Christians have always fasted during the season of Lent. The season that begins Ash Wednesday lasts forty days, not counting Sundays, and ends on the day before Easter. These forty days represent the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, when he was tempted by Satan before beginning his earthly ministry. It’s a season of self-examination when we assess our life and priorities. In this season, we repent where needed and we fast. We repent to get right with Jesus. We fast to get to know Jesus more and more. In fasting we temporarily remind ourselves that in giving up something good, like food, we see our need for something greater — namely, Jesus and his power and love in our lives. I love this season.
As you probably know, Christians aren’t the only ones who fast. In fact, in Acts 23, Paul is testifying before the Sanhedrin and a brouhaha breaks out among the Sadducees and the Pharisees over what Paul is saying. Then verses 12-13, tell this bizarre account: The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. More than forty men were involved in this plot.”
What’s crazy in Acts 23 is not that forty people agree to murder Paul (remember these same guys were instrumental in Jesus’ crucifixion). It’s crazy that these men decided to fast food and drink until they were able to commit their evil deed. They were fasting to do something very, very wrong. What’s sad about this messy affair is that these conspirators had a greater level of commitment to do something wrong, than a lot of Christians have for doing something holy and right.
Maybe it shouldn’t shock us. You know cowardly people who expend more energy to gossip, spread lies and tear people down in person or on the internet, than true believers spend in lifting others up. I know people who give generously to causes like Planned Parenthood and animal rights, when Christians struggle to obey God in tithing. I have a writer friend who writes and re-writes his prose wanting each word to be perfect, while some pastor friends throw a few words together with little thought and call it a sermon (I assume they hope that God will somehow transform their lack of preparation into something worth hearing. Rarely does God, to the sorrow of their yawning congregations, work such a miracle). To the shame of all believers, too often non-believers are more committed to their ungodly causes than followers of Jesus are to the Gospel.
Here’s my big question as we embark on another Lenten season: Could you be inspired by the commitment level of would be murderers in Acts 23 to motivate you to raise your commitment level to Jesus today? Consider how you might draw closer to Jesus in this upcoming season of Lent. Is there anything between you and Jesus? Confess it and move on. What might you fast as you earnestly seek the Lord with all your heart? Lent is almost here. Let’s get ready!