What is Lent? In the Christian calendar, it is a period commencing from Ash Wednesday and culminating on Easter Sunday. This is the solemn season in which Christians reflect on the suffering and death of Christ. Many churches practice the imposition of ash on the forehead of the believers as a reminder that “we are dust and to dust we return”. Some churches don’t practice the imposition but they encourage the faithful to observe the lent through meditation, prayers and bible reading. Palm Sunday is the Lord’s Day immediately before the Easter Sunday. It is the celebration of Christ’s triumphal entry to Jerusalem and the beginning of the holy week. This event is described in all four books of the Gospel, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Maundy Thursday is the commemoration of the Last Supper in which Jesus had the last meal with His disciples following the washing of their feet. It was also at this time when Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ disciples, betrayed Him in exchange of thirty pieces of silver coins. Good Friday marks the crucifixion and death of Christ. Easter Sunday is the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead – victory over death and sin. It is a signal for a new beginning.
Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day…” Luke 24 vs. 26
Why was it necessary for Jesus to suffer and die? The fact of the matter is that we are sinners. It doesn’t matter how big or small our sin is. Sin is a sin. It harms us in many ways. It destroys our worth. It corrupts us even more. It harms our relationship with God who created us in His image. It offends our holy God. Because of our sins we are separated from God. Nothing, by our own power and ability, can restore that broken relationship with God. There is no amount of human kindness or goodness that can remove our guilt. And for one, we really didn’t care about being separated from God. That is how calloused we have become as a result of our sins.
But our God is a loving God who does not want us to remain in this hopeless condition. He took the initiative to save us. While it is humanly impossible to be saved from sin and the penalty of it, God provided the only way, Jesus Christ.
Jesus died on the cross fulfilling the righteous requirements of the Law to remove our sins, to appease God’s holy indignation, to satisfy God’s just requirements to release us from condemnation. It is the moment in which Jesus opened for us the way to God’s holy throne through his atoning death by willingly giving up his life and shedding His blood for us – a sufficient sacrifice once and for all. He declared on the cross “It is finished!”, meaning, the transaction to release us from the captivity from sin is done with. Who can match that show of love? Regardless of the gravity of our sins, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” John 3 :16
All that God requires us to do now is to acknowledge that we have sinned and ask for His forgiveness and trust Him for our salvation by opening our hearts to Him. There is no need to inflict pain on our body. No need to try hard to earn God’s favor by our own moral standards. God’s salvation is a free gift that we must receive. The meaning of Lent is God’s abundant grace made available to you and me.
This is why Lent always ends with celebration. It is a celebration of our new life and restored fellowship with our Creator.