What does fasting have to do with anything? Why should we take time apart before Easter? What is the purpose of Lent?
Purpose: Let’s see the value of quiet times apart for meditation and reflection on our lives.
Plan: We will look briefly at Jesus’ wilderness experience before beginning His ministry, in Mark 1:9-15.
Mark 1:10 The Dove
Why is the Holy Spirit pictured as a dove? It could mean any columbine, a dove or pigeon. At Jesus’ baptism, “He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.” (Mark 1:10) Noah sent a dove (Genesis 8:8-12) and similarly the Holy Spirit tells us if things are safe. Spiritually, we fly away on the wings of a dove to find rest (Psalm 55:6). Marital love is undefiled like a dove (Song 5:2; 6:9) and God sends His love to us in the Holy Spirit. A dove is harmless (Matthew 10:16) and the Holy Spirit brings to us no harm.
Mark 1:12 Wilderness Times
Are wilderness times good? After Jesus’ baptism, “Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.” (Mark 1:12) The Holy Spirit can also lead us into solitary places to rest and prepare us for greater events to come. Jesus had a wonderful baptism experience followed by forty days of loneliness in the Judean outback (Mark 1:12). Does Jesus’ wilderness experience teach us something about how to handle our own down times? What do we do in wilderness experiences? They are times to slow down and wait for the mighty hand of God. As God was with the Patriarchs and Jesus let’s relax and await His revelation for the next step.
Mark 1:13 Wilderness Experiences
What happened in Jesus’ wilderness experience? “He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.” (Mark 1:13) It’s like Noah’s forty days of rain, Israel’s forty years of wandering, Moses’ forty days on Sinai, forty days of scouting the Land, forty years of peace under several righteous judges, forty days of mocking by Goliath, Elijah’s forty days in the wilderness, and forty days between Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension. Many Christians follow Isaiah’s admonitions during Lent, fasting to pursue justice, set people free, share food with the hungry, house the homeless, and cover the naked (Isaiah 58).
Mark 1:15 A Near Kingdom
In Mark 1:15 Jesus announced: “the kingdom of God is at hand.” What does that mean? The kingdom of God is both future and now, both here and almost here. We allow God to change our hearts and trust His sovereignty. To gain citizenship of a country in this world, we usually need to actually live their for a while. We become citizens of heaven before we get there as we submit to His loving authority. How do we complete the journey? We need a way. Jesus is the way to heaven. When entering a new country of this world, we go through an official gate. Jesus is our gateway.
Why did Jesus say, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15)? The time of Messiah had come. What did He mean by repentance? Repent of immorality (Revelation 2:21), of impurity (2 Corinthians 12:21), and be baptized (Acts 2:38), turn to God (Acts 3:19), repent of wickedness (Acts 8:22), be zealous (Revelation 3:19), turn to God and prove repentance by our deeds (Acts 26:20), and believe (Mark 1:15), at the preaching (Matthew 12:41; Luke 11:32), repent of our deeds (Revelation 16:11) and give God glory (Revelation 16:9).
Jesus said, “Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15), not repent and keep the letter of the law. Humanity fails God’s perfect law. One year the United States government added 80,000 pages of legislation. It is impossible to keep every law. Excessive laws make us criminals and slaves (Galatians 4:21-31). Moses' law makes us sinners (Romans 5:20-21). Human law has its place in controlling evil (1 Timothy 1:8-11) but the letter of the law fails. Laws cannot cover every loophole. Where law fails, a change of heart and a belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ lead us towards the real answer (Mark 1:15).
As Jesus took 40 days for time apart to prepare for His earthly mission, let us take the forty days of Lent to rededicate our lives to God. Let quiet times apart for meditation, fasting and reflection bring us closer to God preparing us for the mission set before us this year.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Mark 1:9-15; Genesis 8:8-12; Psalm 55:6; Song 5:2; 6:9; Matthew 10:16; Isaiah 58; Revelation 2:21; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 8:22; Revelation 3:19; Acts 26:20; Mark 1:15; Matthew 12:41; Luke 11:32; Revelation 16:11; Revelation 16:9; Galatians 4:21-31; Romans 5:20-21; 1 Timothy 1:8-11