Lent makes no sense to me. Never has. I don’t find Lent anywhere in the Bible; that alone is enough to tell me God doesn’t require it. However, what I don’t understand is the disproportionality of the whole idea. Most people who participate give up one facet of their life for a little over a month; I’ve heard everything from Facebook to chocolate. I’m not downplaying the importance of sacrifice for God, or saying that eliminating distractions from your spiritual life is a bad thing. This can actually be a very good thing. However, it is important to realize that nothing we can ever do can repay God, or match the immense sacrifice He made for us.
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied Himself
taking the form of a bond-servant
and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance a man,
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death,
even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:5-9).
Notice the downward trend. Sometimes it is easy for us to remember Jesus’ sacrifice of His life, but how often do we remember his former status? He was with God in the beginning (John 1:2). HE LIVED WITH GOD. As Christians we can appreciate the desire to be with God; after all, that’s what makes Heaven so appealing to us. Now imagine being with God, being in Heaven, and having to leave. As humans we can appreciate the pain of knowing what we’re missing. Can you imagine walking this earth, fully aware of how wonderful Heaven is, completely comprehending its splendor, knowing EXACTLY what you’re missing?
Not only did He leave Heaven, but he took the form of a bond-servant. He could have been a king, but He chose to be a carpenter’s son. Not only this, but He humbled Himself, both to men and to His Father. In John 13, we see He washes His disciples’ feet. Keep in mind that people in Jesus’ time either wore sandals or walked barefoot on dusty, dirty roads. A slave often washed a guest’s feet when they entered a house. Jesus took on that responsibility. Can you imagine having your feet washed by the SON OF GOD?
Christ also humbled Himself to God and his plan. Think about it– Jesus knew long before anyone else exactly what God’s earthly plan for Him was, including His impending death on the cross. Can you imagine living years of your life knowing you would die the most painful death possible? That’s exactly what Jesus did. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just hours before his arrest, He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). That is PERFECT submission.
Imagine the physical terror of the cross. Before the crucifixion was flogging; pieces of glass or broken pottery were often tied to the tails of the whip in order to rip flesh from the victim’s back. His crown of thorns was most likely made up of four to five centimeter long spikes which would have dug deep into Christ’s scalp. Crucifixion itself was invented by the Romans, and they knew better than anyone how to induce pain. Nails were most likely placed between the radius and the ulna (the two bones of the lower arm); this spot not only kept the nails in place (instead of ripping through the arm due to the weight of the body) but also was the most painful place for the thick wrought-iron nails. Clothes were taken away to violate modesty. The body was positioned on the cross such that one had to raise himself to take a breath. Once he could no longer push himself up for air, the victim would eventually suffocate. Can you imagine the intense pain, the agony? What is even more amazing is that He was there for the creation of those nerves. He had designed them with the ability to go through that much pain. Incredible.
Then you have the even greater spiritual terror of the cross. As He was slowly dying, Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). We know God cannot tolerate sin (Hab. 1:13), and Jesus bore our sins on the cross. God had to literally turn His back on His only son to carry out His plan for our salvation. Can you imagine the intense, unbearable pain on both sides? A perfect Father turning His back completely on His son; a perfect Son rejected by His Father, knowing He had not committed any of the sins He was dying for.
So often we sing the song: “He could have called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set Him free.” Do we realize how true that is? No power on earth could have kept Him on that cross against His will. Another song goes, “The nails that were used weren’t enough… Love held Him to the cross. Love held Him captive and set me free.” Nothing but Jesus’ perfect, selfless, boundless love for us could have kept Him on that cross. He loves you THAT much.
“I’m giving up Facebook for 40 days because Jesus died for me.”
It just doesn’t fit, does it? Here’s my point: Jesus doesn’t want you to give up a small part of your life for a short time during Lent. We are commanded to give up our entire life to Him when we become Christians, and that includes ALL areas of our lives.
“I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me. The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” –-Gal. 2:20
By Melissa Hite
Melissa (age 15) attends Bear Valley church of Christ with her parents, Michael and Lynn, and her little brother, Matthew. Her goals include continually growing closer to God and eventually becoming a writer and a mom. On her blog, Christ Crossed My Heart, you can find other poignant, well-written posts.