We’ve entered the season of Lent later than usual this year, which is strange because it still feels like it snuck up on me. Maybe I believed that I had somehow found a way around this season, and I could end up at Easter without all the fuss of ashes or fasting.
There are many ways of looking at Lent, and many resources to guide you. I will continue to recommend Aaron Damiani’s introduction The Good of Giving Up, which is a clear, helpful entry point for those of us who didn’t grow up ordering our lives around a church calendar.
But I want to suggest to you an image for Lent that I have found helpful. In Lent, we journey with Jesus.
At Restoration this year, we’ve been journeying with Jesus through the gospel according to Luke. As we’ve studied this account of Jesus’ life and ministry, we’ve seen how Luke reveals Jesus as the revolutionary savior, who brings with him a kingdom that is radically good news to the poor and discarded and misunderstood—even threatening—to the rich and powerful. I’d like to take a moment to consider the texts we will talk about on Sundays and see where they lead us on this Lenten journey toward the cross.
Our first passage (March 10) found us out in the desert with Jesus. In Luke 4:1-13, Jesus departed to the wilderness after his baptism, fasted for forty days, and was tempted by the devil. As strange as this passage seems to our modern eyes, there’s an ironic familiarity to it. It’s incredibly human. Jesus faced hunger; he faced temptation. In this first passage, Jesus doesn’t require that we find meet him on some higher plane. He’s right here with us on our hard, human road.
Jesus joins us where we are but calls us to go on a hard road with him, as our next two readings (from Luke 13) remind us. He calls us to enter by the narrow door that is easily overlooked. He also levels the playing field, staying that everyone—regardless of privilege or circumstance—should repent and turn to him. This is a tough stretch of road for most of us, seeing where we’ve been led astray and learning not to rely on ourselves.
Then we hear stories from Jesus for two weeks. First we hear one of the greatest stories ever told—the story of the prodigal son from Luke 15. Really, it’s the story of two brothers: one who learned mercy the hard way and one who never thought he needed mercy at all. As always, more than finding ourselves in this story, we are called to turn our eyes to the father who embraces even the one who rejects him.
Next, we hear an ominous parable from Jesus about tenants of a vineyard (Luke 20:9-19), who decide they’d rather be in charge of things than carry out the will of the owner. It’s a story that re-tells the universal story of our descent into sin, but culminates with Jesus’ prediction of his own death. The story convicts us as we approach Palm Sunday, remembering that though Christ went willingly to his death, we are all participants in the conspiracy to kill him.
There’s nothing easy about walking with Jesus through these passages. But even in the hardest call, we hear always the invitation. The road he calls us to can’t be found and can’t be traveled on our own. We will have to cling to Jesus, trusting him to guide our steps all the way. This lent, journey with Jesus, and discover new life with him.