The Meaning of the Season of Lent

During the season of the Church Year known as “Lent,” our spiritual focus is directed specifically towards Jesus’ passive obedience—that part of our Savior’s work of redemption in which He suffered extreme agony of body and soul beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane and concluding with His death on the cross.  We often refer to this as Jesus’ “passion” (Acts 1:3), meaning His “suffering.”  And it is important for us not only to understand what and how He suffered, but exactly why He suffered all that He did. It was not simply to provide us with an example of patient suffering (though He also did this as well, I Peter 2:21–23).  The main reason why Christ endured all the pain and anguish that we are reminded of during the season of Lent was to save us from our sins so that we might be made the children of God and heirs of heaven who serve Him with works that are pleasing to Him. “[Our Savior Jesus Christ] gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar [special] people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).

As our Substitute, the Lord Jesus bore the guilt of all mankind. “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6); and in doing so, He also took upon Himself the punishment that we deserve for our sins.  On account of our many violations of God’s Law in thoughts, desires, words, and deeds, we have all merited the curse of everlasting damnation in hell. “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the Law to do them” (Galatians 3:10). So in addition to the intense pain inflicted upon Christ by His earthly enemies (the scourging, crucifixion, etc.), under the wrath of God He also suffered the wages of our sins, the curse of the Law, the very pains of hell itself on the cross in our place to save us from that punishment. The Scriptures tell us: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4–5).

To accomplish this great work of redeeming lost and condemned mankind, it was necessary that Christ be both true God and true an in one Person.  If He were only God and not also a true Man, He would not have been able to be afflicted with pain or to die. “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24). “A spirit hath not flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He [Christ] also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14–15).  Of course, if our Savior were only a man and not also true God, His suffering and death would not have been worth any more than any other man’s. “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: for the redemption of their soul is precious” (Psalm 49:7–8).  But since in the person of Jesus Christ the only-begotten Son of God Himself, according to His human nature, suffered the unimaginable misery of the damned for us (Matthew 27:46) and died on the cross, this was a ransom of sufficient value to pay for all of the sins of all people of all time.  “The blood of Jesus Christ His [God’s] Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:7). “We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10).

In thinking about the sufferings of Christ, to which special attention is given during the season of Lent, we should certainly be reminded about the wrath of God on account of sin in general and our own sins in particular; and this should cause us to be filled with sorrow at the thought of our many transgressions. But we should especially be reminded about the great love that God has for us unworthy creatures, as this was demonstrated by the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, to which He willingly subjected Himself in order to free us from the punishment of our sins.  And let us, as grateful Christians, reflect this love in our dealings with others. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (I John 3:16).  Jesus tells His disciples: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).  May Christ’s amazing love for us cause our love for Him and for our neighbor to grow ever stronger! Amen.

 —P. E. B.