What is Lent all about?

Heribert   23rd February 2018   Comments Off on What is Lent all about?

Reading: Mark 1 vs 9 – 15

The Baptism of Jesus
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

The Temptation of Jesus
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Hello, welcome to Lent.

But what is Lent about? Is it about being miserable? Stopping doing something you like doing? Maybe a good time for some detoxing? Or losing some excess weight?

In our reading, Mark moves fast. In 7 verses he quickly captures Jesus’ baptism, 40 days in the wilderness, the death of John the Baptist and the start of his ministry the proclaiming the good news in Galilee. All that in only 128 words and 7 verses…
Matthew needs a bit longer than that: 22 verses. And Luke takes even more, but he throws in a family tree for good measure.

So it looks like Mark is taking a short cut. Quickly to the end… But the problem with short cuts is that you might miss something really important…

Did you note the following two points in our text for today?
1- (vs 10 – 12) “the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.”
So, it wasn’t Satan who brought Jesus into the wilderness, nor did Jesus go on his own account. Jesus was taken there! If you read the same story in Matthew and in Luke you read that Jesus was led by the Spirit. In Mark it is more forceful. There was no escape…
2- (vs 13) “He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on Him.”
Despite many pictures, Jesus wasn’t alone in the desert. Not even alone with Satan. He was there with the wild beasts and the angels waited on Him…

So why?

So why was Jesus in the desert? Why this temptation? Just so Satan could have a shot at Jesus? Rev Doctor George Campbell Morgan mentioned in “The Crises of the Christ” that his conviction is that if Satan could have escaped that day, he would have done so. Too direct, too risky…

A matter of Life or Death

So why then? It was all part of God’s plan. You see, Jesus was on a mission. He didn’t come to earth for fun. It was serious business. A matter of life and death! Our life – His death! And Jesus didn’t take any short cut. He was going the whole way…

If you are a soldier and you go on a mission, there is one thing that is very, very important. Preparation. And if it is a matter of life or death, you can’t take any short cuts.

Jesus in the Wilderness

During His ministry, Jesus regularly goes back to the wilderness. Do you know why?
He goes there to pray. Here are some examples…

Matthew 14:23. Jesus has been with an enormous crowd of people the whole day. More than 5000. And then we read:
After He had sent them away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone…

Mark 1:35, After healing Simon’s mother in law, people begin to bring “all who were sick or possessed”.  And then we read:
Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up and slipped out to a solitary place to pray.

Luke 3:21 After Jesus was baptised, right at the beginning of his ministry:
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as He was praying, heaven was opened,

Luke 5: 15,16 Jesus is becoming a famous figure and people come to him in droves:
Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Luke 6:12: Just before Jesus select his 12 ‘special agents’ his 12 apostles, we read:
In those days, Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and He spent the night in prayer to God.

Luke 9:28. At the end of His ministry, Jesus start to prepare his followers about what will be happening. Then one time, after speaking about His death, we read:
About eight days after Jesus had said these things, He took Peter, John, and James, and went up on a mountain to pray.

So, every time, when either the real work starts or when it all gets a bit intense, or something important happens, Jesus goes out to find a quiet place to pray. And while praying, he didn’t eat. See, that is an important part. Fasting is not a goal on its own. But a means to an end.

What about you?

So, we’re in Lent. What is Lent about? Being miserable? Stopping doing something you like doing? Or is it a good reason for some detoxing, losing some weight? Wrong, wrong, wrong.
There are books written about all the things you should or should not give up for Lent. Really? Is that what it’s all about?
Or is that what we may have made out of it. What is the focus?  I?  Me?  Myself?

Or should our focus be on Jesus, His “lent”, the preparation for a massive task, with huge implications. A difficult task, but also a task Jesus wanted to do.

A matter of life and death

You see in Hebrews 10 vs 5 it says:
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, my God.’ ”

You know, there was a job to do – as there were lives at stake, as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:21:
“God made Him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

And there was a price to be paid as Philippians 2 vs 6-8 clarifies:
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

In more familiar wording, this is summarised in John 3 vs 16:
For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.”

How will you travel to Easter?

So how about you? How will you travel to Easter?

We can do it in several ways:

  • The traditional way – To give something up
  • Or the counter-traditional way – To do something extra like taking up the Lent course
  • Or may be giving something away to somebody who can really use it, like a warm coat, a pair of shoes
  • Or share something like a cup of tea, a chat, some quality time

Maybe we can take a hint from Paul when he writes to the Corinthians:
“For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

So, if we want to follow Jesus’ example, what should we do? Jesus answers this question as people ask Him about the law, the rules the pious Jews were following. See this is what Jesus asks us to do: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and to love your neighbour as yourself.’
And if you love somebody, you have their interest at heart.

Jesus also gives us a commission, a task to complete. At the end of His ministry He tells us: …to go and make disciples of all the nations… Because that way you can give something to someone, which is meaningful and everlasting…

Prayer

So, let’s follow Jesus’ example during these 40 days and let us find a quiet place to be silent for God. Reflecting on who Jesus really was, and what He wants to mean for you. And then, if you want, you can even support your prayer with a fast.

 

 

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