Lent and the Pursuit of Jesus
Posted on March 14th, 2019 by Eli Thomas in Know Christ
It has been a while but Pastor Eli has a new blog post to share! Lent can be a challenge. What are the ashes for? Why do people give things up? How long is Lent? Check out the answer to these questions and take the Lent challenge! How is Jesus messing with you?
Lent is one of those seasons that can cause confusion and a certain amount of head scratching among Christians and non-Christians alike. What is Lent? Why do people walk around with an ash cross on their forehead on Ash Wednesday? What is the deal with giving something up? So often the question asked is “what does this all mean? I wish someone would explain it to me.”
The quick answer is to type it into Google and read one of the many explanations, but in addition to the what and the why, I want to offer a challenge to everyone who reads this during this season of Lent.
Quite simply, Lent is a period of 40 days beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending on the Saturday prior to Easter. Though this time actually encompasses 46 days, Sunday is not counted as it remains a celebration of the resurrection of Christ. This period of 40 days mirrors the 40 days that Jesus spent being tempted in the desert following his baptism. During that time, he fasted and prayed and overcame all of the temptations of the devil showing that unlike the rest of us, the Son of Man did not sin.
We celebrate the beginning of this time on Ash Wednesday, a day that celebrates and commemorates our origins and our eventual destination. We are all human and we all share the same common condition, we are destined to die. In the beginning, when God was creating the earth in which we live, he shaped man from the dust of the earth, creating a human form brought to life by God’s breath, or spirit. Upon our death, we will return to the dust from which we are created. It is for this reason that we are greeted with the words of Genesis 3:19 where the Lord says to Adam “for it is from dust that have come, and to dust you will return.”
Ash Wednesday, and the whole period of Lent, is also a time of repentance and preparation, as we focus on turning back to the God that we so often reject. Scripture is full of references to ashes as a sign of repentance and humiliation. In Jonah, when the word of the Lord brought the news of imminent destruction was brought to the city of Nineveh, the king repented, put on sackcloth and sat in ashes. In 2 Samuel 13:19, Esther 4:3, and Jeremiah 6;26, ashes are placed on the head as a sign of repentance. So on Ash Wednesday, as we hear the words of our own mortality, we receive the sign of the cross in ashes, a mark of our repentance and also a sign of our forgiveness in Christ.
From Ash Wednesday we enter the period of Lent which lasts until just before the celebration of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. One of the popular “celebrations” is the practice of giving something up for Lent. This comes from the time of Fasting that Jesus did in the desert following his baptism. The practice of giving something up for Lent is about sacrifice and is designed to help us identify with Christ. We surrender something of significance as a sign of our commitment. Fasting is meant to help us to focus more fully on God. The issue with Lent in our modern time is that we often do not use that surrender in a meaningful way. We either give up something unimportant so it isn’t really a sacrifice, or we give up something important but replace it with something else that doesn’t change our focus on Jesus.
Let is about preparation and the question we need to ask is “how are we opening ourselves for the Jesus?” Sacrificing to identify with Christ’s desert sacrifices is good for our souls and our connection to our savior, but only if we actually fill that space with more of Jesus.
So as I promised at the beginning, here is my challenge for Lent. For those of you who have known me through these seasons in the past, you probably already know what is coming, but I think it bears repeating. If you choose to surrender something for Lent, make sure it has meaning. You cannot share in Christ’s fast if the item you surrender isn’t really a sacrifice. And if you do give something up, don’t just replace it with something else, instead, fill that void with Christ. Put your eyes on him and surrender yourself to pursuing him through the season of Lent. All of us can benefit from an increased focus on Jesus, a changing of our normal routine. And for those who choose not to give something up, the challenge is the same. Pursue with greater diligence and devotion the one who took the cross for you. When your life is aligned with Christ, things cannot help but be different. How is Jesus messing with your life? How is he calling you to a closer relationship? Maybe all you need to give up for Lent is the limits you place on your life with Christ. God’s blessings this Lent, and may your life experience a radical intersection with the Savior.