Bible Meaning of Lent and Purpose for Today
Lent was established initially for new Christians, those who experienced a call. They were to spend 40 days and 40 nights preparing for their baptism. If, in the end, they still wanted to follow Jesus, then on Easter Eve, they would be baptized as the sun was rising in the east, signaling the new day, the new era, inaugurated because of the Resurrection. The powerful significance for them was to prepare for their vocation as Christians the same way Jesus prepared for His vocation as the Messiah: 40 days of introspection and self-examination.
Later the church used the 40 days of Lent as a time of renewal for those who were already Christians because, at a certain point, everyone in the empire...was baptized as infants. So the time of Lent was used as a time of renewal and recommitment to the Christian life, examining our lives in light of the One we are supposed to follow. (Mark Trotter, Collected Sermons)
What is Lent Today?
Today, Lent is observed during the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. It is a time to set aside our wants and needs to come humbly and meek before God, recognizing our need for a Savior above all. Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, reminds us that we are from dust and return to dust. (Genesis 3:17-19). Ash Wednesday serves as a reminder that we will die and face the consequences of sin. The meaning and purpose of Lent are to reflect on our sinful nature and praise God for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to serve, live, and die for our sins. Lent ends on the glorious day of Easter, when we celebrate Jesus' resurrection. We are no longer cursed to the grave, but our sins are forgiven.
Lent continues into the Holy Week with Maundy Thursday and Good Friday events. Maundy Thursday commemorates the day Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples, washed their feet, and retreated to the Garden of Gethsemane for prayer. During the Passover Meal, Jesus institutes the act of Communion and remembering His sacrifice.
Good Friday is the day Jesus was crucified. It is called "good" because of the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. Without this "good" day, we would not have the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life in heaven.
Observing Lent and Its Purpose
Many choose to observe Lent with fasting and prayer. The act of fasting is simply abstaining from something to focus on something else. When we give up something, such as food, social media, or TV, we are given time to reflect on our faith and grow our relationship with God. As we sacrifice something we often turn to, we remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Fasting and prayer during Lent also symbolize the 40 days and nights Jesus fasted in the desert as the devil tempted him. Through Lent, we come to the realization of our own sin, connect with Jesus during his temptation, and experience freedom from sin through his death and resurrection.
The Old Testament and New Testament give us guidelines and examples for fasting. Whether you observe Lent with daily Scripture reflections or fasting and prayer, we have collected helpful Bible verses for remembering the sacrifice and knowing how to fast. May these Scriptures encourage your faith and strengthen your relationship with Jesus.
Use our 40-Day Devotional Guide to lead you in prayer and scripture reading through the Lenten Season!