“Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus' statement underscores the difference between the spiritual self and the body. The body is a vehicle of the living self - the spirit-person within. The person within who drives this vehicle for a few decades eventually leaves the body, whereupon the body begins to decompose.
Therefore, it makes no sense to focus upon this dead body. Nothing will be accomplished by mourning over a dead body. The self has left this body so there is nothing remaining to be concerned about. This was Jesus' message in this statement.
Jesus’ concern was for the living self. His concern is that we become freed of our self-centered, greedy behavior, and return to a loving relationship with the Supreme Being. Jesus was teaching us to return home after we leave the body. Once the self is gone from the body, the body begins to decompose. It is an empty shell. The spirit-person who gave the body life is gone, and only a rotting corpse is left.
Today among many in the Christian world there is confusion between the spirit-person within and the physical body. Thus there is a focus upon burial and grave sites. Some institutions teach about “dancing on the grave” and so on.
These are pure speculative myths. They have nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus. Jesus here clarifies his situation: The dead body is worthless. He came to save the living with his teachings. His teachings are for the living and about the living. He is asking the living self within the body to focus upon the Supreme Being, learn to love the Supreme Being and do the Supreme Being's will. These instructions enable spiritual happiness: life.
A spiritually dead person, on the other hand, is one who is focused upon the temporary physical elements of this material world. This spiritually unfulfilled person focuses upon materialism. The spiritually dead person focuses upon fame and attention. The spiritually dead person focuses upon cars, houses, food and so many other material items. These material objects are also dead. They give no life. They bring no love and no fulfillment. Therefore they are lifeless.
Dead corpses are for those who worship matter. For those who confuse life with matter, a dead corpse appears important.
When we look at a dead body it is easy to discern that the living personality has left. The body becomes lifeless. Though we cannot see the living personality, we can know the living person has left, because the body no longer exhibits the goals and objectives of the living being. The personality has gone.
Most people instinctively appreciate this, simply because we say the dead person has "left us" or "passed away." Where have they gone, if the body is still there? If the body is still there, and we are all just physical bodies, then why do people lament when someone dies? They lament because they instinctively know the living self has left them.
This indicates, quite simply, that the living self is invisible to the physical eyes. We cannot see the living self with the physical eyes because the living being within is spiritual, not material. This, by the way, is also why we cannot see the Supreme Being with our physical eyes. Because the Supreme Being, too, is a Spiritual Being.
This spiritual identity is in the realm of the spiritual world - heaven. This is the realm of the Supreme Being’s existence. Because each of us rejected the Supreme Being at some point in our past (symbolized by Adam’s rejection of God’s request not to eat the fruit - a decision not to do God’s will) we were assigned to these temporary bodies:
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. (Gensis 3:21).
What are "garments of skin"? Are we talking animal skins or something? Don't be ridiculous.
The "garments of skin" are these temporary physical bodies we are wearing. These bodies “of skin” allow us to exercise our self-centered desires independent of the Supreme Being.
At the same time, however, the Supreme Being designed this physical world to hopefully teach us that only by returning to our loving relationship with God will we be happy.
This, in the end, is our decision. Love cannot be forced. We have the choice to love God or not. We can certainly choose to continue our focus upon this dead physical world if we wish - and remain spiritually dead.
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)