JOPLIN, Mo. —
Today marks the end of Lent for many Christian denominations, with Easter to be celebrated on Sunday.
Lent, of course, is the 40 days leading up to Easter as a time to search one's soul, reflect, take stock and repent.
Not many years ago I learned of the sacrifices made by a Carthage youth group toward this end, and it gave me new meaning and purpose for this holy season. The huge step of faith taken by the youngsters from Grace Episcopal Church during Lent remains etched in my memory and becomes even more vivid as Easter rolls around each year.
On Ash Wednesday, those youngsters began a 40-day fast, which ran through the day before Easter. Their goal was to give up so much in their lives to raise money for people with so little left in theirs. In this case it happened to be the people of Haiti in light of the earthquake that left their land devastated.
As I thought about the sacrifices these teens made, I realized that what they were doing was not just for a few days, or perhaps a week, but 40 days. Then I was reminded of the significance of the number 40 throughout the Bible.
- Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai with God, as recorded in Exodus 24:18.
- God made it rain for 40 days and 40 nights in the days of Noah (Genesis 7:4).
- The Hebrew people wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, traveling to the promised land (Numbers 14:33).
- Jonah, in his prophecy of judgment, gave the city of Nineveh 40 days in which to repent (Jonah 3:4).
- Elijah walked 40 days and nights to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 9:18).
- Goliath came out and challenged the Israelite army for 40 days before being killed by David (1 Samuel: 17:16).
- Jesus retreated into the wilderness where he fasted for 40 days and was tempted by the devil (Matthew: 4:1-2, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-2).
- The traditional belief is that Jesus lay for 40 hours in the tomb, which led to the 40 hours of total fast that preceded the Easter celebration in the early church.