The Lenten journey includes Easter
I have often heard it said that Lent is meant to be like a journey. The Biblical background that inspires this is Jesus journeying toward the city of Jerusalem where he will be crucified and killed.
The reason we remember and think about this is that Easter is on the other side of that journey.
The time and season of Lent call us to reflect deeply about the cost Christ paid before rising from the dead. That’s why many people will give up something for Lent. The original reason for “giving up” something for Lent was to take on the cost of discipleship.
I have also often heard people suggest that it’s more beneficial to “add on” something for Lent, such as focused Bible study, deeper prayer, or some other spiritual discipline that helps us to refocus our attention on Christ.
The cross is at the center of Lent and so you find a great many devotions and devotionals that focus on the cross. I was reading one the other day about the people who were gathered around Christ’s cross. The author said that there were some types there that are still found today: “Those who want a cross without Christ,” “Those who want a Christ without a cross,” “Those who want neither Christ nor his cross” and finally, “Those who want Christ and take up the cross.” The words were definitely worth thinking about!
When I was serving at my first church, someone associated with my congregation wrote a poem and in one part asked the question: “Were you like faithless Pilate, unfaithful Judas, loyal John, timid Peter…” and on it went.
Of course, a number of you are probably familiar with the song, “Were You There?” Were you there when they crucified my Lord? There are a variety of very human responses. I’ve read about some of the great painting of the crucifixion where the artists paint themselves into the picture as someone around the cross. Rembrandt is one who did this. Were you there?
There are some interesting people around the final hours of Jesus. There are the major players like Peter who makes bold declarations about how he will follow Jesus to the end and never deny him, but he turns out to be a fickle follower. There’s John, who follows everything closely, but at a distance. There is Pontius Pilate who is every bit a politician.
Some of the characters are minor, but deeply illustrative. John 18 and Luke 22 both mention a servant of the high priest. John says his name was Malchus. Peter cuts his ear off with a sword. Luke says Jesus then heals the man’s ear. This would be Jesus’ last healing miracle before his death on the cross. Jesus shows healing compassion even at the moment of arrest. Simon of Cyrene is another minor Bible character in the Lenten drama. He is the man who happens to be one of the bystanders as Jesus passes carrying the cross. Simon is selected by the soldiers to carry Jesus’ cross for him. Maybe he wasn’t so minor after all! Were you there?
I once received a sample of a Lenten video. It opened by saying, “Lent is a time to focus on the sufferings of Jesus …” And then after a dramatic pause added, “… and beyond” as a sunrise focused onto the screen. Our journey is to Easter Sunday and the glorious happening that lies at the center of our Christian faith: the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave in conquest of death and sin.
May your Lenten journey help you reflect on and deepen your faith, and on Easter Sunday may your joy be immense!