The Protestant church has a checkered history with Lent.
On the one hand, many of the earliest Protestants revolted against the forty-weekday stretch from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The Catholic Church had turned the pre-Easter season into a mandatory fast, promising spiritual merit to everyone who skipped some meals and avoided certain foods, including meat on Fridays. In response to such man-made religion, the Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli began one weekend with a sausage dinner. Since then, a host of Protestants have followed Zwingli and ditched the Lenten fast.
On the other hand, many modern Protestants have sought to reclaim the ancient practice of Lent by grounding it in the gospel. Recognizing that every church follows some calendar or set of seasonal rhythms, these Christians take advantage of the late winter to till the soil of their hearts. Like Advent, Lent becomes an opportunity to prepare room for Jesus in the overcrowded quarters of our souls.
Tremors of His Rising
Whichever side you land on, consider the coming weeks as an opportunity to maximize your Easter gladness. You don’t need to call it “Lent.” You don’t even need to fast over and above your normal practice. You just need to devote yourself to a forty-day soul feast.
If we want to make the most of this annual opportunity, we’ll do more than just give something up. We’ll silence ourselves before the Sovereign who became a servant. We’ll fasten our eyes upon him as he teaches and heals and smiles and weeps — the only upright man in a world of cracked and curved impostors. We’ll stand in awe as we hear him plead in Gethsemane. We’ll marvel as he moves from the garden to the cross, silent as a sheep going to the slaughter. We’ll adore him as he lets the nails pierce his sinless skin until it is finished.
And then, we’ll put our ears to the ground and listen for the tremors of his rising.
If we do, we might just find ourselves erupting with a deeper joy as we join the universal shout: “He is risen!”
Forty Days of Reasons
If you’d like to join us this year as we prepare our hearts to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, consider reading Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Diebetween now and Easter Sunday. In fifty short chapters, John Piper asks the simple question, Why? Why did Jesus come to die? The Bible gives more than one answer. Piper ransacks the Scriptures and finds fifty. To move through the whole book, read one chapter a day beginning on Ash Wednesday (February 14), and then two chapters a day on Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. You can download a copy of the book free of charge.
Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die
If you are looking for other ways to prepare your heart for Easter during Lent, we have two more opportunities for you. You could download or purchase Desiring God’s Holy Week reader Your Sorrow Will Turn to Joy. We trace Jesus’s steps from his entrance to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to his exit from the tomb a week later. Along the way, see him flip the temple’s tables on Holy Monday, confound the scribes on Holy Tuesday, submit to betrayal on Spy Wednesday, comfort his disciples on Maundy Thursday, drink the cup on Good Friday, and free the captives on Holy Saturday.
Solid Joys is a daily devotional for the whole year. John Piper recently recorded all 365 devotions so that you can listen each day. Subscribe to the Solid Joys podcast or email digest to hear forty days of biblically saturated meditations on God’s glory and the Christian life.
Consider the days ahead as an opportunity — as one more path you might walk to focus your scattered attention, warm your heart’s affections, and meet the risen Jesus afresh.