The Season of Lent is a tradition that dates back to the early Christian church and the celebration of Resurrection Sunday (Easter). It was an intensive “discipleship” instruction for new believers for 40 days (46 when including the Sabbaths). Then the newly trained Christians would be welcomed and baptized on Easter Sunday morning. This annual celebration was the birth of the Lenten season we see today. For us it became a period of remembrance, repentance and renewal. It is an opportunity to prepare our hearts for the Easter celebration by daily meditating on the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf by His death and resurrection.
This is most commonly practiced with a fast or some sort of a personal sacrifice for the duration of the 40 days. This can be a denying of ourselves from a daily practice (giving up meat, coffee, etc.) or an addition of something to your daily routine (saying the Lord’s prayer each morning, wearing a piece of jewelry, observing hours of prayer, etc.). The purpose is to remind us regularly to think of His sacrifice on our behalf.
The Season begins today with Ash Wednesday. Many will begin this observance with the tradition of ashes on their forehead. Historically, ashes are a symbol of repentance and a reminder of our humanity and our need for a Savior. Many churches have services today where people can come and receive an ash cross upon their forehead in a humble declaration of their total dependence and submission to God.
I would like you to join me on a journey through this Lenten season. This will be a daily devotion that will follow Jesus in the later part of His ministry and began to make His way toward the cross. Specifically we will use the second half of the Gospel of Mark beginning with the confession of Peter at Caesarea Philippi,
“And Jesus went on with His disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way He asked His disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they told Him, ‘John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.’ And He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered Him, ‘You are the Christ.'” – Mark 8:27-29
We begin our journey here because it is after this recognition/confession in the Gospels that Jesus begins to prepare the disciples for the road ahead and reveal to them the events that He will encounter. He gradually pulls back the curtain to the suffering and necessity of the cross.
Today, as we start, let me remind you that a clear understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus will lose its wonder and meaning if we do not know who Jesus is. Peter’s confession was revealed to Him from the Father (Matthew 16:13-17), “You are the Messiah…the Christ, The Son of the Living God!” Jesus was not just a good teacher, a prophet or the reincarnation of some “gone-by” hero. He was and is God in the flesh…the Messiah…the Savior of the world! And, because of His journey to the cross, we can be reconciled to God through faith in Him. That’s right, you can know Him personally. It begins with a realization that we are lost in our sinful condition and and through repentance we can experience eternal life. If you don’t know Him today, this first day of Lent is a great opportunity for you to take that step. If you do know Him…let’s walk the next 40 days together on the road to the cross.