It is Lent. Lent is a season remembering the 40 days of fasting when Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Lent refers to a period of deep meditation upon Jesus' suffering for 40 days until right before Easter Sunday. During Lent, the Saints strive to live a godly life of repentance, fasting, and prayer by thinking of the Lord's cross.
In early Christianity, during Lent season, the Christians ate simple vegetarian meals, without meats, more specifically called Lent Fare. They only ate one dinner per day, and only vegetables, fish and eggs were allowed. In the ninth century, this strict Lent regimen was somewhat eased. In modern times, fasting has been alleviated, and the church has replaced it with giving to the poor and the training of godliness. Some churches with a Reformed tradition do not keep Lent because they consider it as a Catholic tradition. But many Protestant churches are keeping Lent for 40 days before Easter because Lent is a good tradition. Our church is also encouraged to fast, pray, and live a godly life voluntarily during Lent.
As Passion Week nears during this Lenten season, one woman crosses my mind. It is the woman who broke the alabaster jar for Jesus. On the way to the cross, Jesus' heart was heavy. Because He knew how hard the way to the cross was. Because He knew how heavy the burden of the cross was. The way of the cross is a way of suffering. It is a way of pain. It is a way of grief. It is a way of tears. The way to the cross is a way that's stained with blood. The disciples did not know Jesus' heart who had to walk this very way. Only one woman knew Jesus' heart, and she broke the jar and poured it on Jesus (Matthew 26:7). Jesus was able to move firmly toward the cross with the love of this woman. This woman played a very important role in the drama of Jesus' salvation.
Foolishly, the disciples who watched the woman breaking the jar, rebuked this woman. They were indignant saying that she wasted the perfume, which could be sold at a high price and the money given to the poor (Mat 26:8). The disciples were angry, saying that offering the jar to Jesus was waste. They rebuked her saying that the beautiful and sacred devotion of love was a waste. So what is the difference between a woman who broke the jar and the disciples? The difference is in the depth of love. The disciples might also love Jesus. But the disciples did not know Jesus' heart. On the other hand, the woman who broke the jar could read Jesus' heart. The reason is that she loved Jesus deeply. Because she looked at Jesus with the eyes of love, she could see the pain in Jesus' heart.
We know how important it is to see. However, we do not see very well. When we look at an object, we tend to see what we want without seeing it as it is. We also tend to discover what we want to see. To see well, you have to empty your heart. Then you will see correctly. You need to focus on it well in order to get a good view. We often see that the professional photographers are still using the old cameras. To take a picture with an old camera, you first focus on the lens and then take a picture. The reason for focusing on the lens is not to see it better, but to see it as it is. Insight is the ability to see things as they are.
The disciples did not see the painful situation of Jesus as it was because they were obsessed with their own ambitions rather than with Jesus. Even when Jesus said that He would die on the cross, His disciples muttered to each other about who was greater (Mark 10:32-45). But the woman who broke the jar was different. She emptied herself like the jar that was broken and emptied. That's why she was able to see the pain of Jesus. This is the power of love. If you love, you will see with your heart, not with your eyes. If you love, you will see the deep pain of the object you love. Jesus saw the love and dedication of the woman who broke the jar. He saw the deep love in her tears. So He defended this woman and praised her. Love begets love. When a loving heart meets each other, we experience true comfort. In this Lenten season, I would like for us to deeply meditate on the love of the woman who broke the jar and the love of Jesus who bore the cross of suffering for us. I wish we would become like that love. May the peace of the Lord with you.
Reverend Joshua Choon-Min Kang is the senior pastor of New Life Vision Church, located in Los Angeles. This is one of the weekly letters he writes to his congregation. For the original, visit www.nlvc.org.