When Jesus began his public ministry, it came with a test. Immediately following his baptism, he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for a time of prayer and fasting and to be tested by the Devil (Matthew 3). After 40 days, Jesus was hungry, and the Enemy subtly attacked with, “IF you are the Son of God…” The last words that Jesus heard from the Father 40 days prior were these: “a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”
The temptation we all face is the same as the one Jesus faced: forget the promise of the Father, the words that he speaks over us as dearly loved sons and daughters, and believe the lies of this world, the Enemy, and our flesh. All of those lies manifest themselves in and through sin – both the ones we commit and essence of our fleshly, sin-filled nature. Will we believe the lie about God and ourselves or will we remember his love for us through his Son?
In the traditional rhythm of the Church calendar, Lent comes annually as a reminder of Christ’s temptation and defeat of the Evil One and our own need for the victory of Christ over sin and death. Alongside Christians the world over, we begin with Ash Wednesday and journey for 40 days to the cross of Christ on Good Friday and his victory on Easter, or Resurrection Sunday.
Lent is season of repentance and contrition where the people of God choose to put on humility, much as Christ did in becoming one of us, and confess our sins and brokenness. We look intently into the mirror and pray with King David,
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:10–12)
While we embrace our frailty as humans, we recognize and celebrate the goodness of Christ in coming to deal with sin in the way that only he could. We give thanks, we pray, we fast and we lean heavily on him who promises that his grace is perfectly sufficient for all of our weaknesses.