Ash Wednesday, because we know what’s coming
and the LORD said to him:* Pass through the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and mark an X on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the abominations practiced within it.
This verse provides the answer to the question of “why” Christians mark Ash Wednesday by the imposition of ashes on their foreheads. But we are marked by a cross. Why? Because we know what’s coming.
This is the day I think about what I know is coming.
I observe Ash Wednesday and Lent because I know Easter is coming.
Which means I know Good Friday is coming.
I know the crucifixion of Jesus is coming.
I know the trials are coming. I know the flogging and mocking of Jesus is coming. I know the crown of thorns is coming. I know it’s coming.
I know the denials by Peter are coming. I know the betrayal of Judas is coming. I know the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is coming when the disciples all fail to remain awake. I know it’s coming.
I know the Last Supper is coming. I know the footwashing is coming. I know it’s coming.
The only reason Christians spend time intentionally preparing ourselves for the events of Holy Week is because we know what’s coming.
Today is a good day to look ahead by looking back. That’s the way I think about Ash Wednesday. I look ahead to Good Friday and Easter and through the reality of God’s amazing grace I can look back at the sin which nailed him there.
Today is a day I don’t just look back on my own sin but on the reality of sin itself. I look all the way back to the Garden because I want to look all the way forward to the new heaven and the new earth. God’s redemptive story is a long one. It helps me to remember that on days like today when the world seems an uncertain and dangerous place.
I have a handful of sayings I use to preach the Gospel to myself on days like today.
One of them is “expect always the unexpected; anticipate miracles, knowing that with God all things are possible.”
I expect the unexpectedly good to happen by God’s amazing grace but I also expect the unexpectedly bad to happen because I have a sober awareness of the depth and breadth of human depravity. Sin is real and real people really sin. That’s not news but in the same way we need to remind ourselves and one another of God’s goodness, grace and very present power – we need to remind ourselves that this is NOT YET the Kingdom of our God.
As you pray today for peace – pray beyond the hope that bombs would cease to fly and soldiers turn back toward home. Pray for every human heart to be open to the possibility of the very Peace of Christ which passes all understanding. We will not have peace with God, peace with ourselves and certainly peace with one another short of the very real reign of Christ in human hearts.
On this Ash Wednesday, we know what’s coming. Let us then prepare ourselves to walk by faith with the certainty that only faith in Christ provides.