This Wednesday will be Ash Wednesday. It had been made popular by Mardi Gras, but the origin of this holiday is the opposite of what Mardi Gras has come to stand for.
The practice of Lent—spending the forty days before Easter to pray, fast and reflect on what Jesus has done for us—was created to be a spiritual discipline to draw us closer to heart of God the Father and God the Son. Its purpose is to cause us to meditate and begin to grasp the reality of what Jesus did for us through the events of Easter. Although I didn't grow up in a church that taught the practice of Lent, I have been spiritually enriched through following the basic principles for the past ten years. Easter Sunday has become so much more meaningful and moving to me as I purposely prepare my heart for Easter.
Traditionally the practice has called for a forty day fast of some kind, since Jesus fasted forty days in the wilderness to prepare for His ministry. This amount of time was chosen because forty days are a traditional number of preparation in the Bible. I have found fasting from something reminds me of the precious season I am in. I have also seen God’s power released in me helping me be faithful to my fast.
Whether you fast or not, I encourage you to read the gospels during the forty days before Easter. I always read the last week of Jesus’ life on earth during those forty days and it has plenty of material to cover. The parts of the gospels that contain Jesus’ last week on earth begin around Matthew 21; Mark 11, Luke 19 and John 12.
This year I have been teaching a Bible study on the Gospels and what has stood out to me the most was Jesus’ determination to die on the cross for us. Jesus was prophesied exactly what would happen to Him in Jerusalem. Yet, He didn't waver as He took each step toward His divine destiny. In fact, you can discover how Jesus felt about His journey to Jerusalem and what would happen to Him there in Matthew 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-34.
They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and said to them what was going to happen to him. We are going up to Jerusalem, he said and the son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles. Who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise. (Mark 10: 32-34)
He spoke these words during the period of time before the week of Easter. It is clear that Jesus was prepared for Easter. Will you be prepared?