Last week I talked about Lent a little and how through our sacrifice we join in a small way with what Jesus did. Everything about Jesus’ life on Earth was sacrifice. The moment Mary conceived Christ there was sacrifice. Mary sacrificed her place in society not knowing if she would be killed or put away quietly never daring to hope that Joseph would be moved to keep her. Jesus, of course, sacrificed all of heaven to become a man. He is baptized then immediately goes on a time of fasting and prayer in the desert for 40 days and spends the next 3 years on the road to the cross. Every word He speaks and every step He takes it towards the cross. From a literary perspective the Baptism of Christ is the climax, the point where Jesus says that he is moving to the end game that is the cross and resurrection. The garden and the cross is the emotional climax of the story driving home the actual cost of our salvation. Sacrifice is the key to it all.
Why, though, should we join together in sacrifice instead of doing it on our own? Well we should sacrifice on our own through the year so the question is flawed. Really the question is, “why should we join together in sacrifice in addition to doing it on our own?” To put it simply; because we are a community and must share in community. The Bible says we are the body of Christ and this means that we need to do some things together. Communion is for the body not just a few pieces of the body. By joining together we join in Christ. That is powerful.
There is more to it than this though. By joining in our sacrifice we find encouragement to see it through. If we make a commitment only to ourselves and God it is easy to break. That is why I have such a big problem with New Year’s resolutions, they are so easy to break.
But Jesus says to keep your fasting a secret. Actually he doesn’t. He says when you fast don’t go around looking ill and stuff so people will know just how holy you are. He is speaking about a very specific problem that he was encountering. Quite frankly I’ve seen plenty of this from the other side of the fasting/sacrifice as well. “I don’t let anyone know when I fast or what I’m fasting because I’m much too holy …” Ok people don’t say the much too holy part but we know it is there.
Listen, if you are not into the whole Lent thing that is fine. Jesus never commanded this kind of thing, but he did explicitly say you shouldn’t compare yourself to others and judge yourself to be more holy. He spend lots of time coming down against the self-righteous because no one really fits that mold except Him. I think it is better to try and understand than to condemn out of our own ignorance.