Sometimes we come across traditions in the church or just in culture that seem confusing. I imagine it is a similar feeling that someone from another country may feel when they come to the United States the week of Thanksgiving. They probably have a bunch of questions that those of us that live in the United States have answers too. Lent may feel the same way. What is it? Why should we care? Does it even matter? In this video I sat down with my friend Kendra, who is the Online Bible Studies Manager at Proverbs 31 Ministries and we talked about the unexpected benefits that could come from Lent and its biblical historical roots.
Ultimately, Lent is about foregoing something that we appreciate and desire. In other words, it’s fasting from something. Here are a couple quick reasons why I think fasting is important for us, and therefore; why I think Lent would be a benefit:
- Fasting makes us utterly aware of our mortality. In other words, it positions us in a place of humility so that we can rightly view the divinity of King Jesus.
- Fasting helps us experience Easter in a fresh new way. Like the saying goes, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”; fasting creates a longing that results in worship of the resurrected Christ in an unexplainable way.
Fasting unveils our weakness. In our weakness we rely on something to give us strength and make us strong. The more we are reminded of our great need for Jesus, the more we are stunned with the awe of the truth of the resurrection and continue to hope for the final return of Jesus.
What Is Lent?
The church first started observing Lent to fast for a 40 day period before Easter. In the first three centuries the fast was only 2-3 days and grew over time. Lent historically/traditionally is based off of the 40 day wilderness experience of Jesus found in Mark 1:13, Luke 4 (and the other synoptic Gospels). The wilderness experience of Jesus (40 days in the wilderness) is an instant image of the Israelite wandering (40 years in the wilderness). Jesus is faithful in his wilderness wandering where the Israelites were unfaithful. So much that is rich in these comparisons as we look to Jesus who accomplishes in perfection all that we could not.
What does the word Lent mean?
It is an English word (stemming from an Anglo-Saxon word for “spring” and related to the English word “lengthen”) that refers to the penitential period preceding Easter.
What is Ash Wednesday?
In early centuries believers who found themselves stuck in persistent sin would sprinkle ashes on themselves as a sign of repentance just as Job had done in Job 42:6. Around the 10th century people began to publicly visualize their need for forgiveness and their repentance by placing ash on their foreheads in the image of the cross. Ultimately, this activity served symbolically as a public confession of forgiveness, the need for repentance, and an eager anticipation of Good Friday and Easter. The symbolism here is so rich. It reminds us of the travesty of our sin (you are dust and to dust you will return Gen 3:19) but it prepares us to receive the good news of the Gospel and forgiveness in Jesus.
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