What is Good Friday?
Good Friday is a Christian holiday that commemorates Jesus’ crucifixion and his death.
Jesus was accused of blasphemy after calling himself the son of God.
He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, one of his twelve apostles, and handed to the Jewish elders who sentenced him to death.
The Jewish high priests needed Rome to approve of the death sentence, so Jesus was sent to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor in Judea.
Pilate found Jesus innocent, but he let the crowds decide his fate. The angry mob shouted: “Crucify him”.
Jesus was stripped naked and crown of thorns was placed on his head. He was publicly scourged, or beaten, which left him too weak to carry his cross.
He was nailed to the cross at Golgotha, with stakes driven through his wrists and ankles. He hung there for around six hours, with an inscription above his head that read: “The King of the Jews”.
While he was on the cross Jesus spoke to his mother Mary and the disciple John. He cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?”
After his death, Jesus was placed in a tomb and arose on “the third day”, which is celebrated on Easter Sunday.
Matthew 12:40 NIV
40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Still, why call the day of Jesus’ death “Good Friday” instead of “Bad Friday” or something similar? Some Christian traditions do take this approach: in German, for example, the day is called Karfreitag, or “Sorrowful Friday.” In English, in fact, the origin of the term “Good” is debated: some believe it developed from an older name, “God’s Friday.” Regardless of the origin, the name Good Friday is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God’s plan to save his people from their sins.
In order for the good news of the gospel to have meaning for us, we first have to understand the bad news of our condition as sinful people under condemnation. The good news of deliverance only makes sense once we see how we are enslaved. Another way of saying this is that it is important to understand and distinguish between law and gospel in Scripture. We need the law first to show us how hopeless our condition is; then the gospel of Jesus’ grace comes and brings us relief and salvation.
In the same way, Good Friday is “good” because as terrible as that day was, it had to happen for us to receive the joy of Easter. The wrath of God against sin had to be poured out on Jesus, the perfect sacrificial substitute, in order for forgiveness and salvation to be poured out to the nations. Without that awful day of suffering, sorrow, and shed blood at the cross, God could not be both “just and the justifier” of those who trust in Jesus (Romans 3:26). Paradoxically, the day that seemed to be the greatest triumph of evil was actually the deathblow in God’s gloriously good plan to redeem the world from bondage.
The cross is where we see the convergence of great suffering and God’s forgiveness. Psalms 85:10 sings of a day when “righteousness and peace” will “kiss each other.” The cross of Jesus is where that occurred, where God’s demands, his righteousness, coincided with his mercy. We receive divine forgiveness, mercy, and peace because Jesus willingly took our divine punishment, the result of God’s righteousness against sin. “For the joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus endured the cross on Good Friday, knowing it led to his resurrection, our salvation, and the beginning of God’s reign of righteousness and peace.
Good Friday marks the day when wrath and mercy met at the cross. That’s why Good Friday is so dark and so Good.
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