John Alan Turner

Writer, Theologian, Consultant, Speaker, Teacher

Lenten Reader -- Day 38

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. (Luke 23:44-45a) ----------

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:50-54)

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When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. (Luke 23:48-49)

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But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood -- to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished -- he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)

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For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance -- now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:15)

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It is good Friday. And there are a lot of good things about it. Rain falls at this time of year, sun shines and beautiful things grow.

So what draws us today to sit and think about an instrument of death? Is there not something better we could do with our day to enrich our lives?

Everything in the world (especially in the world of advertising) tells us that there are other things we could be doing to enhance our longevity, improve our lifestyles, increase our happiness. But the truth is, there comes a time in everyone’s life when we become painfully aware that these things do not bring what they promised.

We are all dying to live, but the allure of this life is always proven an illusion, one that either ebbs away or is ripped from our hands. Our health is compromised. A relationship fails. A loved one dies. The opportunity of a lifetime falls through. People betray us. And all of a sudden, the life we worked so hard to create is suddenly much less than we had hoped for.

The truth is, what draws us to the cross and to Jesus is something deep inside us that tells us that all that Jesus said was true. We were meant to live for more than these things, and the real currency that purchased our freedom is death. None of our achievements matter in light of what Jesus achieved on the day he died.

Ironically, through his death he provides us with the life we have always wanted but have never been able to attain on our own.

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Dear God, you make it so clear that none of us can save ourselves by living longer or better. If your abundant life were possible through human attainment, Jesus would not have had to die. But I know that apart from him I am incapable of truly living the life for which you created me. I cannot achieve perfection on my own. I cannot earn my salvation through clever invention or shrewd investments. I have fallen short of your goodness, your glory and your standards. My sin separates me from you, and I am in a desperate condition without the mercy and grace I find only in the cross of your Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ. I will praise you forever because in your unfailing love you had compassion on me in my helpless state. Because I trust in him, he gives me what I both need and want most: the gift of eternal life with you. In his Saving name I pray. Amen.