What makes “Good Friday” so “Good”?
Jesus Christ was nailed to a cross sometime around 9:00 a.m. on the Friday of the Passover week, and he breathed his last sometime around 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon of that same day. During those roughly six hours when our Lord hung upon the cross he experienced almost inconceivable physical and psychological agony. And understandably so, for crucifixion is one of the most brutal, inhumane and cruel forms of torture ever devised by the sin-sick, twisted mind of a degenerate humanity.
But not only did our Lord experience excruciating physical and psychological agony beyond comprehension when he hung on the cross; he also experienced the spiritual agony of being forsaken by his heavenly Father. For the first (and last!) time in all eternity, God the Father turned his face away from his beloved Son, who was bearing the weight of a world’s sin upon himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). For the first time ever Christ experienced the abandonment of his heavenly Father. No wonder he cried out before his death in desperate agony, using the words of Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (ESV; see Matthew 27:46).
During those brief six hours on the cross, our Lord Jesus Christ endured an eternity of hell. Jesus literally went through hell on the cross.
The Friday on which our Lord was crucified, and which is commemorated in the traditional church calendar on the Friday before Easter, has come to be called “Good Friday”. But why is a day which involved the brutal torture of the Incarnate, sinless Son of God, described with the adjective “good”? Given the unjust and murderous crucifixion of the Son of God, what on earth makes “Good Friday” so “Good”?
The reason that the church designates the Friday on which our Lord was crucified as “Good Friday” is not because the innocent sufferings of the Lord Jesus were somehow “good” in and of themselves. (To suggest that they were would be the height of sadism.) Rather, what makes the Friday of our Lord’s crucifixion “Good” is what our Lord accomplished for us by his death upon the cross.
While many things could be mentioned as the good fruits of our Lord’s crucifixion, on this “Good Friday” 2016, I want to mention just four fruits of our Lord’s death upon the cross that make Good Friday truly “Good” for those who trust in Christ.
(1) Christ’s death upon the cross on Good Friday was the supreme demonstration of God’s amazing love for an undeserving humanity.
St. Paul the Apostle explains this in the powerful words recorded in Romans 5:6-8 – “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while were were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (ESV)
Amazing grace indeed!
(2) Christ’s death upon the cross on Good Friday secured an eternal redemption for God’s people.
As the author of Hebrews explains in Hebrews 9:11-12 – “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” (ESV) And as it goes on to say of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross in Hebrews 10:14 – “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (ESV)
The thrust of these and similar passages from Holy Scripture indicate that our Lord’s death upon the cross on Good Friday has secured an effective, eternal, all-sufficient, and once-for-all redemption from sin for all who believe upon him. That is indeed good news for those of us who know ourselves to be sinners in need of atonement for our sins! Jesus Christ provided that perfect, once-for-all atonement for our sins by his death on the cross on Good Friday!
(3) On the cross the Lord Jesus died as our Sinbearer and Substitute, thereby satisfying the righteous and holy wrath of God against our sins, and securing for us a righteous standing before our all-holy God.
In Second Corinthians 5:21 Paul the Apostle writes: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (ESV) By these words Paul does not mean that Jesus became sinful on the cross. Far from it! In fact, Jesus was the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. But Jesus took upon himself the weight of the holy wrath of God due to us for our sins when he died on the cross. God the Father placed on the shoulders of the sinless Jesus the weight of our sins, and Jesus willingly came to this earth and died on the cross in order to bear our sins. Jesus took the place of our punishment. It is we who deserved to hang on the cross! But he bore our sins and the sins of all believers in his own body on the cross, and he did this not only so that we could be freely forgiven for our sins, but also so that we could be clothed in the garment of Christ’s perfect, everlasting righteousness! This is indeed good news, and it is one of the reasons why Good Friday is so truly “Good.”
(4) By his death on the cross in his body, Christ guaranteed the redemption of our bodies at the end of this present age.
In Romans 6:3-5 we read the following: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (ESV)
It is because of our union with Christ in his death and resurrection that we will one day experience “the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23, ESV). For since we have been united with him in his death, God’s Word also promises that we shall be united with him in his resurrection. This will happen in its ultimate sense when Jesus returns in glory and raises us up from the dead to live in the new heavens and new earth, wherein righteousness dwells. This ultimate hope we have in Christ is the fruit of our Lord’s death on the cross on Good Friday.
There are many reasons why the day on which our Lord died is called “Good Friday.” May these reflections upon the significance of Good Friday deepen your faith, hope and love, and may they help to draw you ever closer to the Savior you confess, the Savior who died for you.