What’s So Good About Good Friday?
April 2, 2021
Good Friday didn’t seem very good.
If we had been in Jerusalem on that fateful day, this is what we would have seen:
“We want Barabbas!”
Eyes swollen shut.
Back cut to ribbons.
Taunted by thieves.
Shouts of derision.
Shrieks of agony.
Nothing seemed “good” about that day.
Whatever else you might say, nothing seemed “good” about that day. That’s why it has often been called by other names, such as “Sorrowful Friday” or “Long Friday” or “Holy Friday” or “Black Friday.”
But we call it Good Friday. The name doesn’t fit what we find in the four gospels. Depending on how we read it, we might think “Black Friday” is more fitting than “Good Friday.”
We tend to look forward to Friday because it marks the start of the weekend. Sometimes we say “TGIF,” which stands for “Thank God It’s Friday.” But when we say that, we’re thinking about a holiday or a weekend where we will take a trip or attend a party or perhaps go to a ballgame.
None of those things applied to Jesus.
Good Friday was a day of extremes.
Darkness and light.
Hope and sorrow.
Evil and love.
Anger and forgiveness.
Sweet Little Jesus Boy
Tucked away in 1 Corinthians 2:8 is a little phrase that may help us understand Good Friday a bit better. Speaking of the rulers of this world, Paul says they did not understand God’s wisdom because “if they had, they wouldn’t have crucified the Lord of glory” (GW).
If they had.
Let that thought hang in the air for a moment.
If they had known . . . If they had understood . . . But they didn’t!
Pilate didn’t know who Jesus was
This means Pilate didn’t know who Jesus was. Yes, he had heard the stories, the wild rumors about healings and miracles and people brought back from the dead. You could hardly keep things like that private. The news had spread like wildfire. When you read the gospels, Pontius Pilate appears as a tortured soul—a man caught between the demands of his job and a genuine curiosity about Jesus. “What is truth?” he asked. It was not an idle question. He really wanted to know the answer.
When he washed his hands with water, he was trying to say, “I did the best I could to save this man, but I couldn’t. His blood is now on your hands.” It didn’t work. Pilate stands guilty of a terrible crime—crucifying the Lord of Glory. Exactly who he thought Jesus was, we cannot say for certain. But this much we know—he didn’t know, didn’t understand, and so he ordered him crucified.
A beloved spiritual says it this way:
Sweet little Jesus Boy,
they made you be born in a manger.
Sweet little Holy Child,
didn’t know who you were.
Didn’t know you come to save us, Lord;
to take our sins away.
Our eyes was blind, we couldn’t see,
we didn’t know it was you.
So we crucified him.
That’s what we did on the first Good Friday.
We Crucified Jesus!
Please don’t shy away from the word “we.” It would be a huge mistake to pin the death of Christ on someone else: the Romans, the Jews, the soldiers who crucified him. They all had their part to play. When Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, his audience included some who had cheered the death of Christ a few weeks earlier. He summarized the whole affair this way: “With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him” (Acts 2:23 NLT). When the early Christians prayed for God’s help during persecution, they put it this way:
We didn’t know it was you
“Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, your holy servant, whom you anointed” (Acts 4:27).
That one sentence implicates everyone—the Romans and the Jews and the whole nation of Israel. But that’s not all. In both instances, the Bible looks behind the plans of evil men to see the Lord’s hand at work:
“But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed” (Acts 2:23 NLT).
“But everything they did was determined beforehand according to your will” (Acts 4:37).
Jesus’ death was not an accident, as if it happened because events suddenly spun out of control. He died according to God’s “prearranged plan,” and he could not have died otherwise. But his death took place at the hands of “lawless men” who stand guilty before the Lord. God used the wicked deeds of wicked men who crucified the Son of God to bring salvation to the world.
Jesus died as part of God’s plan!
J. C. Ryle put it this way:
He did not die because he could not help it; he did not suffer because he could not escape. All the soldiers of Pilate’s army could not have taken him if he had not been willing to be taken. They could not have hurt a hair of his head if he had not given them permission.
Good Friday is God’s Friday
Here is the final answer to the question, What’s so good about Good Friday? It’s a good Friday because it is God’s Friday. When Jesus died on the cross, it was not some afterthought in God’s plan. Rather, his death was the plan.
“All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
If you want to go to heaven, pay attention to this verse. It begins and ends with the word “all.” One man gave his testimony this way: “I stooped down low and went in at the first ‘all.’ Then I stood up straight and walked out at the last ‘all.’” The first “all” tells us we are sinners. The last “all” tells us Christ has paid the price for our sins. Go in at the first “all” and come out at the last “all,” and you will discover the way of salvation.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
The world didn’t understand the first Good Friday because it didn’t know who Jesus was. Two thousand years have come and gone, and the world still doesn’t get it.
When God Does His Best
Let us learn from this that with God, things are not always what they seem to be. If we focus on the horrific circumstances surrounding the death of Christ, we risk losing the main point. Nothing happens by accident. Out of death comes life. Every blow that strikes the Savior fulfills God’s plan.
Dark Friday? Yes.
Suffering Friday? Yes.
Long Friday? Yes.
Things are not always what they seem to be
But it was more than that. Behind the horror of Golgotha stood the Lord in heaven who was pleased to crush his own Son for our sakes. God knew what he was doing all along.
The world thinks there is nothing so ugly as a cross. But through the miracle of divine grace, the place of execution became the emblem of God’s love.
When men do their worst, God does his best.
The hero dies for the villains.
The just dies for the unjust.
The Son dies, and we are saved.
That’s why we call it Good Friday.