Fat Tuesday is an interesting festival. The last day of Mardi Gras and the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I heard a woman on the radio talk about how she waited in line for over two hours for a single Pączki. When asked by the reporter if it was worth it, she said “you bet, and I’d do it again. And I probably will next year.” Why? Well because it was Fat Tuesday of course.
See, the day after Fat Tuesday is the first day of Lent, the season leading up to Easter, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Lent is a sacred season characterized by a traditional fast which a person may do as a way of declaring their allegiance to Christ, as a way of relating with him, as a reminder that life is about living for him. It’s all about sacrifice. It all leads to the cross, and then, to the resurrection. To life.
So people gear up. They get ready by indulging their senses and by satisfying the lust’s of their taste buds, and in many places, by indulging every lustful passion imaginable. All because the next day, Ash Wednesday, the sacrifice begins; we must be holy, we must follow Jesus, we must count the cost, we must lay down our lives, we must deny ourselves.
The imagery here is uncanny: Tomorrow I will follow Jesus wherever he goes; tomorrow. But today, the day before tomorrow, let me be. Let me take care of business. Let me indulge my lustful passions and every desire within me.
Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. [1 Corinthians 15:32]
Isn’t this human nature? Don’t we see this at every turn? Hasn’t this been going on since the dawn of time? Did not Jesus have an encounter with others who shared in this philosophy:
And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. [Matthew 8:19-23]
Did the scribe know that there was a cost to pay? He said he would follow Jesus wherever he went, but did he mean it? The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head Jesus tells him. Nowhere! Will you follow me there scribe? Will you follow me to nowhere?
There is a cost to pay to follow Jesus
Another disciple hears this and adds a qualification, I too will follow you wherever you go, but first let me go bury my father. If there is a cost to pay, let me take care of my business first. Let me do what is expected of me first. But was he really counting the cost? The cost is nothing short of your whole “self”. Every ounce of you; or will you run off the next time there are personal matters to attend to? Follow me now, count the whole cost.
Many people want to take care of business first. This is what the whole tradition of Marti Gras is all about; indulging the flesh before following Jesus. But what does this tell us about our true desires? Are we sold out for the Gospel or are we Gospel sellouts?
Remember Lot’s wife. [Luke 17:32]
Do you remember Lot’s wife? The world she knew was burning in sulfur, redemption was ahead of her, but she looked back. Just a glance. Just to see. Why is that so wrong? I just want to go and bury my father. Eat one last Pączki. One more day at the bar. One more night spent with my girlfriend. One more, one more, one more.
Just one glance. Just one look.
Why is that so wrong?
Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” [Luke 9:61-62]
Marti Gras, is about looking back. Lent is about looking forward. Marti Gras is about satisfying the lusts of the flesh, Lent is about going to the cross to crucify the flesh with its lustful passions and desires.
Lent is what the Gospel is all about, Marti Gras is what the World is all about.
Are you sold out for the Gospel, or are you a Gospel sellout?