The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday may start as early as February 6 or as late as March 10, depending on the year. Ash Wednesday occurs 46 days before Ester each year and concludes on Holy Saturday before Easter Sunday.
Lent is six weeks of solemn reflection and remembrance of Christ Jesus. The season of Lent is customarily a time of fasting and abstaining from worldly activities to repent and focus our hearts and minds on Jesus Christ's life, death, burial, resurrection, and triumph over death.
Lent can be advantageous to believers in the same way Advent prepares us for Christmas. Lent provides opportunities for Christians to strengthen their spiritual discipline together as a family. Instead of getting caught up in Easter egg hunts, Lent can help you focus on the original essence of Easter and what Jesus' sacrifice means for our redemption.
O come, let us fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, the founder, and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Gradual for Lent, based on Hebrews 12:2)
When the characters in the Passion narrative look at Jesus, what do they see? In most cases, people misunderstood who He is and what He was doing. In some cases, by faith, people recognized Him immediately. Our Lent series this year, Eyes on Jesus, focuses on Passion according to St. Mark. We will examine how the various people around Jesus viewed Him—and how we should view Him. We will "fix our eyes" on what Jesus has done to save us from our sins by His holy, precious blood and innocent sufferings and death, and celebrate what God sees on account of His work: our justification for His sake.
On Ash Wednesday, we will see how, despite Jesus' repeated predictions about His upcoming Passion, the disciples with "Misjudging Eyes" fail to recognize that soon He will not be with them. They cannot see the anonymous woman's anointing of Jesus as preparation for His burial. Jesus sees her actions as a beautiful deed that will be proclaimed throughout the world, wherever people hear the Gospel.
At our midweek service after the First Sunday of Lent, we will look through Judas's "Betraying Eyes" and learn why he did this awful deed. Yet the behind-the-scenes-reality is that Jesus was "handed over" (another way of translating the verb for "betray") by God the Father Himself so that Jesus could die for the sin of the world.
"Sleepy Eyes" is the theme for the second week of Lent. In Gethsemane, Jesus' inner circle of Peter, James, and John cannot keep their eyes open to watch and pray with Jesus for even an hour, while Jesus comes to see that His Father's will is that He drinks the cup of God's wrath when He comes to the "hour" of His suffering.
In the third week of Lent, we stare into the "Denying Eyes" of Peter and the other apostles. They could not see how they could ever fall away from Jesus. After His betrayal by Judas, ten of them flee. Peter, when spotted by a servant girl, sees that his neck is on the line. Peter sees fit to deny Jesus, which leads to his own eyes weeping in remorse. We sinners likewise deny our Lord in many ways. Instead, Jesus denies Himself to take up the cross for our salvation.
"Murderous Eyes" is the theme of week four in Lent. The chief priests and scribes saw Jesus as an obstacle to be rid of by murdering Him through the Roman judicial system. Yet during the Passover festival, they would unwittingly bring about the Father's sacrifice of the ultimate Passover Lamb.
In the fifth week of Lent, we look through the "Worldly Eyes" of Pilate, the Jewish leaders, and the Roman soldiers. Pilate can only view matters in a worldly, pragmatic way, wishing to appease the earthly Jewish leaders and crowd, so he consents to hand Jesus over for crucifixion. The soldiers see the opposite of an earthly king, but their ironic hailing of Him as "King of the Jews" proclaims who He truly is. The world looks for power and glory; God's way is suffering and the cross.s.
On Maundy Thursday, there is "More than Meets the Eye" to the Lord's Supper. We will look into the Old Testament background of the Last Supper and rejoice in the mystery that Jesus, in and with bread and wine, gives us His body and blood to deliver to us the benefits of His Passion.
On Good Friday, we look through "God's Eyes" to see what is happening during the Passion: the once-for-all atonement for the sin of the whole world and the justification of all sinners on Easter.
Finally, Easter Sunday gazes upon "Angel Eyes." The angel in the tomb knows the whole story of Jesus' resurrection. When he sees the women, he proclaims the Gospel to them, shows them where Jesus' body had formerly lain, and tells them that they can see Jesus themselves in Galilee. Likewise, the "angels" or messengers of the Church in the apostolic ministry tell God's people where they can find Jesus and His salvation in the Means of Grace.
With Eyes on Jesus as our theme this Lent, we will continuously focus on Jesus Christ and Him crucified, buried, and risen for our justification. That is a vision that will never disappoint, for by trusting in Jesus, He promises that we will gaze upon His beautiful face now by faith and forever in heaven! We would love to have you join us!
A limited number of "Eyes On Jesus" Daily Devotions for Lent and Easter authored by Lisa M. Clark and printed by Concordia Publishing House will soon be available on the table in the narthex. Get yours while they last.