What Is Good Friday

What Is Good Friday?

John FarrellBy John Farrell10 Minutes

As a young child, I was often confused. Like a lot of kids, there were many things I didn’t understand, but I wanted to. Whether it was a complicated scientific principle, a strange rule about writing, or an unfair (in my eyes) punishment my parents doled out, nothing stymied me more than some of the things we discussed in Sunday School.

Chief among the topics that confounded me in my Sunday School classes were the scriptures we studied in our King James Version Bibles, written in its archaic style, and what was so good about Good Friday?

I’ll leave the discussion about the style of the King James Version’s language for another day and instead focus on the second issue that didn’t make sense to my elementary mind: why did we call the Friday before Easter Sunday “Good”?

When you look only at what happened to Jesus on that Friday – from a physical perspective – there is nothing good about being accused, beaten, and crucified.

They will mock him, spit on him, flog him with a whip, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again. (Mark 10:34 NLT)

What is good about someone being mocked, spat on, flogged, and killed? It doesn’t matter if you’re a child or someone in their golden years, the abuse and pain Jesus endured just doesn’t sound good. No one can deny that what happened to Jesus physically on that cross or prior to his crucifixion wasn’t good. You have to look at what his dying on the cross meant for us and at the second part of the verse (“… after three days he will rise again”) to see the “good” in Good Friday.

The Original Sin

When Adam and Eve turned their backs on God (Genesis 3), they introduced sin into the world. Since then, everyone who has lived has lived a life of sin. In the First Epistle of John, the author discusses humankind’s sinful nature: “If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts”. (1 John 1:10 NLT)

However, on the day of His crucifixion, Jesus willingly sacrificed His life so that all who believed in Him and repented of their sins would be forgiven.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. (Romans 5:6-10 NLT)

The Mockery

So what happened to Jesus on that day?

For the answer, we direct our attention to Matthew 27. In the morning, Jesus appeared before Pilate, the Roman governor, who asked Jesus if He was the king of the Jews? Jesus didn’t reply; therefore, Pilate asked the assembled crowd if he should release Jesus or Barabbas – a prisoner sentenced to die – as was the governor’s custom to free a convicted man during the Passover celebration. The crowd, convinced by Jewish priests and elders, demanded that Jesus be crucified with shouts of “Crucify him!” Pilate acquiesced stating, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” (Matthew 27:11-24 NLT)

With that, Pilate released Barabbas and turned Jesus over to the Roman soldiers to be flogged with a lead-tipped whip and crucified. (Matthew 27:26 NLT)

Before the soldiers led Jesus to Golgotha – the site of his crucifixion – they stripped Him, dressed Him in a robe, pressed a crown of thorns onto His head, placed a reed “scepter” in His right hand, and knelt before Him mockingly, proclaiming, “Hail! King of the Jews!” They spit on Him and struck Him with the reed stick. Once they were done taunting Jesus, they made Him change back into His clothes and led Him to Golgotha, which means “Place of the Skull.” (Matthew 27:27-31 NLT)

The Crucifixion

On the way to Golgotha, they met Simon of Cyrene, who helped Jesus carry the cross. Once the soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross and hoisted Him in the air to hang, they gambled for His clothes by throwing dice. They placed a sign above Jesus’ head that read: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” (Matthew 27:32-37 NLT)

While hanging on the cross, Jesus continued to be ridiculed and mocked by most everyone there – the soldiers, Jewish priests, passersby, and even the two criminals being crucified alongside him. They said such things as “He saved others, but He can’t save himself!” and “If you are the son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!” (Matthew 27:39-44 NLT)

At noon darkness covered the land. Then at three o’clock in the afternoon, after only six hours on the cross, Jesus shouted, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” This translates to: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” He yelled once again a short time later and released His spirit, passing away. (Matthew 27:45-46, 50 NLT)

At the exact moment Jesus died, three extraordinary events happened: 1. The sanctuary of the Temple was torn from top to bottom. This was not the work of humans, but instead the hand of God. 2. An earthquake shook the land opening tombs. 3. The spirits of many saints rose from the dead. (Matthew 27:51-52 NLT)

Among the crowd at Golgotha that day were several women who supported Jesus, including Mary Magdalene; Mary, Jesus’ mother; Mary, the mother of James and John; Salome; and the mother of the sons of Zebedee, depending on which Gospel you read. (Matthew 27:55-56 NLT)

Later that day, Joseph of Artimathea asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. Joseph placed Jesus’ body in his own tomb, which was newly carved from a rock. After placing Jesus in the tomb, wrapped in linens, Joseph rolled a large stone in front of the tomb’s entrance and left.

Three days later, the stone had been rolled back and Jesus had risen!

The Origins of “Good Friday”

The actual term, “Good Friday,” never appears in the Bible and its origins are unclear. However, according to an article on BBC.com, “some sources see its origins in the term ‘God’s Friday’ or Gottes Freitag, while others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag.’” The BBC article also states that Good Friday is referred by other similar names, such as “‘the Holy and Great Friday’ in the Greek liturgy, ‘Holy Friday’ in Romance Languages and Karfreitag (Sorrowful Friday) in German.’”

Regardless of what you call Good Friday, the day was wrought with humiliation and torture, yet it was one of the greatest days. On that day, Jesus’ death was a sign of God’s love for a corrupt and sin-filled world and a chance for humankind to be redeemed, forgiven, and saved:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

And that is good!

Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday provided us with a path toward redemption and salvation with God. Click the button below to learn about God’s love.