Matthew 8:20: Foxes, birds and Jesus
Jesus said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Matthew 8:20
Matthew is centrally about God’s kingdom authority as expressed in Jesus Christ and this remark made to a biblical lawyer (scribe) seems to be a warning to the man, seems to be calling him to a radical lifestyle or commitment. He may have been “a disciple” in some sense of the word (8:21 says “another” disciple) but in any case, it would appear that Jesus was saying to him, “Do you know what it is you’re wanting to get in on?”
But was the Master speaking of literal homelessness? He’d have been welcomed in his mother’s home or with Peter, Lazarus and his sisters. Perhaps it isn’t physical issues he has in mind. For all the homes that were open to him and would have welcomed him to have their beds, there was an aloneness about Jesus that couldn’t be changed. For all the rich truth that the Incarnation teaches us Jesus didn’t fit in our society. In his song Vincent,Don McClean said of the famous painter, “this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.” If this was ever true of anyone it was true of Jesus Christ. The fox trotted his way home to a warm lair and his pups and birds winged their way home to nests they had built for themselves and their families—they had their place, they belonged; Jesus did not belong!
P. T Forsyth has taught us that for all the joy he found in life, doing his Father’s will, Jesus must always have lived in profound separation. The only living being in a world that had died in sin, the only one left standing when Sin was done ravaging and reaping. Alone—though never alone for he always did those things that pleased his Father.
Did the Torah teacher note the authority of Jesus; had he taken notice of the healings and the jaw-dropping power and would he have agreed with Nicodemus that nobody could do these things unless God was with him? Did he sense that this was the beginning of the divine revolution and that now was the time to get into the circle of the Master’s disciples? And if he did, knowing that the Messiah had come to rescue Israel and restore their place of blessedness with God was he wanting to find a home, a place, security and acceptance? Did he seem to see all that promised in the young teacher?
To embrace Jesus as Master that our marriages might be made better, that our commerce might prosper, that our living quarters might be bettered, that we will be treated with more respect—what do you make of that?
It’s said that in light of the gold and silver of one of the fabulous buildings a Pope’s said to Aquinas, “We can no longer say as Peter did to the lame man, ‘Silver and gold have I none’.” Aquinas was said to have quietly responded, “Neither can we say, ‘such as I have I give you, rise and walk’.”
Should we say that the days of foxes, birds, holes and nests are long gone? Is Christ now welcome in the world? Is he now at home? Does he want to be at home in a world like this? I don’t doubt that kingdom authority is still invested in him but since I believe that Matthew tells Jesus’ story in a way that has the character of Philippians 2:5-11, have things really changed? Some things have changed—obviously—but has the character of Jesus changed simply because he's King of Kings and Lord of Lords?
Does he not to this very day choose to live in this world in the lives of those who are happy for foxes and little birds but who now and then are jealous of them because somehow they feel homeless?
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, the abiding word.com.