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Just Leave it Behind You

March 23rd 2014 by Joel Schultz

In today's Gospel, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at a well and tells her that He has water that springs up to eternal life. Her tells her to leave her sin behind and believe in Him. In response the woman runs and tells others about Jesus. Read or listen to find out more...

Lent 3A - John 4:5-30; 39-42 - “Just Leave it Behind" - 3/23/2014

An ancient Christian custom involves “giving up” something for Lent. You perhaps practice this yourself. The idea is that as you “give up” or “fast” from something you hold dear, your thoughts are turned toward Christ and how He gave up His very life for your sins. Another version of this custom is to “leave behind” something that has no place in the Christian life, not just for Lent, but forever. Likewise being reminded of the power, majesty, and glory that Jesus left behind to enter this world and suffer and die for our sins. The woman at the well in today’s Gospel lesson is someone who leaves behind her main task - gathering water - because of something greater that Christ has offered - living water.

Jesus travels through Samaria, which most Jews would not think of doing, and comes to a town. His disciples leave Him behind at Jacob’s well and go into town to buy food. A Samaritan woman comes out in the midday heat to draw water and Jesus asks her for a drink. The woman was taken aback at Jesus’ request. Not only did Jews not associate with Samaritans, but a Jewish man engaging in a conversation with a Samaritan woman was doubly taboo. Jesus’ thirst, however, and the woman’s intention to draw water provided enough common ground for Jesus to reach out to save her sin-parched soul.

Jesus leaves behind His need for a drink. He leaves behind social barriers between Jew and Samaritan, and between men and women - in order to tell the woman about a better water that she could receive - living water. One drink from this water quenched all thirst forever. This water becomes, said Jesus, a well of water in a person, springing up to eternal life. The truth is simple, the image profound.

The woman wanted the water but still did not really understand what Jesus was talking about. She did not understand that Jesus was talking about Himself. Drinking this living water means believing in Jesus for eternal life. What this woman needed first was to confess the truth of her sin, a truth that encompassed a history of adultery and fornication - 5 husband and now a live-in boyfriend. Convicted in her sin and comforted by the gospel message of the Messiah Jesus Christ, the woman leaves behind the water jar and her task of collecting water and runs to bring others the good news message. “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did” (4:29).

Her reaction is not surprising. When the joy of the Gospel and the promise of living water from Jesus come to people – like the woman at the well, the tax collectors Matthew and Zacchaeus, the fisherman Peter – those things held as most important (water, taxes, fish) are left behind in light of a greater hope that lies ahead. The things left behind remind us that God=s promises call us forward in hope. They are promises of blessing for all, of a land ahead, of living water.

Have you ever discovered leftovers in the fridge long after you knew they were there? They are used, old, forgotten, stale, and completely unwanted. The woman at the well may have seemed like a leftover person to some. (1) She was a Samaritan, a second class person. (2) She was a woman, con¬sidered unteachable by the rabbis. (3) She had five husbands and a live in boyfriend. (4) She comes alone at midday to a well outside of town when this was usually a task women did in the morning and in groups.

Perhaps we can relate to this woman in one way or another. In her life we see ours. Our sin, sorrow, pain, and problems at times weigh us down and make us feel like “leftover people,” growing stale, unwanted, “left behind.”

But this Jesus, who was left behind at the well, engages “leftover” people like you and me in conversation so that our sins and sorrows can be washed away by living water. As a result of our encounter with this man Jesus, old ways of living are left behind as we become a new creation through water and the Word in Baptism. As Paul says in Romans 6: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (6:4).

Old evasiveness in the face of sin is left behind --- our attempts to cover up or forget about our sin is not appropriate before a man who knows everything we ever did. Old guilt and sinful ways are left behind --- just as the woman left the water jar behind at the well. Old apprehensions over witnessing are left behind --- just as the woman proclaimed to the people, “Come, see a man.”

It is all because this man who the verse preceding our text says “had to” go through Samaria, also “had to” “be lifted up” (3:14; 12:34) on a cross to do His Father’s work - to reconcile the world to Himself - Jesus “had to” become the once and for all sacrifice for sin - your sin and my sin. Like Abraham, He had to leave behind His Father for the promise that lies ahead for all people. He had to leave behind the joys of heavenly life so that all people may leave behind the sins and sorrows of earthly life.

Today we are reminded by the life of one woman alone on the outside of town that a man who died alone on the outside of town leaves no one behind. The gift of living water is for all. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). He loved “the world.” Consider a tax collector in a tree, a Samaritan leper, a Pharisee, a prodigal son, a soldier by a cross, a thief on a cross, a lonely person, a guilty person, a troubled person, a sinful person - all leftovers. To them He says, “No one who believes in Me gets left behind!”

James Montgomery captures this truth beautifully in his well known Lenten hymn: Come to Calv'ry's holy mountain, Sinners, ruined by the fall; Here a pure and healing fountain Flows for you, for me, for all, In a full perpetual tide, Opened when our Savior died.

Come in sorrow and contrition, Wounded, impotent and blind; Here the guilty, free remission, Here the troubled, peace may find. Health this fountain will restore, They that drink shall thirst no more.

Isn't that why you came to church today, “to leave it all behind?” - to be healed, to be restored, to be forgiven, to receive peace with God. That is exactly what we have, for in His mercy, God says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our sins from us” (Ps 103:12). It is a promise made certain in the lives of repentant people by Jesus= death and resurrection and sealed in our lives through Holy Baptism.

Reminded of the living waters of Baptism, refreshed by the voice of the Savior, renewed by the promise of what lies ahead, we leave our sins and sorrows here like the empty jar left behind at a well. Then we go like the woman with living water from a living Savior with a living message, “Come, see a man!” Amen!

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