HOW DID THE FORTY DAYS OF LENT COME INTO BEING?
According to the Synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent forty days fasting in the desert before the beginning of His public ministry, where He endured temptation by Satan. Thus, Lent is described as being forty days long.
Therefore, as we understand it, the number forty has many Biblical references: the forty days Moses spent on Mount Sinai with God (Exodus 24:18); the forty days and nights Elijah spent walking to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8); the forty days and nights God sent rain in the great flood of Noah (Genesis 7:4); the forty years the Hebrew people wandered in the desert while traveling to the Promised Land (Numbers 14:33); the forty days Jonah gave in his prophecy of judgment to the city of Nineveh in which to repent or be destroyed (Jonah 3:4).
Jesus retreated into the wilderness, where He fasted for forty days, and was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1–2, Mark 1:12–13, Luke 4:1–2). He overcame all three of Satan’s temptations by citing scripture to the devil, at which point the devil left Him, angels ministered to Jesus, and He began His ministry. Jesus further said that His disciples should fast “when the bridegroom shall be taken from them” (Matthew 9:15), a reference to his Passion.
Now as we see it in many of the Christian churches, Lent is regarded as being forty days long, but the Sundays between Shrove Tuesday and Easter Sunday are not typically regarded as being part of Lent; thus, the date of Shrove Tuesday will typically be slightly more than forty days before Easter Sunday.