FRC Blog » Why “Good Friday” is so good
For many people, 2022 has started with a lot of promise. But recent developments have once again reminded us of the consequences of living in a fallen world. Over the past few weeks, the headlines have been dominated by the horrific war crimes committed against the Ukrainian people. We also learned that five fully formed babies may have been victims of illegal partial abortions or infanticide in the nation’s capital, and rising prices for gasoline and other consumer goods are forcing families to take tough decisions. A controversial confirmation from the US Supreme Court appears to have only heightened partisan political tensions.
In short, the religious, political, and cultural fault lines that divide Americans have resurfaced, and pessimism and anxiety once again cloud the optimism that many of us felt earlier in the year.
On some level, the disillusionment that many feel today is reminiscent of what Jesus’ followers must have felt on the first Good Friday. Less than a week after his triumphant arrival in Jerusalem, Jesus now lies breathless on a Roman cross while his friends watch helplessly and his enemies rejoice. The hope and triumph of Palm Sunday are but a distant memory.
Of course, those familiar with the Bible script know that Friday is not the end of the story. Easter is on the horizon. But Jesus’ resurrection is only glorious because of his obedience and faithfulness in death. Thus, it is appropriate, on Good Friday, to dwell for a moment on the horror and the pain of the crucifixion while waiting for Resurrection Sunday.
The Last Hours of Jesus
According to the New Testament, Jesus’ last week began with his euphoric entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Over the next few days, Jesus ministered to crowds of Jewish pilgrims, outmaneuvered religious leaders seeking to embarrass and entrap him, and prepared the disciples for the end of his earthly mission. By Thursday night, Judas’ plan of betrayal was in motion. After the Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus enters the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. In the shade of the olive trees, Jesus prays fervently and prepares to face the wrath of God against the sin of mankind (Luke 22:41-44).
After praying in the garden, Jesus is arrested, the disciples flee and he is brought before the Sanhedrin. After a hastily staged show trial in the middle of the night, Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of the region. After an initial interrogation, Pilate has Jesus whipped, assuming that this punishment would appease Jesus’ adversaries. But the crowd, incited by its jealous leaders, demands the crucifixion of Jesus. Reluctantly, Pilate agrees, fearing the growing commotion of the frenzied crowd.
Forced to carry his own cross, Jesus arrives at Golgotha, a public place outside the city. There he is crucified between two criminals, fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy that predicted that God’s Messiah would be “numbered among the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). For about six hours, Jesus hangs on the cross, his bloodied body in full view of all who pass by, including mocking soldiers and Jewish religious leaders. Finally, about three o’clock in the afternoon, the Son of God expires and dies (Luke 23:46). Jesus’ body is given to Joseph of Arimathea, who quickly buries Jesus in a nearby tomb.
God’s Plan of Salvation
The last hours of Jesus and his crucifixion raise questions. Why would God allow Jesus to endure so much pain and torture? How is the Bible’s teaching on the death of Jesus “good”? To answer these questions, it is important to remember what the Bible teaches about God’s heart for sinners and His plan to redeem them.
First, it is important to understand that the horrific events of Good Friday were central to God’s plan to redeem sinners. The Scriptures teach that Jesus was “delivered according to the definite purpose and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). Moreover, Jesus’ enemies did what God “predestined to happen” (Acts 4:28). The infamy and pain of crucifixion was God’s plan from the beginning. Everything that took place – the betrayal of Judas, the connivance of the Sanhedrin, the judgment of Pilate and the crucifixion itself – was the ordained means by which God worked to save sinners.
Therefore, the events of Friday must be seen in the context of God’s sovereignty; everything that happened was ordained by God. Nothing surprised God or caught him off guard. Every event, every decision, down to the smallest detail, has been orchestrated and planned. Although the actors in the story – including Pilate, the Sanhedrin and the Roman soldiers – were morally responsible for their actions, their actions took place within the framework of the sovereign determination of God.
This raises another question: if Jesus’ death was part of God’s plan to redeem sinners, why did he have to suffer so much? In other words, why was Jesus’ death so horrible?
This brings us to our second point, the terrible reality of human sin. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had a choice. Instead of obeying God, the first couple listened to Satan and disobeyed their Creator. Their rebellion had massive consequences. In theological terms, Adam and Eve’s disobedience was a sin, a flagrant violation and transgression of God’s law. As the representative head of mankind, Adam’s sin was passed on to his descendants. As the apostle Paul explains, “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5 :12).
Sin separates us from God. And we have all sinned. As Paul explains, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Moreover, because sin is such an affront to God, the consequence of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). This is what God had warned Adam and Eve of in Eden; rebellion against God would result in physical and spiritual death (Gen. 2:16-17).
Third, the reality of sin places humanity in a precarious state. God is perfect and cannot bear sin (Hab. 1:13). Therefore, if there is to be any hope for mankind, God must take the initiative and reverse the curse of sin. And amazingly, that’s exactly what He did. The Bible teaches that God is loving and does not want anyone to perish (1 Tim. 2:4). This is why Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, became incarnate (incarnated in the flesh) (Phil. 2:7). This brings us to Good Friday. Jesus lived a sinless life and died in place of sinners in sacrifice (Heb. 9:26). As Paul explains in Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The best-known Bible verse, John 3:16, teaches the same truth: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
These verses convey the heart of the gospel. By offering a perfect sacrifice for sin, Jesus removed God’s wrath toward sinners and fully satisfied God’s justice (1 John 4:10). Through his death and resurrection, Jesus overcame mankind’s separation from God and provided a way for us to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18-19).
In other words, the “good news” of Christianity is the atoning work of Jesus. Now, by repenting of sin and turning to Christ in faith, sinners can be forgiven of their sins (Rom. 10:9-10). As Paul explains, “He made him to be sin, he who knew no sin, that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In this verse and others, the Bible teaches what theologians call “penal substitution,” the idea that Christ bore the penalty of sin when he died and that in death he substituted for sinners. Those who trust in the atoning work of Christ are justified in the eyes of God, which means they are now declared righteous.
Because of Jesus’ saving work on our behalf, it is appropriate to call this dark day “good.” Good Friday is good because Jesus paid the price for our sins. Also, it’s good because he not only died in our place, but he also rose again. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, which attests to his power over death. His resurrection is what the Scriptures describe as “the firstfruits of those who slept” (1 Cor. 15:20). As Jesus was resurrected, so will his disciples when he returns.
So even as we reflect on a difficult year, Good Friday gives us perspective. If God can redeem Good Friday, with all its pain, horror and suffering, He can redeem everything, including us. For many of us, today could be gloomy. But take courage; hope is on the horizon.
Today is Friday, but Sunday is coming.