Luke 4:1-13 (ESV)
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. While this is primarily celebrated by Catholics, some Protestants celebrate it as well. When Catholics go to Mass on Ash Wednesday, they get ashes smeared on their foreheads in the shape of a cross, and the celebrant (Priest or Deacon) utters these words: “Remember man, you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Lent is a period of 40 days that we deny ourselves something, or do something extra for others, to remember the time when Jesus spent 40 days in the desert, praying and fasting, before He began His ministry.
Back when I was a child, the focus of Lent was the giving up of something you liked. As I approached adulthood, the church changed and began focusing more on doing something extra for someone else, without expecting or accepting any form of payment. I think this is a better way to focus to celebrate Jesus and His time of temptation. His time of putting aside His characteristics of Godhood, was much longer than 40 days, it was about 33 years.
Jesus, God Incarnate, voluntarily set aside Heaven, and His Divine attributes for our sake, and while He was on this earth, He did things for others, sometimes even when He did not initially want to. A good example is the Gentile woman that asked for healing for her daughter, and Jesus said that it was not right to take the food of the children and give it to the dogs. Her response of faith moved Jesus, and He granted her request.
What will you do with the 40 days of Lent? Will you just go on as normal? Will you do something nice for others each day? Will you give up something you enjoy? It is your choice.
It certainly can be a helpful way to prepare and improve our relationship with God and our fellow man, to enrich our celebration of Easter. It should be noted that the days of Lent from Ash Wednesday to sundown of Holy Saturday is 46 days, but fasting/self denial is not practiced on Sundays (the Lord’s Day), which brings it back down to 40.
May God bless you each day.
by Virgil Stripes
Photo: The desert / Dead Sea in Israel