As Easter draws near I can’t help but hear the obvious question arise in the minds of Christians and non-Christians alike: “Why is it a good Friday?”
Many historians suggest that the observance of the Good Friday happened on the Friday before Easter, which follows the Jewish Passover lunisolar calendar, and was first observed around 100 AD. It was then more formally adopted around the 4th century. It was observed by church leaders as a time of reflection on the suffering of Christ and was usually accompanied by fasting. The earliest known use of “guode Friday” was found in The South English Legendary, a text from around 1290. During the Middle Ages, only the officiating priest took communion in reverence of Good Friday on Maundy Thursday and most congregational meetings seemed to start around the 1950s.
Relatively speaking, the concept of Good Friday has been around almost since Christ’s death but hasn’t been a congregationally held service until recently. Although many Christian leaders and individuals may have done something over the centuries regarding Good Friday, this is a newer practice for the church at large.
Why does it have the name “Good Friday?” As we look back, many scholars believe it was originally termed “God’s Friday” and over the years of translation it got misinterpreted to be “Good Friday”. However, in some cultures it is referred to as “Holy Friday” and in German is known as “Sorrowful Friday.”
As we read in the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) we see the historical life of Jesus Christ. Fully man and fully God, he came to earth to teach people how to live in right relationship with God through faith in Him alone. Through his death on the cross, our sins were paid for and now we can be in right standing before God. Jesus had to die because sin produces death. There was no death in the beginning, but after Adam and Eve sinned (disobeying God’s first command) death was brought into our world.
Over the thousands of years before Jesus, a sacrifice of an animal was required to atone or cover over the sins of an individual or God’s chosen people, the Israelites. Jesus was fully God and fully man and therefore was the only one who could live a perfect life. He lived a perfect life on earth and then willingly gave up His life to be the sacrifice for us.
Since the gospels all point to Jesus being killed and then raising 3 days later, that’s where the significance of Good Friday comes in. Jesus died on Friday because we know that the Pharisees wanted the bodies on the cross to be dead prior to Passover, which was on Saturday. We know that the Jews celebrate Shabbat (Sabbath) on Saturdays and this was a very special sabbath since it was Passover. They didn’t want anyone or anything to interfere with that holy day.
It then says the next day, Sunday, the women went to the tomb to bring spices for Jesus’ body and that’s when they found the stone had rolled away and Jesus was resurrected. The significance of Good Friday is that it is the day that Jesus became the sacrifice for our sins. In Romans 3:23 we know that every one of us has sinned, and Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death. Therefore, we all deserve death as payment for our sin. Jesus’ death on the cross is the fulfillment of John 1:29 which John the Baptist says that Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! The death of Jesus allowed access to God through faith in Him and obeying His commands.
The reason it is “good” is that without it, we would not have access to God through Jesus. He was the sacrifice, He made a way, and through His suffering on the cross, His death led to life. A new life in Him! While Friday is the day we look to reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made, Easter is the fulfillment of the sacrifice and ultimately the stamp of approval on Jesus validating who He said He was. We cannot have Easter without Good Friday. There can be no resurrection without death. The power of Easter is made greater when we understand the significance of Good Friday.
For you, for me, and every other Christian, Good Friday should be a day of reflection and humble adoration to our savior. We remember the brutal death of our Lord, we reflect on the significance of His sacrifice, and we are thankful for a God who loved us so much as to send His son to die in order that we may be made righteous through belief in Him. Good Friday should almost be changed to “Great” Friday because of how truly great that day was for the world. Jesus Christ suffered and died, He became the perfect sacrifice, so that you and I may live. Maybe that’s why the gospel translates to “Good News” because that is the best news of all. The power of Easter is rooted in the events of a Good Friday, where to some it seemed like the end, but Jesus knew it was just the beginning.