For Christians, Lent is a 40-day period of preparation leading up to Easter (excluding Sundays).
Easter is the main event of the Christian faith—the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Although Lent isn’t mentioned in the Bible, Christians have historically used it as a time of spiritual focus and strengthening as they prepare to celebrate the event that changed everything.
The number 40 isn’t random either. It comes up frequently in the Bible. Here are a few major examples:
- It rained for 40 days and nights during the great flood that wiped out wickedness from the earth
- Moses was on the mountain of God for 40 days and nights
- The Hebrews wandered in the wilderness for 40 years
- Prior to his temptation by Satan, Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights in the wilderness
As a side note, isn’t it interesting that a full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks?
Forty is period of preparation for something new—something new in God’s purposes.
This can be a helpful way for us to think about Lent today. It is a time of preparation for something new as we seek spiritual renewal for God’s purposes.
A ‘Discipleship Manual’ for Lent
To help accomplish this, many people take on different practices during Lent. Some “give up something,” a practice often connected with fasting. Others adopt a new practice or habit. For those who would like to do this, here’s what I suggest:
In Matthew’s Gospel, there are five “discourses.” These are teachings of Jesus. I’ve heard them called a “discipleship manual.” Although they don’t cover everything, they certainly cover a lot of things.
Here they are:
1. The Sermon the Mount (Matthew 5-7)
This is perhaps Jesus’ most famous sermon. It includes the Beatitudes, and teachings about being salt and light, loving our enemies, prayer, and not worrying, to name a few.
2. The Sending of the Disciples (Matthew 10)
This chapter is about sending the disciples to “the lost sheep of Israel” to teach, heal, and engage in spiritual warfare.
3. The Parables of the Kingdom (Matthew 13)
This collection of teachings centre on what “the kingdom of heaven is like,” and includes the parable of the sower and the parable of the hidden treasure.
4. Instructions for the Church (Matthew 18-20)
These chapters focus on behaviour among fellow Christians.
5. The Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25)
In these last two chapters, Jesus teaches about the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, the end times, and being ready for judgment and the return of Christ. The reason it’s called “The Olivet Discourse” is because chapter 24 begins with Jesus on the Mount of Olives.
My suggestion is to read these passages for Lent. Read a chapter or two per day. Ask God what he wants you to learn from them. Draw nearer to God through the voice of Jesus.
When you finish, go back to the start and read them again. Continue this until you get to Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter, beginning with Palm Sunday).
If you want to use Holy Week to focus on the Easter story itself, here’s what I suggest:
- Maundy Thursday: John 13-14
- Good Friday: John 18-19
- Holy Saturday: Isaiah 42:1-4; Isaiah 49:1-6; Isaiah 50:4-9; Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (these are the four ‘Servant Songs’ of Isaiah—prophecies that would be fulfilled in Jesus hundreds of years after they were written)
- Easter Sunday: John 20
My sheep listen to my voice
I truly believe that you’re more likely to hear God speaking if you’re listening. In John 10:27 Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Are we listening to his voice as recorded in Scripture? Use Lent to tune in to the voice of Jesus.
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