Good Friday. It's the Friday before Easter Sunday, commemorating the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified. Various religious celebrations associated with this day have arisen over the years within the Christian church. Good Friday is called “good” either because of the more ancient definition of “good” which meant “holy” or because it was considered a more reverent way to speak of what was really signified, namely “God’s Friday.”
The point of this brief article is not to discuss this history of Good Friday within Christianity, nor to debate the usefulness of various traditions associated with this day. The question I want to consider, and the question I think we all must in some way answer, is this: what is so GOOD about it? Why is what happened on the cross a good thing? Why should something so seemingly horrible be called holy? Why celebrate an event so overtly unjust, callous and cruel? What’s so GOOD about Friday?
First, what happened on that Friday was GOOD because God planned it. Although those immediately associated with Christ’s death were motivated by their own sinful and selfish desires, nevertheless, Jesus’ death on the Cross was God’s plan. His death was the reason why Jesus, the eternal Son of God, became a man in the first place. Jesus' death was God's plan. Jesus explained it this way to His disciples:
"Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again (Luke 18:31-33)."
Jesus described His death as a part of what had been previously foretold: “all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished.” And all the way through the gospels the death of Christ was portrayed as the great purpose of His coming.
John the baptizer called Jesus “the Lamb of God (John 1:29).” God's Lamb...God's plan. A lamb was killed, sacrificed, in the great Jewish celebration of the Passover. Jesus prepared His disciples for this plan, though they did not really understand it. We read in Mark 8:31 "And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again." The Old Testament prophets proclaimed this plan. Isaiah wrote over 700 years before the birth of Christ these words about Him “Because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many (Isaiah 53:12).” And all this was God’s good plan. Luke writes in Acts 2:23: "Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.” This was all done by the “determined purpose and foreknowledge of God.” The cross was not an unforeseen accident. The cross is not a cruel tragedy. The cross was no mistake. Good Friday is good because God planned it. Everything that God plans is good.
A quote to consider: “From all eternity God had predestined every detail of that event of all events [the cross]. Nothing was left to chance or the caprice of man. God had decreed when and where and how His blessed Son was to die… Not a thing occurred except as God had ordained, and all that He had ordained took place exactly as He purposed.” – AW Pink (1886 – 1952)
Second, what happened on Good Friday was GOOD because we needed it. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross was and is our only hope for salvation. We are sinners, all of us. Each one of us has enough sin to merit eternal punishment. The only reason we think otherwise is because we measure ourselves by a corrupted standard. But God measures us by the only righteous standard: His own. And according to that standard, we fall miserably short. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).” We may not like it when a doctor tells us we have some disease. Yet it is true, whether we chose to believe it or not. The same is true for God’s diagnosis of mankind. "Every one of them has turned aside; they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, No, not one (Psalm 53:3).” The Lord knows better than we do the condition of our own hearts. He says in Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" Good Friday is Good Medicine for our souls. We needed it.
According to God’s Word then, we are all “debtors.” Our sins are like money we have stolen from God and cannot repay. Every day we live this debt grows larger. Every falling short of holiness puts us further in the hole. You, according to Romans 2:5, “…in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Romans 2:5).”
We therefore needed a substitute to pay our debt. We needed Someone to stand in our place. That is what happened on the cross. That is why it was “good.” God planned the cross, and Christ submitted to the cross, to pay the price for our sins. "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).” The price we owed was offered by Christ. “He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5).” Good Friday was good because the cross was exactly what sinners like us needed.
A quote to consider: "When men talk of a little hell, it is because they think they have only a little sin, and believe in a little Saviour; it is all little together. But when you get a great sense of sin, you want a great Saviour, and feel that, if you do not have Him, you will fall into a great destruction, and suffer a great punishment at the hands of the great God.." –C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
Third, what happened on Good Friday was GOOD because it is offered to you. Jesus Christ invites you to receive the benefits of His sacrifice through faith in Him. The good news, the gospel, is about what Jesus Christ has accomplished to deliver us from our sins and the consequences of sin. And you can have it. "Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon (Isaiah 55:6-7).” Good Friday is Grace Friday. The day is a grand declaration of grace to sinners. The cross is God’s love language to man. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”
The cross is the reason for the good news. And the resurrection confirms it. Christ rose from the dead to declare, amongst other things, that His sacrifice was accepted, His death was sufficient, and His work was done. Friday was good. And Sunday was even greater. And now Christ reigns as Lord of all. "For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living." (Romans 14:9)
Dear reader, everything of any lasting value comes to you because of what happened on Good Friday. But nothing that happened on Good Friday will help you if you will not believe. How many Good Fridays have come and gone that have not been “good” for you? Will you let another Good Friday go by? Another Easter Sunday? "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul (Mark 8:36)?”
A quote to consider: “If Christ had not gone to the cross and suffered in our stead, the just for the unjust, there would not have been a spark of hope for us. There would have been a mighty gulf between ourselves and God, which no man ever could have passed.” –JC Ryle (1816 – 1900)