What is Lent?

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 28 - March 17, 2018

Grieving at the Feet of Jesus

John 11:32

“When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died,” John 11:32 

The second time that Mary shows up in the Gospels is at the raising of her brother Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44). Both Mary and her sister Martha had sent word from the town of Bethany to Jesus that their brother was sick. We are not clear on the nature of the illness nor exactly where Jesus was when he learned of Lazarus’s situation. But it turns out that he dies; more mysterious is why Jesus waited before coming to Bethany, for he didn’t arrive until Lazarus had been in a tomb for four days.

When Martha heard that Jesus was approaching the village, she went out to meet him while Mary remained in the house. When Martha reached Jesus she said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died,” (11:21). In the following dialogue she expresses the belief that her brother will rise again in the future resurrection, to which Jesus responds that “I am the resurrection and the life,” (11:25). It is at this time that Martha returns to Mary and says, “The Teacher is asking for you,” (11:28). 

When Mary—the one who sat at Jesus’ feet as a disciple—reaches him she echoes her sister’s words,” Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (No doubt these same words had been shared between the sisters over the last four days). Seeing her weeping (along with others) moved Jesus to the point that he was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled,” (11:33). These words describe Jesus as one who is angry at what sin has produced in his Father’s creation. Jesus is affected deeply, so deeply that he is shaking with grief as he bursts into tears (11:35). Here we see the “Word become flesh,” grieving over a dead friend (11:36) and for those who remain behind. He identifies with humanity: “It was in sympathy with those who wept that he also wept. He is no automaton, but a real human being” (F. F. Bruce).

While at his feet Mary would have observed her Teacher mourning when in fact he would soon bring Lazarus back to life (11:44). But at the moment in our story Mary did not know this. Rather like her, we wonder why God did not heal our loved one and spare us the agony of losing them? Did Jesus’ grief help Mary any? If we believe Jesus grieves with us in our loses, does that help? One answer is probably not at the time of the loss. To lose someone we love simply hurts. What would life be without Lazarus? At this time Mary probably felt she would never stop hurting so bad and she would never again enjoy life. She still would follow Christ, for she had come to him and fell at his feet. Even if Jesus explained to her the reason for his delay in coming, the explanation would not take the pain away. However, the reaction to her grief is the Lord’s grief and tears. Such a response would not make sense of her loss, but it would assure her that healing will come because her Teacher sympathizes with her (Hebrews 4:15). What’s more, he went through death and came back to show that though the temporary is painful (and Jesus experienced this at Lazarus’ grave) we don’t have to be trapped in grief. Likely Mary heard this from Jesus before and now learned this truth through sorrow and pain. Just how clearly Mary learned this difficult lesson is demonstrated in my next devotion. 

Great Healer, we don’t look forward to the losses that come our way, nor do we want the pain that comes with a loss. But we always look to You for the salve that covers our wounds and takes some of the pain away from our scars. In Jesus’ Name, amen.
submitted by the Reverend Dr. Richard Menninger, Retired Andrew B. Martin Professor of Religion

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