Lent/Liturgical Seasons/My Faith

Lent: 40 Mini-Crucifixions

It’s Lent. You know what that means; it’s time to bring your A game. You’ve poured through the blog posts. You’ve chosen what to give up. You’re ready to look that delicious dessert in the eye and say, “Get away, Satan!”

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But this time around, let’s not just stop there. Let’s delve deeper. Let’s focus on the desert before us, not the dessert.

Lent is a time to remember Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the desert, to place ourselves in His shoes, and to realize that each temptation we face over these next 40 days is a dying to oneself. Each temptation is a mini crucifixion that, although painful, leads us one step closer to the glory of Resurrection.

INTO THE DESERT

After His Baptism, before going out into the world and making fishers of men, Jesus got down to business. He fasted in desert for 40 days. Weak and hungry, the devil found Him at His lowest and tempted with three enticing offers (Matthew 4).

First, He appealed to Jesus’ intense hunger. “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” But Jesus wouldn’t give in to the devil’s invitation, regardless of how hungry He was. So Satan tried something else.

Taking Jesus to the top of the temple, he said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” But Jesus realized that to ask for proof, to put God to the test, would be to doubt His unfailing love.

Finally, the devil showed Jesus the earthly kingdoms in all their splendor. “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” “Get away, Satan!” Christ responded. Christ would rather die on the Cross for an eternal kingdom than sell His soul to Satan for an earthly one.

We remember Jesus’ faithfulness amid these temptations as we offer up sacrifices this Lent. Dying to ourselves each day, we walk side by side with Jesus as He ventures through the desert. Each temptation we face is a mini-crucifixion; but each temptation we conquer is a mini-Resurrection.

CRUCIFIXION…?

Describing our Lenten sacrifices as mini-crucifixions may seem a bit extreme, but believe it or not, one little sacrifice can work wonders to help (or hurt) our long-term commitment to God. Just look at Jesus.

Turning stones to bread doesn’t seem like that big of a scandal, right? After all, He is God; it’s within His ability. And He’s hungry! It’s been 40 days! Surely, Jesus Christ would still be our Savior. Surely, God’s big picture plan would still be enacted, even if Jesus had helped Himself to a little snack.

But here’s the catch: one yes to Satan would only escalate. That’s why we see a progression in the seriousness of the temptations the devil offers Christ. At first, it’s just a few loaves of bread. Then, he ups the ante, urging Jesus to gamble with His life, to jump off the temple to test just how much God loves Him. And finally, he gambles with salvation history, tempting Jesus to give up everything, to forget us–and forsake us.

The little things matter. Jesus knew that. For that reason, He realized that no matter how hungry He was, or how easy it would be to take the easy way out, no temptation was worth indulging.

DYING TO SELF

So how can resisting a little temptation day by day help us dedicate ourselves to God? Well, part of it is self-discipline. It’s tough; trust me, I know.

In my recent attempts to give up Facebook, I keep finding myself pausing during homework for a routine scroll… several times a day. Old habits die hard, indeed. To get out of the habit, I’ve had to rid myself of any “near occasions” of slipping up: the app, the bookmark, the email notifications. If I don’t quit cold turkey, I know I won’t quit at all.

I’ve also been tempted to find a loophole. Just the other day, my mom handed me her phone to help her tag a picture on Facebook. I figured out the “technical issues,” tagged the photo, and looked at it. “If I look at my Facebook on her account, does it count…?” Luckily I asked the question out loud. “Yes,” my mom said, and took her phone back.

Is Facebook inherently sinful? No! But reliance upon “likes” and virtual affirmation definitely threatens to lead us more to vanity than Christ.

Will Jesus hate us if we cheat? No! But, just like Christ remained steadfast with small temptations, our staying focused in the little things will help out big time in the long run.

The way we handle minor temptations this Lent will determine how we respond to big temptations. The devil works the same way as we are witnessing now: he gets you in the habit of sin, making it hard to turn away, and encourages you to look for loopholes. If we can die to ourselves these 40 days, putting God above our own desires, we’ll be better fit to take on Satan the next time he encounters us at our weakest.

THE EASY WAY OUT

It would have been so easy for Jesus to say yes to Satan. What He offered was tempting, especially given that Jesus knew the excruciating pain yet to come. But He decided that we were worth it, that He’d rather endure hunger, humiliation, and death on the Cross than take what the devil offered Him.

When we ponder our Lenten sacrifice, let’s remember His resolve. Let’s remember that had Christ said yes to loaves, He very easily could have said no to the Cross. And without the Cross, our lives — and what comes after them — would be nothing.

Let’s say no to loopholes, to the easy way out, and to our own wants and desires. In doing so, we can prepare ourselves for the bigger temptations the devil is plotting to throw our way–and ultimately resist them.

Keep up the good work. Keep up the fasting, the praying, the sacrificing. Each day matters. Each day leads you one step closer to the heart of Jesus.

I’m praying for you!

Image by Tom Haymes, CC 2.0, Logo added

About the Author

Faith Noah

I’m a college student at Vanderbilt University studying neuroscience. I’m from the great state of Texas, and my hobbies include rapping along to Twenty One Pilots, jamming out on guitar, and watching NCIS marathons. However, at the end of the day, you’ll find me either engaging in sugar-induced fits of hyperactivity or having a deep stimulating theological discussions. One extreme or the other. Fun fact: my whole name (together) is in the Bible. Hebrews 11:7. No big deal.