What is Lent?


2023 Lent Devotionals

Lent is a 40-day period beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter. It symbolizes the 40 days that Jesus spent wandering the desert fasting and resisting Satan’s temptation. Christians practice Lent to show discipline and penance to God. Though Lent is not mentioned in the Bible, it is a tradition long accepted in the Christian church. Sundays are not counted in Lent since the primary focus of all Sundays in the Christian faith should be the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

Lent remains a prominent part of the Christian faith. It is still characterized by sacrificing something for the Lord and focusing on spiritual growth. This includes not only fasting and prayer but partaking in new practices and acts of service that draw us closer to Christ. It is a time for Christians to repent of sin, renew their faith, and prepare to celebrate the resurrection of their Savior. It is our prayer that the words on these pages will be used by the Holy Spirit to identify changes that need to take place in our lives to draw closer to Christ. If one person’s life is opened to God’s grace in Jesus Christ then contributors to this devotional will have the greater reward.

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Day 40 - March 30, 2024

He Said I Could Come


“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” Luke 23:43

The main reason I decided on the topic of the repentant thief for Lent was a sermon clip I viewed by a well-known pastor. He was preaching on the cross when he shared that he couldn’t wait to get to heaven and interview the repentant thief. He wanted to know how this all happened by asking him, “How did you make it here!?” The pastor imagined that the receiving angel in heaven was frustrated with the thief because when he asked him on what authority he was entering paradise, the thief could only shrug his shoulders and respond, “I have no idea.” When asked by another angel if he fully understood the doctrine of justification by faith, the thief claimed ignorance. Exasperated, the second angel then asked him on what grounds he should be allowed to enter, and the thief humbly replied, “The man on the middle cross said ‘I can come.’” These words convicted me and left me no choice but to examine where my heart was concerning what Christ accomplished for me on the cross.

Jesus’ response to the thief’s request to be remembered is unforgettable: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Paradise, which means “garden of God,” is what we call heaven, the place where the souls of believers go after death to be immersed in the presence of the Lord. To the shock of the penitent thief, Jesus essentially said, “There’s been a change in plans…you’re coming with me!” Even in the thief’s state of extreme suffering, such words must have made an impression. And there was more to come.

This remarkable conversation occurred before noon when darkness came over the land and Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  (Mark 15:33-34). This cry of Jesus has been called “the most staggering sentence in the gospel record,”1 and no doubt would have frightened the thief. The most likely interpretation of Jesus’ statement is that the Son of God was experiencing the withdrawal of the Father’s presence as He became sin on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). But such a distressing experience would have been offset by what the thief heard next, as again our Lord spoke, but this time in victory: “It is finished!” (John 19:30). The anguish of feeling the loss of God’s presence is replaced by the peace and joy Jesus experienced when He realized He had completed the mission of His Father and was returning to Him, a homecoming signaled by the last words of Jesus from the cross when He again cried out: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23.46). These words would have been the prayer every Jewish girl and boy would have uttered as they went to bed: “Even on the cross Jesus died like a child falling asleep in his father’s arms.” 2  

Thus, the repentant thief, this violent rebel, had been forgiven of all his sins and then promised a place in heaven; he had been reconciled to God as he witnessed God’s wrath on His Son; he heard firsthand the words of the redeeming Christ as He completed His task as the Lamb of God; and he witnessed the peaceful death of the One who would shortly welcome him home and then rise again to life as the first fruits of the resurrection. 

There are many people associated with the events surrounding the crucifixion of our Lord, some more prominent than others. But as for me, I shall never again ignore the repentant thief on the cross, let alone downplay his importance to me for “learning again” the wonders of grace and the realization that “the man on the middle cross said I can go to heaven.”

1 William Barclay, Daily Study Bible series. Vol.2, Gospel of Matthew (Westminster Press, 1975), p. 368.
2 William Barclay, Daily Study Bible series. Gospel of Luke (Westminster Press, 1975), p. 288. 

Submitted by Dr. Rich Menninger

Prayer Loving Father, when we are asked why we are saved, may we not answer by sharing what we did; instead, may our reply simply be: Because of what He did on the cross. Amen.


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