I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll never forget the Good Friday I attended church with my mother when I was a boy and asked, “If Jesus was crucified on this day, why do we call it ‘Good Friday’? What’s good about it?”
Years later, I’ve learned there is a very good reason for calling the day we commemorate this week Good Friday, although when the events were unfolding, the only people who viewed it as good were the arrogant, self-righteous religious leaders. As they observed Jesus Christ hanging from the cross in excruciating pain, many of them probably were thinking – and saying – “Good riddance!”
For Jesus’ followers the day certainly didn’t seem good. Their leader was dying and they felt helpless to intervene. The cause they’d enlisted in seemed over. The day even turned into thick darkness from noon to 3 p.m. “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land” (Matthew 27:45).
Then, shortly after uttering the sorrowful words, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me,” we’re told, “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit” (Matthew 27:47-50). The cross and the nails had done their work, and the One the crowd had hailed just days before was dead.
But suddenly a bad day started turning into a good day. First, the thick veil that divided the Holy of Holies in the temple from the outer areas, restricting admittance only to the ordained priests, “was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51). This fact, often glossed over in discussions of the crucifixion, was truly a miracle. It’s said the veil was so strong teams of horses could not pull it apart. And yet, at the precise moment Jesus died, it split from the top to its bottom, symbolically removing the barrier that denied common people direct access to God.
Later it would be written, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). No longer did everyday people have to rely on a human priest to serve as their intercessor with God. There was no longer a veil or any other kind of obstacle to keep unholy mankind from humbly approaching a holy God.
A centurion, having observed the manner in which Jesus died, as well as experiencing an earthquake and other unexplainable events concurrent with His death, declared, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54).
When Jesus’ body was mercifully buried in a tomb donated by a wealthy man, Joseph from the town of Arimathea, that Friday still seemed oppressively gloomy. But by Sunday, that horrific day had transformed into a very good Friday as the implications of Christ’s death were defined by His resurrection.
Romans 5:8 declares, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Had Jesus remained dead, His body continuing to lie in repose in that tomb, He would have been nothing more than another dead prophet. But that Sunday morning, which we commemorate on Easter, the tomb had been vacated.
An angel, reassuring two women who had gone to visit the tomb, made the astounding announcement that continues to echo today: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said” (Matthew 28:5-6). Inside the tomb, the women found nothing except His burial clothes, neatly folded as if He were saying, “I don’t need these anymore.”
Because of this, unlike with leaders of every other religious movement who have died through the centuries, people who follow Jesus – commonly known as Christians – worship a risen, living Savior. And through the power of spiritual rebirth can state, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).