“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 that starts the season of Lent. Over the years I have chosen different ways to honor this season. I have given up chocolate, French fries, social media and soda. There were years that I chose to be intentional in spending exactly thirty minutes with God each of those forty days, other years I chose weekly random acts of kindness and some years I simply fasted on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. But I don’t think any of these things really brought to me understand the sacrifice Jesus made for me.
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 greater. The doctor carefully explained all this to the little boy, pointing out that without the transfusion his sister would die.
“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 travelled 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. Yet because of his great love for her he was prepared to pay the price. (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.
Oh, how Jesus loves us, to the point of suffering and dying for us! As I look at the forty days He spent in the desert, I consider that a sacrifice. Jesus has superpowers. He could have eaten, drank, left the desert or anything else he chose to. And yet, even though He must have wanted to (Luke 4:2) He was strong enough to overcome the temptation of Satan.
I cannot even imagine being forty days worth of hungry and still saying no when tempted. I ate a nutty bar last night after dinner, and could barely contain myself from eating another one. But Jesus, in His pure and complete holiness, didn’t even consider anything else. Satan didn’t give up though, although he left Jesus at that time, he was waiting for another opportunity. (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 His purpose, a brutal beating and death on the cross. Again, Jesus wins the battle.
“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
This year I want to choose an act of sacrifice that will draw me closer to Jesus, because my sacrifice will make a difference even if it’s on a small, human-minded scale. On this Ash Wednesday, I want to start the season where I will intentionaly grow closer to Jesus by admitting my many sins, being bold in prayer and making a meaningful sacrifice that will bring me to both repentance and prayer daily.