I write this post at the beginning of the Lent, the forty day period prior to Easter, where Christians have traditionally remembered the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the desert in preparation for his earthly ministry. That spirit of sacrifice, which ultimately led to the supreme sacrifice of Christ on the cross, is what believers strive to imitate.
Growing up in the Baptist tradition (yes, Baptists have their own traditions), Lent was not something emphasized in our church, though we certainly celebrated Easter. Lent, however, is gaining some traction in the Baptist community, because I think we’ve missed out on the needed reflection it brings.
So, for the first time in my Christian journey, I’m reflecting. Luke records in his gospel a turning point in Christ’s ministry:
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.*
The King James version says he “set his face” toward Jerusalem. I like that. It reminds me that Jesus was determined in his purpose to obey the Father’s will. The cross was his goal, and though he met opposition along the way, he never wavered. The earlier forty days in the wilderness were just a glimpse of the ability Jesus had to stay true to God’s will.
I find it hard to give up one thing during Lent, much less spend the entire month without food or water. Yet, I know God’s not surprised at my weakness. He’s been dealing with fallible human beings for millennia.
Back in Exodus, Moses had journeyed up Mt. Sinai to visit with God. The wonder of God’s presence on the mountain should have been enough to keep the people on the ground steadfast in expectation of his return, but no, “they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’”*
It was bad enough that the people lost faith, it was even worse when their leader, Aaron, enabled their rebellion. None of this was hidden from God. Even while Moses was still high on the mountain, he told him:
“I have seen these people, … and they are a stiff-necked people.”
Moses came to their rescue, though it would cost him another trip up the mountain to redo the tablets he broke during his outburst of anger. Couldn’t they have just made it those forty days?
What will these forty days mean for you?
- Will they be a time of Bible study and reflection on the great cost Christ paid on your behalf?
- Will they be a time in which you sacrificially deny yourself of something in order to better focus on Christ and prepare your heart for Easter?
- Will they be days when you perform sacrificial acts of love for people who are perhaps hard to love?
- Will they be days to prove you are stiff-necked or steadfast?
As believers saved by grace, we have nothing to prove to God. Jesus is the one who did the greatest work on our behalf. All we’re required to do is believe and allow him to lead our life.
And yet…sometimes we all need to do a bit of reflecting, soul-searching and exercising of those stiff necks to come more in line with the nature of the One we claim to love and serve.
Grace and Peace
*Luke 9:51 (NIV)
*Exodus 32:1 (NIV)