As a boy attending a Good Friday worship service, I turned to my mother and honestly asked, “If this was the day Jesus was crucified, why do we call it ‘Good Friday’?”
That’s still a good question today.
Good Friday gets its goodness through the clarity of hindsight. When events took place that day more than 2,000 years ago, nothing seemed good about it – except to the executioners. It was a dark, depressing, dismal day. As those who had followed Him watched Jesus agonize on a crude wooden cross and die, this meant much more than losing a treasured friend. It meant the death of their cause, the dashing of hopes, the demise of a promising future they had envisioned.
Two days later, however, everything changed. As they learned about the empty tomb, and when Jesus appeared to them very much alive, the pain and grief of the preceding Friday was dispelled.
There are those who argue the resurrection is fable, a myth. The apostle Paul countered by observing: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith…. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead…so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:14-22).
Evidence is irrefutable – except for those who simply refuse to believe. Hundreds of people personally witnessed the risen Christ just days after the crucifixion. Secular historians confirmed the resurrection account. The presence of million upon millions of followers of Jesus worldwide today – even in lands where such faith is forbidden – attests to this fact. And there are countless “new creations in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17), individuals whose transformed lives defy other explanation.
Still, why is it “Good” Friday? Why celebrate such a hideous execution? The Bible gives several reasons:
Forgiveness. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Romans 5:8-9). “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Life after death. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
New life for today. “We were buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life…. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:4,11).
Is death ever a good thing, even for God? No. But when the Word that became flesh willingly went to the cross, to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind once and for all, death was defeated. "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:51).The atoning sacrifice was achieved. Our debt was paid in full. As a friend of mine liked to say, “Jesus took the rap for us.” And for that, it truly is Good Friday. It could never be better.