, Follow Me. But he said,"

Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead—or, as more definitely in Luke, "Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God" (Lu 9:60). This disciple did not, like the former, volunteer his services, but is called by the Lord Jesus, not only to follow, but to preach Him. And he is quite willing; only he is not ready just yet. "Lord, I will; but"—"There is a difficulty in the way just now; but that once removed, I am Thine." What now is this difficulty? Was his father actually dead—lying a corpse—having only to be buried? Impossible. As it was the practice, as noticed on Lu 7:12, to bury on the day of death, it is not very likely that this disciple would have been here at all if his father had just breathed his last; nor would the Lord, if He was there, have hindered him discharging the last duties of a son to a father. No doubt it was the common case of a son having a frail or aged father, not likely to live long, whose head he thinks it his duty to see under the ground ere he goes abroad. "This aged father of mine will soon be removed; and if I might but delay till I see him decently interred, I should then be free to preach the kingdom of God wherever duty might call me." This view of the case will explain the curt reply, "Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." Like all the other paradoxical sayings of our Lord, the key to it is the different senses—a higher and a lower—in which the same word "dead" is used: There are two kingdoms of God in existence upon earth; the kingdom of nature, and the kingdom of grace: To the one kingdom all the children of this world, even the most ungodly, are fully alive; to the other, only the children of light: The reigning irreligion consists not in indifference to the common humanities of social life, but to things spiritual and eternal: Fear not, therefore, that your father will in your absence be neglected, and that when he breathes his last there will not be relatives and friends ready enough to do to him the last offices of kindness. Your wish to discharge these yourself is natural, and to be allowed to do it a privilege not lightly to be foregone. But the kingdom of God lies now all neglected and needy: Its more exalted character few discern; to its paramount claims few are alive: and to "preach" it fewer still are qualified and called: But thou art: The Lord therefore hath need of thee: Leave, then, those claims of nature, high though they be, to those who are dead to the still higher claims of the kingdom of grace, which God is now erecting upon earth—Let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And so have we here the genuine, but Procrastinating or Entangled Disciple.

The next case is recorded only by Luke:

III. The Irresolute or Wavering Disciple (Lu 9:61, 62).

Lu 9:61:

And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell which are at home at my house.

Lu 9:62:

And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. But for the very different replies given, we should hardly have discerned the difference between this and the second case: the one man called, indeed, and the other volunteering, as did the first; but both seemingly alike willing, and only having a difficulty in their way just at that moment. But, by help of what is said respectively to each, we perceive the great difference between the two cases. From the warning given against "looking back," it is evident that this man's discipleship was not yet thorough, his separation from the world not entire. It is not a case of going back, but of looking back; and as there is here a manifest reference to the case of "Lot's wife" (Ge 19:26; and see on [1236]Lu 17:32), we see that it is not actual return to the world that we have here to deal with, but a reluctance to break with it. The figure of putting one's hand to the plough and looking back is an exceedingly vivid one, and to an agricultural people most impressive. As ploughing requires an eye intent on the furrow to be made, and is marred the instant one turns about, so will they come short of salvation who prosecute the work of God with a distracted attention, a divided heart. The reference may be chiefly to ministers; but the application at least is general. As the image seems plainly to have been suggested by the case of Elijah and Elisha, a difficulty may be raised, requiring a moment's attention. When Elijah cast his mantle about Elisha, which the youth quite understood to mean appointing him his successor, he was ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen, the last pair held by himself. Leaving his oxen, he ran after the prophet, and said, "Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and [then] I will follow thee." Was this said in the same spirit with the same speech uttered by our disciple? Let us see. "And Elijah said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee." Commentators take this to mean that Elijah had really done nothing to hinder him from going on with all his ordinary duties. But to us it seems clear that Elijah's intention was to try what manner of spirit the youth was of:—"Kiss thy father and mother? And why not? By all means, go home and stay with them; for what have I done to thee? I did but throw a mantle about thee; but what of that?" If this was his meaning, Elisha thoroughly apprehended and nobly met it. "He returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen (the wood of his ploughing implements), and gave unto the people, and they did eat: then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him" (1Ki 19:19-21). We know not if even his father and mother had time to be called to this hasty feast. But this much is plain, that, though in affluent circumstances, he gave up his lower calling, with all its prospects, for the higher and at that time perilous, office to which he was called. What now is the bearing of these two cases? Did Elisha do wrong in bidding them farewell with whom he was associated in his early calling? Or, if not, would this disciple have done wrong if he had done the same thing, and in the same spirit, with Elisha? Clearly not. Elisha's doing it proved that he could with safety do it; and our Lord's warning is not against bidding them farewell which were at home at his house, but against the probable fatal consequences of that step; lest the embraces of earthly relationship should prove too strong for him, and he should never return to follow Christ. Accordingly, we have called this the Irresolute or Wavering Disciple.

The foxes have holes, etc. - Reader! art thou a poor man? and dost thou fear God? Then, what comfort must thou derive from the thought, that thou so nearly resemblest the Lord Jesus! But how unlike is the rich man, who is the votary of pleasure and slave of sin, to this heavenly pattern!

Son of man - A Hebrew phrase, expressive of humiliation and debasement; and, on that account, applied emphatically to himself, by the meek and lowly Jesus. Besides, it seems here to be used to point out the incarnation of the Son of God, according to the predictions of the prophets, Psalm 8:5; Daniel 7:13. And as our Lord was now showing forth his eternal Divinity in the miracles he wrought, he seems studious to prove to them the certainty of his incarnation, because on this depended the atonement for sin. Indeed our Lord seems more intent on giving the proofs of his humanity, than of his divinity, the latter being necessarily manifested by the miracles which he was continually working.

8:20 The Son of man - The expression is borrowed from Daniel 7:13, and is the appellation which Christ generally gives himself: which he seems to do out of humility, as having some relation to his mean appearance in this world. Hath not where to lay his head - Therefore do not follow me from any view of temporal advantage. 8:20 Jesus saith to him. He rejects not this man's offer, nor refuses him the liberty to follow him, only he will have him know what he is doing and count the cost.

The Son of man. It is the name by which the Lord ordinarily designates himself as the Messiah-- the Son of God manifested in the flesh of Adam; the second Adam.

Not where to lay his head. He, as the Son of man, did not possess what the humbler animals claim, a home.

Matthew 8:19
Top of Page
Top of Page




Bible Apps.com