And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them… (Mt 20.17—reading for today from the St James Devotional Guide)That’s where I’m headed, too, this and every Lent—to Jerusalem and what awaits there. Jesus uses the forty day disciplines of Holy Lent to take me aside just as he did the disciples all those years ago. On the way he will speak to me.
Why forty? Perhaps because I’m slow or I need to soak that long. Perhaps because forty days is just enough; enough rain to flood Noah’s world, enough etching time for Moses and Ten Commandments on stone tablets, enough wilderness tempting time to build the necessary spiritual muscle for Jesus. Some think the number 40 symbolizes a period of testing, trial or probation in the Bible. I can see how God might think I need that regularly. Perhaps there are death dealing things I’ve allowed to grow in me that need to be thoroughly rained on and drowned by living water, new things that need to be etched onto the tablet of my heart. Perhaps I need forty days worth of spiritual muscle building or reconditioning. Perhaps it was just the best number—the original top forty—because forty-one days would be one too many and thirty-nine days would be one too few (what does that say about our Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles?…but I digress.). Perhaps forty days are like the tithe—enough to notice, requiring some sacrifice, but doable.