Theme or Celebration: The Significance of Sacrifice
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Today is the first Sunday of Lent.
What is Lent?
Lent lasts for 40 days.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (March 5, 2014) and ends just before Easter Sunday (April 20, 2014). [Sundays are not included in the 40-day count.]
During Lent, we think about the 40 days and nights that Jesus spent in the desert.
A few facts about what the human body can withstand:
An average person can live only 3 to 5 days without water (if he or she had no food as well).
An average person can live only 10 to 14 days without food.
Just several hours of direct sunlight can cause severe sunburn, dehydration, boils on the skin, fever chills and great pain — imagine 40 days!
There is no doubt that Jesus suffered.
Why did Jesus spend 40 days in the desert?
He [or God or both] may have been testing himself with regard to his trust in God as well as preparing himself for His ministry.
[Jesus ministry began after the 40 days and ended 3 years later.]
Near the end of the 40 days, Jesus was tempted three times by the Devil.
The three temptations are similar to temptations we face today:
- The temptation to be self-centered.
- The temptation to test or ignore God.
- The temptation to trade our religion and our principles for power or material gain.
Lent is an opportunity to reflect on Jesus, God and the world around us and our relationship to them.
Specifically, we are to think about Jesus and the suffering he endured and the sacrifices he made during his 40 days in the desert, his ministry and in his death for our salvation.
However, Lent is also a time to live and act as Jesus did, including:
- service to the poor
Speaking of fasting, the custom of not eating meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and every Friday during Lent symbolically unites people who can afford to eat meat everyday with those who cannot.
A big tradition during Lent is to give up something – something material or an activity – as a way of remembering and honoring the sacrifices that Jesus made for us. Let’s talk about giving up something for Lent.
First, let’s ask Fred what he is giving up for Lent.
Puppet Script (one puppet, Fred, interacting with the class teacher)
So Fred, what did you decide to give up for Lent, candy or soda?
No, that’s too easy. My dad asked me to give up something harder than that. So, we agreed that I would not fight with my brother during the 40 days of Lent.
Well, how is that going?
Boy, I can’t wait for Easter!
Do you think Fred understands the purpose of giving up something or making a sacrifice for Lent?
Part of the reason we give up something for Lent is to experience in a small way how hard it must have been for Jesus to give up so much to save us from our sins. Jesus could have been a famous musician or a wealthy businessman or maybe even the ruler of Israel. Instead he dedicated his life to make our lives better.
The other reason for the giving-something-up custom is to give up something that isn’t good for us, not just 40 days, but forever! Something that may even be sinful.
What are some things or habits that you as young children might give up or stop doing?