Jesus has crowds following him. He’s working hard. And Matthew uses this occasion to show us Jesus doing some weeding. Not everyone who wants to be with Jesus is really fit and/or willing to truly follow.
We don’t hear much today about counting the cost of discipleship. Jesus wasn’t squeamish about it.
The scribe wants to follow Jesus everywhere he goes. Maybe he enjoyed the preaching. Maybe he sees a potential messiah. Whatever, he wants to follow. Jesus discourages him by pointing out the hardship that will come with following him. We aren’t told what the scribe did in response, but the picture seems to be that of Jesus discouraging him because he knows it wouldn’t work.
This is the first time in Matthew that Jesus calls himself “the Son of Man.” The first of many times. That title should elicit in first century Jews a memory of Daniel’s vision and a coming anointed one. That is quite a contrast with this essentially homeless traveling preacher and healer.
Next a disciple wants to take care of a family obligation. Jesus says this disciple has more important things to do. Permission for leave NOT granted.
Following Jesus is all-consuming. It’s more important than personal comfort and convenience. It’s more important that family and social responsibilities. It’s a narrow road and a rugged hike.
Count the cost.