As I grew up, my dad pastored a small church in downstate New York. Our building was centrally located on the village’s main road, which attracted many kids who passed through on their way home from school.
James, a boy who loved to explore the ins and outs of the neighborhood on his bike, stopped in at the village office next door to the church one afternoon a few days before Easter. He noticed a sign that read, “Closed for Good Friday.” James was puzzled. He had never heard of Good Friday before. So he parked his bike and walked inside the office to see if he could learn more about this unfamiliar holiday.
Stepping up to the village clerk’s desk, with an earnest curiosity in his voice, he said, “Good Friday, huh? So what’s so good about Friday?”
Why Do We Call It “Good”?
How would you answer James’s question? What’s so good about a day when we remember the death of the One we call our Savior? The One we placed our faith in died a brutal, humiliating death. Worst of all, His Father, the God of the universe, turned His face away as Jesus bore the sins of the world on Himself. Nothing could be worse than separation from the Father. Yet this is the state in which we are all born, distant from the Lord.
But this Friday is good because we know the ending. The bad parts of Friday were necessary to set the stage for the glory to come. Yes, Jesus was betrayed, beaten, bruised, and broken, nailed to a cross to die painfully and publicly. But without His death, we would be separated from the Father forever. Our sin condemns us to an eternity in hell apart from the Almighty God.
This Friday is good because we know the ending.
By our own efforts, we can never pay our debt of sin and find redemption, since “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Romans 3:20). Only the blood of a sinless Savior could redeem us, as “without shedding of blood there is no remission,” no forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22). But humans are inherently sinful: “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). How, then, could we be saved? What made this Friday so good?
Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
The village office clerk, Darlene, who attended our church, shared a short, helpful answer to introduce James to Good Friday. He left after hearing her explanation, but he was soon drawn back, hoping to learn more.
“So, this Jesus—He was a good guy, right?” James asked.
“Yes, he was,” Darlene replied. “He was the Son of God, and He never sinned or did anything wrong.”
“Then why did they kill Him?” James asked.
His innocent question was deeper than he realized. How could anyone choose to murder the only perfect person who ever lived?
This question has two answers: (1) Humanity is sinful, and (2) Jesus’ death was the key to God’s plan to redeem humanity. Jesus was led by human hands to the cross, where He was condemned to suffer and die.
How could anyone choose to murder the only perfect person who ever lived?
But Jesus willingly gave up His life. His death fulfilled a phenomenal amount of prophecy, from overarching truths like His identity as the Suffering Servant and Messiah (Isaiah 53) to the smaller details of lots being cast for His garments (Psalm 22:18). This was the Seed of the woman God promised would crush Satan after humanity’s very first sin (Genesis 3:15). His sacrifice was God’s plan for our redemption long before you and I first sinned.
Scripture says that “all we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). But Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid “down [His] life for the sheep” (John 10:15). This Good Shepherd is the One we remember on Good Friday, as His willful decision to lay down His life for us as the sinless “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” was our only means of salvation (1:29).
Just as God commanded the Israelites to sacrifice innocent animals to make atonement (Leviticus 17:11), we needed a perfect sacrifice, one who was human yet committed no sin. Jesus Christ is the only One who could ever fulfill these requirements. So He chose to take our sin on Himself, bearing God the Father’s wrath, so that we could have eternal life and access to the Father through Him.
His death was not the end of the story. After three days and three nights, our Savior resurrected, defeating death and rising again. He was seen by more than 500 witnesses before ascending to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, now making intercession for all who believe in Him so that we can enjoy eternal life with Him (Romans 8:34). And that’s why this day is such a Good Friday to me!
A Great Friday
James’s Good Friday question led him to attend our church. As he learned more and more about Jesus through the pages of Scripture over the next several months, he chose to put his faith in Christ to save him from his sins. Praise the Lord!
I pray that you, too, trust in Jesus the Messiah as your sinless, sacrificial Savior with whom you can enjoy eternal life because of His finished work on the cross.
That will make this Friday, a day we remember the death of the One we love most, a truly great Friday.