Lent is a season of spiritual preparation until Easter, whereby believers follow after the example of the Lord Jesus in the 40 days fasting in the wilderness [Matthew 4] where he was sorely tempted in terms of His relationship with His Father and the mission that he came to fulfil. For Christians, this is traditionally a season in which we have an extended personal “spiritual retreat” - seeking to draw near to our Lord as our “first love” [Rev 2:4]. It is a season for deliberate self-examination, where we identify and turn away from areas that had caused us to “forsake our first love” who is Christ. The sincere and honest engagement in prayer, fasting, abstinence [eg. from daily excessive practices, habits, negative attitudes etc] and deeds of vital piety and mercy [such as alms giving, visiting the sick etc] are the focal practices during the Lent season.
This season of preparation, together with the holy observation of Good Friday and Holy Saturday, will help the believer experience an emotionally and spiritually connected climatic celebration of joy on Easter day itself. This is the result of having a personal spiritual and emotional walk of preparation through 40 days journey of drawing close to God; not merely celebrating in a kind of “easy certainty” manner - made “flat” by the predictable annual repetition and routine of this most important event in our church calendar. These cause the celebration to lose its spiritual fervour and emotional impact over time!
The Lent preparation can help us understand and emotionally connect us in a deeper way to what the Lord had been, all along, telling His disappointed early disciples – that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem and be crucified on the Cross; to take the sin, guilt, shame and death of the world onto Himself – and to rise again from the dead! We can then hear and feel the words of power, hope and joy which penetrated the being of the penitent dying criminal [thief] that enabled him to face impending death with hope and certainty - “TODAY – you will be with Me in paradise” [Luke 23:43].
Until Easter happened - which was not a random miracle of the demonstration of God’s “exceedingly abundantly” amazing power, the powerful truth of “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come” [2 Corinthians 5:17] of which Paul speaks about, could not come about.
Until Easter happened – Paul would not have been able to declare - NLT Ephesians 1:19-20 – “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honour at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms”. The person, presence and power of the Holy Spirit is now with us.
Until Easter happened - we would not be comforted and assured of our loved ones who had died and preceded us into the presence of God; so that there is every reason to celebrate the traditional Easter Sunrise Service in our churches because of the words of the seen risen Christ in John’s Gospel. The living Lord had said to Mary who was mourning her dead sibling, Lazarus – “Your brother will rise again... “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever believes in me will never die.” [John 11:23, 25, 26]. He went on to declare “...Because I live, you also will live” [John 14:19].
As our churches breathe a great sigh of relief after the ending of a momentous celebration, do also remember, Easter is where it all begins. Easter is the start, not the finish, of a new story in the journey of faith. Let us be prepared for more to come...of the new creation...of “the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him” ....of “because I live, you also will live”.
God sent His son, they called Him Jesus;
He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Saviour lives!
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!
[by Bill Gaither]
Hallelujah! Christ is risen to give to us renewed life, love and happiness!