The Door of Imagination
“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” Matthew 8:20
At first glance, this passage appears to be a reference to Jesus as the Son of man, whose followers should be prepared to give up even the creature comforts of home for the sake of advancing the message of the kingdom. The New Testament usage of the Son of man is usually a reference to Jesus. However, in the Old Testament, the term simply referred to a human being, as in this familiar Psalm:
“What is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him? Yet thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor” (Psalms 8:4-5).
If Jesus used this term, it is more likely that he used it in the way his listeners would have understood it. The New Testament, after all, did not exist in his day.
What do we make of this passage? Unlike animals that are governed by instinct, the human faculty of imagination allows us to move beyond the restriction of mere instinct. For example, even before a robin egg hatches, we know the type of nest it will build. The same is true with the den of the fox. To say the human being has nowhere to lay his head is a way of pointing out that the faculty of human imagination has given us the ability to move beyond mere instinct to a level of creativity that is unprecedented in nature. The Psalmist points this out:
Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea” (Psalms 8:6-8).
It is my belief that the message of Jesus was to remind his followers of their divine inheritance, to turn the power of our imagination away from self-defeating imagery, and focus instead on the possibilities that await our God-awakened awareness. His message, it seems, was a revival of the great truth expressed through the prophet Jeremiah:
“I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:33-34).