Why Did Jesus Say “Let the Dead Bury the Dead”?


The words of Jesus are filled with wisdom, yet often enigmatic and thought-provoking. Among His teachings, one phrase that has puzzled many is, “Let the dead bury their own dead” (Luke 9:60, NKJV). This perplexing instruction challenges our understanding of life, death, and discipleship. In this blog post, we will explore the context and meaning behind this enigmatic statement, shedding light on its significance for believers today.

Jesus uttered this phrase during His ministry when a potential disciple expressed his desire to follow Him. The man asked for permission to first go and bury his father, to which Jesus replied, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60, NKJV). The statement seems harsh, but it was intended to reveal a deeper truth about the priorities of those who wish to become true followers of Christ.

To grasp the full meaning of Jesus’ words, we must consider the broader context of the passage in which they appear. This will enable us to understand His intentions more clearly and apply the lesson to our lives as modern-day disciples. Our exploration will include an examination of the nature of spiritual death, the cost of discipleship, and the urgency of the Gospel message.

vision of jesus e1684162285463 Why Did Jesus Say "Let the Dead Bury the Dead"?

Understanding Spiritual Death

Before we can comprehend the significance of Jesus’ statement, we need to define what He meant by “the dead.” In the Bible, death is not merely a physical event, but it also refers to a spiritual state of separation from God. Ephesians 2:1 says, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (NKJV). Here, the Apostle Paul speaks of spiritual death as a consequence of sin.

Jesus’ reference to “the dead” in Luke 9:60, therefore, implies those who are spiritually dead, separated from God due to their sinful condition. In contrast, Jesus offers eternal life and reconciliation with God to those who choose to follow Him (John 14:6). By telling the man to let the spiritually dead bury their own physically dead, Jesus was emphasizing the importance of prioritizing spiritual life over worldly concerns.

The Cost of Discipleship

Jesus’ response to the man also highlights the cost of discipleship. When He said, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60, NKJV), He was challenging the man to count the cost of following Him. Jesus did not promise a life of comfort or ease to His disciples. Instead, He warned them that they would face hardships, persecution, and even death (Matthew 10:38; John 15:20).

In Luke 14:26-27, Jesus says, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (NKJV). The use of the word “hate” here is a Semitic expression that means to love less in comparison. Jesus is teaching that to be His disciple, one must be willing to put Him first, even above one’s closest family relationships.

The Urgency of the Gospel Message

Lastly, Jesus’ command to the man to “go and preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60, NKJV) emphasizes the urgency of spreading the Gospel message. The kingdom of God was at hand, and Jesus wanted His followers to prioritize sharing this good news with others. This task was so pressing that even the culturally important duty of burying a family member could be set aside.

Jesus’ ministry was marked by an intense focus on proclaiming the Gospel and making disciples. The time was short, and there was much work to be done (John 9:4). He expected His followers to adopt the same sense of urgency, recognizing that the eternal destiny of souls was at stake. By placing the task of preaching the kingdom of God above the man’s request to bury his father, Jesus demonstrated the priority of sharing the message of salvation with a world in desperate need of hope and redemption.


In light of the context and the themes explored, we can now understand the true depth of Jesus’ statement, “Let the dead bury their own dead” (Luke 9:60, NKJV). This enigmatic phrase is a powerful reminder of the importance of spiritual life, the cost of discipleship, and the urgency of the Gospel message. As followers of Jesus, we must recognize that our primary allegiance is to Him and His kingdom, and that we are called to share the good news with others, even when it comes at a personal cost.

This passage does not suggest that we should neglect our family responsibilities or ignore the customs of our society. Rather, it serves as a reminder to maintain a proper perspective and prioritize our spiritual commitments above all else. As modern-day disciples, we must be willing to put Jesus first in our lives, surrendering our personal desires and ambitions for the sake of His kingdom.

Ultimately, Jesus’ words remind us that the eternal impact of our actions far outweighs the temporary concerns of this world. By embracing the call to discipleship and focusing on the kingdom of God, we can find true meaning and purpose in our lives. Let us always remember to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, trusting that everything else will fall into place as we walk in obedience to His will (Matthew 6:33).

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