If you grew up Catholic or Lutheran, Lent may be an old idea to you. But for many folks who grew up Evangelical or not Christian, Lent is a foreign concept. Maybe you’ve never even heard the word before. Lent is a 40-day preparatory season in the Church for solemn reflection on the sacrifice that Jesus makes on Good Friday (more on what Good Friday is, later!)
You might be thinking, “why would I want to think about the sad part of the Bible for 40 days?” And to answer that, let’s turn to a 40-day experience Jesus had in Matthew 4.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Questions to Consider
What is Jesus doing just before he is tempted by Satan? (v. 2)
What are the three responses Jesus gives to the devil? What do they have in common? (v. 4, 7, 10)
Perhaps referring back to last week’s Ash Wednesday devotional about fasting, how do you think fasting for 40 days affected Jesus’ soul?
If Jesus’ focus after these 40 days is meditating on, trusting in, and living for God, how might meditating on the importance and meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross affect your focus at the end of Lent?
Often, we only want to think about the happy parts of the Gospel- “Jesus loved me so much that He saved me! He gives me mercy and grace!” And while these are true and good, we cheapen them if we don’t meditate on the hard parts. You see, Jesus saved you and me because we rebelled against Him. Your sin and mine nailed Him to the cross. There was metal driven through His wrists and feet. He had a spear driven through His side. He took the death penalty for you and for me. We deserved it. He didn’t. If we never meditate on the hard truths of God's story, the “happy parts” are like cotton candy-- sweet but lacking substance.
For hundreds of years, Christians who practice this season commonly choose to give something up, to make a sacrifice of one’s own. Perhaps, that sacrifice is giving up dessert or alcohol from now until Easter. Or perhaps, it’s giving up your comfort and choosing to do the dishes for your roommates every single day. Every time you want to eat that cookie, drink that beer, or let your roommate wash their own bowl, you can meditate on the sacrifice of Jesus and the depth of His love for you. You may even want to choose a verse, like Romans 5:8, to recite in your head when you feel tempted to abandon your sacrifice.
Like Jesus’ fasting in the wilderness for 40 days, this sacrifice you’re making can increase your affections for God. You will be reminded that it is not on the comforts of this world, but on the Word of God alone that you stand. So whether Lent is an old or new concept, allow the depth of its solemnity to prepare your heart for even greater rejoicing come Easter.