"Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry." Matthew 4:1-2
Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, a time we set aside each year to prepare our hearts for the audacious love of God that's poured out through Christ Jesus on the cross. Christ's death and resurrection promise the defeat of death, sin, and Satan as it brings us eternal life.
Some denominations choose to sacrifice something during this season, maybe chocolate, soda, or even meat. Other churches choose to be intentional in an area to glorify God. Still, others use this time to dig into God's word to understand Him better.
In his book Written In Blood, Robert Coleman tells the story of a little boy whose sister needed a blood transfusion. She had a rare blood type which she shared with her little brother. The fact that he had recovered from the same disease two years earlier made the chances of success even better. The doctor carefully explained all this to the little boy, pointing out that his sister would die without the transfusion.
"Would you be brave and give your blood to your sister?" the doctor asked. Johnny hesitated. His lower lip began to tremble. Then he smiled and said, "Sure, for my sister." The two children were wheeled into the hospital room – Mary, pale and thin; Johnny, robust and healthy. He smiled at his sister, then watched as the blood traveled out of his body, down the clear plastic tube. Johnny's smile faded, and as he lay there feeling weak, he looked up at the doctor and said, "Doctor, when do I die?'
Johnny thought that giving his blood to his sister meant giving up his life. He was prepared to pay the price because of his great love for her. (excerpt from Written in Blood by Robert Coleman)
What a beautiful sacrifice this little boy was willing to make. Why? Simply because he loved her.
Friends, that's audacious love. Jesus has that same love for you and me. Oh, how Jesus loves us, to the point of suffering and dying for us!
Jesus's sacrifice started by departing from His throne in heaven, leaving His Father to come down to a broken world as a baby, born in the most humble circumstances.
Later, He chose to spend forty days in the desert without food or water. He was weak, hungry, and alone all that time. We know He had the power to change those circumstances. I'm sure He wanted to. (Luke 4:2) Weak as He was, He was strong enough to overcome the temptation of Satan.
Round two was a knockout to Satan; the Victory came in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
I cannot even imagine being forty days' worth of hungry and still saying no when tempted. After dinner, I ate six oreo cookies last night, and I could barely contain myself from eating more. But Jesus, in His pure and complete holiness, didn't even consider anything else. Satan lost this battle with the Messiah that day, but there would be another. (Luke 4:13)
That opportunity would come at Gethsemane. Jesus had already given up forty days of His short life and ministry to prepare to overcome temptation. Satan was there again to tempt Him to walk away from the brutality coming. And Jesus wanted to; He asked His Father to take the cup from Him. Yet once again, Jesus was strong enough to say, "But not my will, but Yours be done." (Luke 22:42) Round two was a knockout to Satan; the Victory came in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
We are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus. We know that will take sacrifice. I have been considering what that means this year. God put four words on my heart for 2022; trust, surrender, obey, and sacrifice. I am doing well with trusting and surrendering most days. But, obey is coming a bit harder. And frankly, sacrifice hasn't come at all yet. I do believe that I will be asked to sacrifice something this year, though. Although, today, I don't know what that will look like.
"Yet even now," declares the Lord, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments." Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster." – Joel 2:12-2:13 ESV
As we enter the Lenten season, are you going to sacrifice something over the next 40 days? Will you choose to be intentional with something? Or do you consider these next 40 days to be typical? I'd love to hear from you!