Tuesday, March 11th – The First Tuesday in Lent
The Season of Lent is forty weekdays long running from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. The number of days mirrors the time Jesus spent in the desert being tempted by the devil, but they also echo other important forty day periods in the Hebrew Scriptures: Moses on Mt. Sinai; Elijah on Mr. Horeb; Jonah preaching to Ninevah; Noah in the Ark; and the years Israel spent wandering in the wilderness before entering the promised land.
With these biblical events in mind, the Church set aside this time for fasting, prayer, and repentance in order to prepare for the miracle of Easter, and when appropriate, baptism at the Easter Vigil.
That’s all straightforward Sunday School teaching, a restatement of the basics of Lent. My question is this: As we prepare for the feast of Easter again this year, what about the initial followers of Jesus who witnessed the physical resurrection first hand? What was their preparation?
It is too easy to say that they had Jesus with them and that was their preparation. They often hadn’t the faintest idea of what He was talking about or pointing to or teaching during His three years of public ministry. They put all this together in hindsight, after He had risen, performed more miracles, and appeared to hundreds, according to Paul. Yes, they had intense conversations with each other hashing it all out in the Upper Room where the Last Supper was shared. They had the benefit of reflecting on all that Jesus had said and done in their midst while He was in their presence, post-resurrection. None of this, however, addresses the question of their preparation before the moment He appeared to them alive again, having died
In a classroom setting, this is where I would ask, “How do you think the disciples were prepared for the miracle of Easter?” I admit there isn’t a ‘right’ answer to this question. I do like to believe, though, that what prepared them for this event was not the prediction of Jesus that it would happen (they didn’t understand that prediction; Peter even told Him it shouldn’t happen). I think the answer is much more basic.
I think it was their sense of expectation, of wonder. No matter how sure they were of where things were headed, they were at least open enough to consider something they hadn’t planned or anticipated could happen because…because that is often God’s way. “Your ways are not My ways, says The Lord.” Somehow, in the midst of lives lived much like our own, they left room for that to be true. When their moment came, they eventually wakened to the notion that God was doing something new, something dreamed of but never before experienced.
The purpose of any discipline we adopt is to create in our hearts the same sense of wonder, of openness, to the presence of God in our lives. The disciplines don’t work on God; they work on us. We have the advantage of knowing what God has done in Jesus. Our spiritual disciplines are designed to help us know more clearly what God is doing in us.
Questions for today: Do I expect to be surprised by God? What am I doing to prepare myself for that surprise?
– Christopher Powell