The other day I had a conversation with a friend of mine about Good Friday. “Why do they call it Good Friday? Seems like we should call it Sad Friday or Dark Friday.”
It’s a good question, and one I’ve often wondered. I always thought they should switch the names of Black Friday (when you get all the good deals) with Good Friday (when Jesus died and the sky literally went dark). Mark 15:33-34 describes it this way: “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Some Common Explanations for Good Friday
I’ve asked this question before in life. Websites like Billy Graham and Christianity Today offered the same explanation I heard growing up. Essentially, good Friday was good for us because Jesus paid the price for our sins. We couldn’t have the joy of Easter without the sorrow of Good Friday.
But this never settled quite well with me. I can understand calling Easter, “Good Sunday,” because that’s when Jesus overcame death and proved he was the Savior. But Friday was still sorrowful! Just because something is good for us doesn’t mean it was a good day for Jesus, and he is the one we’re supposed to be honoring! Furthermore, it wasn’t a good thing that he had to die. His death was only necessary because of our sin (again, not a good thing).
The BBC offers a more etymological explanation of Good Friday. “Some sources suggest that the day is ‘good’ in that it is holy, or that the phrase is a corruption of ‘God’s Friday‘.” They go on to quote Fiona MacPherson, senior editor at the Oxford English Dictionary, who said, “the adjective traditionally designates a day on (or sometimes a season in) which religious observance is held.”
That gives some interesting history, but it still doesn’t mean much for me today.
As my friend and I talked about the name of Good Friday, he made the point that Jesus didn’t exactly want to die. In Mark 14:36, Jesus pleads with his Father to take the responsibility away from him. As I pondered this idea I arrived at an answer to the question that, frankly, I think makes more sense.
The Good in Good Friday
Perhaps the name Good Friday isn’t because the actual day was good, but rather it was the day we could see, with perfect clarity, the goodness of God.
Romans 5:8 puts it this way, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Despite our sin, despite the fact that we have rebelled against God throughout our entire history, Christ was still willing to suffer for us. He gave his life, so that we might join him in eternity. Anytime we doubt God’s love for us, we can look to the cross and remember how strong his love truly is.
Not only that, but we can trust and remember his goodness when bad things happen in our life. Hebrews 2:17-18 says, “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.“
We live in a sinful world, and we know bad things happen. It would be tougher to believe in a good God if He spent all His time in eternal bliss while we suffered down here on Earth. But because Jesus came to Earth, he experienced the trials and tribulations of our Earthly life. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” He knows what we’re going through and He can help us get through it. One day He will restore all the broken things in the world.
This year, as you consider Good Friday, I hope you take some time to remember the goodness of God. No day was filled with more sorrow. At the same time, however, no day has demonstrated so much goodness and love to the world.