If anyone has seen the “Passion of the Christ,” where Jesus’ last hours are shot in agonizing detail, most would question why Good Friday has its name, or at least the thought may cross your mind while wincing over the apparent pain and lashes Jesus was experiencing. So if it’s the day Jesus brutally died, why is it called Good Friday?
Why is it called Good Friday?
Good Friday is an essential day of the year for Christians because it celebrates what we believe to be the world’s most critical day in history. On Good Friday, Jesus willingly suffered and was crucified as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, as detailed in 1 John 1:10. Biblical scholar D.A. Carson wrote that it wasn’t the nails that held Jesus to the cross. He believes it was His unqualified resolution to do His Father’s will out of love for His Father. It’s a good day because Jesus traded places for His people. It’s the day He conquered death and sin, so we’ll never be apart from God on this side of heaven or the next.
If you had asked His disciples, family and friends on the day He died, they wouldn’t call it a good day because all hope seemed lost. Death and evil seemed to have prevailed, but their responses would’ve been significantly different three days later because evil was defeated. Death was destroyed; from that point, we all have a way to be freed from death and sin.
Still, some have debated where the name Good Friday originated. Theological professor Justin Holcomb believes some Christian traditions take this approach. For example, in German, Good Friday is called Karfreitag, or “Sorrowful Friday.” In English, the origin of the word good is debated. Some think it came from an older name, “God’s Friday.” Regardless of the source, the title Good Friday is appropriate because, as terrible as it was, the suffering and death of Jesus marked the result of God’s plan to save His people from sin. It’s called Good Friday because, in Jesus’ death, He became the final sacrifice for our sins. We couldn’t have erased our sins, and our hands would forever be stained with every sin. Still, Jesus broke the bonds of sin and death.
What happened on Good Friday?
So how did Jesus die for His people? What happened on Good Friday? The Bible says Jesus’ friend and disciple Judas betrayed His whereabouts in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was arrested and taken to the house of the high priest, Caiaphas, where an informal late-night meeting of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, was taking place. They plotted to put Jesus on trial and sought evidence to justify putting Him to death, but they couldn’t find any.
Finally, Caiaphas told Jesus to tell them if He was the Son of God and the Messiah. Jesus told them He was, and they would see Him sitting at God’s right hand, coming back on the clouds of heaven. The high priest was outraged, telling the council that they had just heard His blasphemy; why do they need more witnesses? Then, the high priest asked for their verdict. The council shouted that Jesus deserved death. Then, they spat in Jesus’ face and started beating Him.
After His conviction in the mock trial, they took Him to Pontius Pilate because they didn’t have the authority to kill anyone under Roman law. They falsely accused Jesus of treason against the Roman Empire for saying He was the king of the Jews and urging people not to pay their taxes. However, Pilate knew Jesus wasn’t guilty, but the mob wanted Him crucified. So he washed his hands of it and did as the crowd asked.
In those times, crucifixion was the most brutal death for enslaved people and criminals. Jesus, the Son of God, was flogged and ordered to carry the cross He would die on. After being nailed to the cross, Jesus was given the title “King of Jews” and a crown of thorns. The cross was placed between two men who were crucified that day. The soldiers nailed Jesus on the cross, leaving Him there to die. They put a sign on the cross to mock Jesus, saying, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
Jesus hung on the cross for six hours. The Bible says darkness fell over the land when He gave up His spirit. At noon, strange things started happening. The sky went dark for three hours, and Jesus cried out, “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit,” then He died. The temple’s curtain ripped in two from top to bottom, and there was an earthquake. It was Friday afternoon, and the Sabbath started at sundown. However, it wasn’t any Sabbath during the Passover celebration, making it a unique Passover.
After Jesus’ body was removed from the cross, He was wrapped in cloth strips and laid in a tomb. Roman guards were sent to guard the grave to ensure that no one spread rumors that He wasn’t dead or stole the body. Finally, after three days, Jesus conquered death and rose from the dead.
Why do we celebrate Good Friday?
Jesus endured so much for us to become heirs of heaven. When there was no bridge, He became the bridge. Good Friday is celebrated because we know the darkness within ourselves. We’re aware of our sins and know about the things that have stained our hands. However, we know that, deep down, our actions are worthy of punishment, especially when we acknowledge God’s holy standards.
The challenge for us is that living for God requires sinless perfection, and no one is perfect. Not one, until Jesus came, not until He took our place that Friday. We need Jesus because we need to be made holy. We need a Savior because we can’t save ourselves.
Even though the Bible doesn’t tell us to celebrate Good Friday, we celebrate it and call it Good Friday because it was a good day for humanity. God showed his love for us through the sacrifice of Jesus. While we were still sinners, Jesus died for us.