What do you have to leave behind in order to follow Christ?

“Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city.” She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah can He?” They left the city and went on their way to Him.” 

~ John 4:28


What a strange most unexpected act was taken by this woman Samaria. You see, she was a female with a “bad reputation” who had gone with her water jar to the well given by Jacob to his son Joseph, in the heat of the midday, no doubt to avoid the criticisms and innuendoes of the righteous people of the Samaritan community. But, she had returned without her water jar, eager to share the Good News of Salvation with them! 


What was the reason for her action? Why did she go all the way to get water only to return without her water jar?


The answer is at hand! There at the well she had met a man with whom she had a conversation, a divinely ordained encounter, which had transformed for her life.


At that time when Jews and Samaritans were separated by race and religion, when it was considered a disgrace for a man to talk to a woman in public. 


This man had shocked her by making a request for a drink drawn from that famous well. When she expressed amazement, He promised to give her living water which would quench her thirst forever. As they conversed, and she brought up the matter of religion, He taught her that purity of heart and mind and spirit were essential for the proper worship of God. 


And, then, when He called upon her to bring her husband and she claimed that she was not married, He with Divine discernment, told her the truth about herself – she had, indeed, been married to five different men and was “living in sin” with a sixth. 


Yes, to her utter amazement, the stranger from Galilee whom she had never met before, knew everything about her.


Eventually, she was so deeply impressed that she inquired whether he were none other than the long expected Messiah for you see, the Samaritans, whose “Bible” consisted only of the five books of Moses, were at one with the Jews in looking for the coming of the Messiah.


Imagine, then her most delightful response when He revealed that He was indeed the Messiah. What a wonderful revelation. What a transformation! This woman who had lived a reprobate life who had ‘run through five husbands,” who was “living in sin,” had been transformed as she met and conversed with the Messiah. 


“Come see a man who told me everything I have ever done.” He cannot be the Messiah can He? She testified! This was indeed good news so good that she had to share it with the members of her family and friends back in the city, indeed, so anxious was she to share the story of her transformation that she left her water jar behind as she was on a great mission. 


Yes, she left behind that jar which was designed for the carrying of to share with others the Good News of the water. The living water provided by the Messiah which would quench the spiritual thirst of all who drink from it…forever!!!


Concisely, she had to leave that water jar behind if she were to proclaim the Good News of salvation with the people of the city. She was on a mission to get to them as quickly as possible and a jar full of water would have certainly impeded her progress.


In acting in this way she was by no means alone. Throughout the history of the Christian faith, it has been demonstrated time and again that there are things which must be left behind by those who would fulfil their divinely ordained mission. Or as the late Dr. Myles Munro would put it, “to fulfil their purpose for living!”


There was Elisha, who was such a successful farmer that he ploughed with as many as a dozen oxen at a time. Then the prophet Elijah appeared on the scene and invited the young farmer to join him in serving the God of Israel. What did Elisha do? 


Well, he slew the oxen, called a great feast at which evidently there was many beef eaters, bid his parents farewell and went with Elijah, whom he eventually succeeded as a great prophet of ancient Israel. In order to fulfil his mission, he simply had to leave the farm, his animals and bid his parents farewell. (1 Kings 19:19-21)


Then there were the first disciples. They were fishermen who evidently were successful in business. When Jesus called them, they left behind their boats and nets and followed Him. (Matthew 4:17-22)


There was that medieval man of God known as Francis of Assisi of Italy. He was born into a wealthy family and could have led a life of leisure based on his inheritance. But when Christ called him, he left his riches behind living in poverty in order to serve his master whole heartedly.


Yes, it is true! There are things which one must leave behind in order to serve the Lord. This is implicit in the teaching of Jesus who called upon his disciples in all ages (including me and you!) That great sacrifice is required of all who would follow Him. Thus, he declared, thus he warned those who would become His disciples, “if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Based on Mark 8: 34-35


In calling upon those who would follow Him to be prepared to make sacrifices, to deny themselves, the Master was challenging them to follow His superb example as expressed in that immortal text, “for the son of man came not to be ministered unto: but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).


As brilliant German Lutheran scholar Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it so challengingly and relevantly, “When Christ calls us He bids us come and die!”


Yes, Elisha, the early disciples, the woman of Samaria, St. Francis of Assisi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and countless other saints throughout the ages demonstrated, you have to give up something if you are to follow Christ. What must be left behind may be material, but it also may be moral and spiritual.


This profound truth is often emphasized during the season of Lent. As we reflect upon the life of Christ in these days leading up to His passion and culminating in His glorious resurrection, we are led to reflect on the things we must give up as we continue to follow Christ. 


You may not be a wealthy person such as Francis of Assisi who must give up wealth. But there may be certain bad habits, certain irritating things such as a bad temper or impatience, or gossiping which you must leave behind if you are to be a true disciple of Christ. As you reflect upon your own life throughout this Holy Lenten season, consider what things in your life you need to leave behind if you are to continue your walk with Christ!


The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi 

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.


O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”


Published  Monday, April 3, 2017 


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