19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”20 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 ESV
18-19 When Jesus saw that a curious crowd was growing by the minute, he told his disciples to get him out of there to the other side of the lake. As they left, a religion scholar asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said. 20 Jesus was curt: “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.” Matthew 8:18-20 The Message
What does it mean that Jesus had no place to lay his head?
Jesus had something of a traveling ministry, for lack of a better term; he didn’t have a home base and walked to work every day. His walking around was his work; his work was his walking around to heal the sick, to bring life and to speak words of hope and truth.
When the scribe in the passage above approaches Jesus and makes his incredible offer, Jesus tells him he doesn’t really have a home, a place to reside. Jesus tells him what it will cost him: everything. It will cost it all. No home, no food, no provisions, no pillow, no bed, no blanket, no comfort, no salary, nothing.
Jesus had a few near him, his disciples, but even those could not go where Jesus was going. Those closest to him could not travel that near.
Those who were told to guard (and not sleep) were not even able to stay awake, on the night of Jesus’ arrest.
How far do we “say” we can go?
How far can we actually go?
To make such an offer may appear to be good-hearted and sincere. We can understand and forgive the naiveté of the scribe, with the benefit of hindsight and reading of scripture 2000 years later. Perhaps he was a bit compulsive, or emotional. Sincerity, however, (and most definitely emotion), cannot survive sleeping on the ground for days in a row, slipping away from those who want to kill you, living with lack, or following someone who is a mystery and who talks in riddles. How long could humans keep up with this based on a foundation of emotion or compulsion or naive sincerity?
Alas, sometimes, we do not know what we ask.
I think, too, in addition to the idea of homelessness and with the admonition of giving up everything, the meaning of this also is that Jesus did not have a place to rest or lay his head in the safety of a friend or confidant. He had friends, his disciples, but he had the loneliness of no companion.
Really, you may be asking? Didn’t he have God? Am I committing a heresy by saying that he was lonely when he had the Father himself?
Yes, he was closer to the Father than anyone. He still did not have an earthly “safe place”, a person, that could share his specific kind of circumstance.
In some ways, we all have this, as no one can 100% stand in our shoes and know everything about us. But many on earth do find a safe place to lay one’s head, a place to rest, not only physically, but in the presence and company of someone who cares.
I think Jesus enjoyed some of that company with his disciples, but he also missed it, too. We humans are too dumb and fickle to be enough and to fathom enough of what Jesus needed and who he was.
If you are lonely, like me, you might know what this feels like. You might know what it is like to miss that safe haven, a safe place, in your life. Perhaps you’ve encountered a season of this or perhaps it has been a longer journey, as it is for me.
Jesus experienced and knows that kind of loneliness. It was evident in the garden of Gethsemane. Nowhere else do we see such an honest outpouring of pain and sorrow over what is to come as when Jesus pleads with God to be spared from the bitter death, but yet still says with a heart of surrender he’s willing to do what his Father asks of him. Was there a lonelier place than the Garden of Gethsemane? We may have hard times in our lives that feel a hell of a lot like that place. I know rejection, grief, loss, objectification, and other hard things, and I know you do, too, but I don’t know what it is like to have people ready to crucify me on a cross and kill me with a spear, spit at me, call me names, spurn me, and mock me. We know pain, but we don’t know that specific kind of pain. We know loneliness, but we don’t know that particular kind of loneliness.
Jesus did. And he understands what it is like to be lonely here on earth.
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