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Why Would We Observe Lent?

Growing up in the South in years when there was a lot more etiquette in the air, I learned an important lesson about Easter — that’s the day you can begin to wear white shoes again after winter. Fortunately, my family and church taught me more crucial lessons about the holiday that marks the crux of the Christian’s life.

Crucial, crux, holiday — in these words we see even our language bowing to the essential nature of the event we remember during Lent and Easter. Good Friday is not just a day off work; it is a holy day. Easter’s resurrection could happen only after the crucifixion, and the cross is like a crossroads in our lives. Every one of us must stand at that crux, that point requiring resolution, and must choose which way we will go. The decision we make is crucial — the crisis of our lives is resolved by our turn toward either life or death. Jesus said:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24)

We reveal to ourselves and others what is important to us by the way we celebrate. Is the season before Easter mainly a hassle to get to the mall and a strain on the budget purchasing clothes, candy, cards, and groceries for a big dinner? Or is it several days or weeks of considering God’s work in our lives through Jesus, along with special activities to help us think about Jesus’death and resurrection?

Over the course of the Lenten and Easter season, we are remembering the lowest points of sin and the highest heights of what God has done for us through Jesus. Through Jesus we have the only way to the Father. That’s worth celebrating!

Jesus said . . ., “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

And yet, every year somehow, it’s so easy for Easter to slip up on us, and suddenly we’re saying, “Oh my goodness, it’s Palm Sunday already!” Let’s try to think of some ways to be prepared, to be waiting for Easter.

Although Easter is the highest celebration of the Christian’s year, it doesn’t have the fascination and thrill that surrounds Christmas. There’s a reason; the death of Jesus and our part in causing it was a very somber and tragic event. But we mustn’t avoid preparation for Easter simply because the sober, contemplative season of Lent precedes it. As with all the other special times of our year, we’ll be wise and obedient if we start by preparing our own hearts and lives. Lent offers us seven weeks for this purpose.

Lent comes from an Old English word that means lengthen, signifying that the days are getting longer because Spring is here.

Traditionally Lent is a season of sober, realistic reflection on our own lives and our need for a Savior. It is a time for turning away from anything that has kept us from God and for turning or returning to him. It is a time to pray that God renew our love for him and our dependence on him.


This post was taken from Noël Piper’s book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions (Wheaton: Crossway, 2003), 92-93. Download the entire book (PDF) for free.