What was going through Jesus’ mind when he left his family in Nazareth and set out alone on foot to do his ministry work? We know it happened very suddenly, this change, shortly after the wedding in Cana (where his mother prodded him to turn the water into wine and he knew it was his time). Even though Jesus had been preparing for it all his life, it was still monumental, this wormhole shift to full-time ministry work. He was a young man, trained as a carpenter and expected to take over the family carpentry business… until one day (to his mother’s secret dread and delight), he walked away.
Forty days and forty nights later, after nearly starving to death and being tempted by the devil, Jesus started calling others to walk away.
He’s still calling us.
There are many ways to walk away. You can leave your home town, your home state, your home country. You can leave your job, your spouse, your friends. You can leave your old way of life – drinking, partying, drugs and everything that goes with it – or you can drop out of school, drop out of society, drop out of touch.
There are many ways to walk away. Simon, James and John walked away from family fishing businesses, with Simon also walking away from his home, his wife, and even his name, thereafter to be forever known as Peter. Matthew walked away from his tax collector job, and Mary Magdalene walked away from her seven resident devils (who wouldn’t dare follow her as a follower of Jesus).
We have all walked away from something in becoming followers of Jesus. Some of us have walked away from more, some from less, but we’re still being called to walk away even from that which we became when we first walked away. It is a process, becoming a Christian, an ever-moving, ever-narrowing path spiraling upwards, tracing an open-ended circle around God. We can never arrive at our God-destination while still in our earthly bodies, but we can get closer and closer the more we walk away.
Every day is another chance to walk away. God tells us he desires mercy, not sacrifice. So we can walk away from blaming someone or cursing someone or wanting revenge or holding a grudge. We can just walk away.
What was Jesus thinking that day he left Nazareth, knowing the only life he knew was over? Did he have any regrets, or did he throw it all off as a filthy rag? I wasn’t there, but I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t look back. He would have known what happens when you look back, when you slide back, when you fall back, and he wanted none of that. He had no time for that. Even if someone had run after him, calling his name (maybe a child he’d befriended in the village), Jesus would have set his face like a stone and kept on walking away. He would have looked back for no-one, his gaze fixed on the distant horizon and his footfalls resolute and disciplined as a soldier’s. He would have kept on walking away until the childish calls behind him faded and the siren call of the wilderness drew him towards hunger and temptation.
Jesus was under no illusion about how hard his life would be by walking away. If you want comfort, you settle down and dig a cozy hole surrounded by others who likewise choose comfort and and cozy holes. And then you sleep-walk the rest of your days. Walking away means hardship one way or another, constant hardship. Comfort, when it comes, is fleeting but deeply enjoyed. How delicious a cup of cold water tastes when you’re genuinely thirsty!
Abraham walked away. Lot walked away. Joseph walked away. David walked away. Jesus walked away. Peter walked away. Matthew walked away. Paul walked away – a long procession of believers, known and unknown, leaving what they were to become something… better. No regrets. No looking back.
Just walking away.
Will you join them?