This year, Ash Wednesday comes on February 26th, and it marks the beginning of the period on the church calendar called Lent.
While most Christians are familiar with Ash Wednesday—the beginning of this season of repentance and prayer that leads up to Easter Sunday—Lent itself is a term that’s not as widely known or celebrated, though it’s still popular. Most people associate it with the idea of giving something up, and it’s sometimes treated as a kind of Christian New Year’s resolution.
But the history of Lent is deeply rooted in Jesus’ journey, and its observation is biblical (even though Lent is not officially instituted in Scripture). Matthew 4 tells the story of Jesus’ time of fasting in the desert, culminating in the devil’s failed attempts to sway him from his purpose.
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Matthew 4:1)
The 40-day period of Lent commemorates the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and praying; and Christians from many different theological backgrounds choose to observe it as a way of focusing their thoughts on Jesus in preparation of Easter and the celebration of his resurrection.
Though it’s commonly observed by many Christian denominations—Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran among them—not every Christian church or denomination does so. Observing it isn’t in any way an “obligation” of the Christian faith. But it’s a good reminder of our Savior’s trials leading up to the cross and our salvation.
While many Christians think in terms of “fasting,” following Jesus’ example of spiritual preparation, many others focus on increasing their habits of Scripture reading or prayer.
Bible Gateway offers a number of ways to engage with the Bible during this time, including a Lent and Easter free reading plan that you can find and subscribe to here.
If you’re looking for something more along the lines of a Bible study series, you may be interested in our upcoming free Easter study called Walking With Christ to the Cross.