Why “Good” Friday?

BY ERICK SORENSEN

Have you ever wondered, of all the adjectives we could use to describe this day why in the world we chose the word “good?” Yeah, me too. So I did a little research (ie. Googled and Wikipedia-ed and stuff, so take this for what it’s worth), and as far as I can tell, no one really knows when that word was chosen (although some have posited that the word “good” became simply a substitute for the word “holy” which would make sense).

But still, Terrible Friday, Dreadful Friday, Dark Friday would be more appropriate names it seems to me. Sorrowful Friday as the Germans historically called it, or Long Friday as the Dutch call it, also seem acceptable. But Good Friday? I don’t know…..I mean after all, it is on this day that the world, the flesh and the Devil have their heyday. God is arrested, falsely convicted, mocked, spat upon and hit; his beard is pulled out and he is whipped with shards of glass and rock on his back. He is crucified, nails driven into his hands and feet; He even is forsaken by the Father. Why in the world would we call this “Good Friday”?

Well, I it could be because in it we see the Good Justice of God:

What do I mean here? Well the Scriptures are clear that God is perfectly, righteously Just and as such, must penalize sin. The Bible is also clear that we are basically the opposite of perfectly righteous and therefore are under the “Just” condemnation of God for being sinners. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Since none of us can make up for our falling short of the glory of God, the Just thing to do is to penalize us sinners. And the penalty according to the Scriptures is Death.

But on this day, “Good” Friday, God instead of giving us the Hell that we all justly deserve, pours out His good justice upon His Son Jesus. One of the reasons the cross happened was to display His awful, majestic, good Justice. That is why the old spiritual “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” appropriately ends each verse with the words, “Sometimes it causes me to tremble.”

But I suppose we also call it “Good” Friday because in it we see the perfection of our Savior.

We must never forget that on that cross is a sinless offering (a spotless Lamb, to use Old Testament speech) being given to God. John proclaims He is the Lamb of God who “takes away the sins of the world.” Hebrews says He was just like us, but without sin. If he had even one sin, then no matter what death he goes through on that cross, it doesn’t pay God’s justice for anyone’s sins.

When Jesus was baptized, John the Baptist was perplexed. Why would someone perfect like Jesus have to go through a baptism of repentance? John tries pushing him away, but Jesus comes at him with this explanation: “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declares He has come to “fulfill all righteousness.”

So Romans 3 says, “God redeemed us (bought us back) through Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation (an offering satisfying His wrath) by his blood, to be received by faith.”

Yes, we call this day “Good” Friday because in it we see the good mercy of God to sinners.

Romans 3:22 says, “The righteousness of God is given to us by faith in Jesus Christ. 3:24 says, “We’re justified before God by grace as a gift”. Vs. 26 says, “He therefore can be the one who justifies sinners, mercifully.”

What does all this mean? What this means is that it is on this day that both God’s good wrath and God’s good mercy kiss. He thereby maintains His justice by taking out the punishment on Christ, so that He can mercifully offer Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to us for free, simply receiving it by faith. Thus He pleads with the Father, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And in the end, when the debt has been paid, and God’s anger at the world’s injustice is satisfied, then and only then, does Jesus proclaim to the world, “It is finished.”

Robert Coleman tells the story of a traveler who looked for unusual things in the cities he visited. During a tour of a town one day, he was attracted by a remarkable spire over a public building.  Turning to see it better, he noticed, about two-thirds of the way up, a stone figure of a lamb on the wall. The man stopped a passerby, to ask if there was some significance to the lamb’s stone replica.  Told that it marked the place from which a workman lost his balance and fell while the building was under construction, the traveler inquired, “Was he killed?” “No,” said the local resident, “it was a miracle.  When his friends hurried down, expecting to find the mangled body on the pavement, there he was, shaken and badly bruised, but with hardly a bone broken. It just so happened that several lambs were on their way to slaughter, and as the mason fell, he landed on the back of one of them. The lamb was killed, of course, but his soft body broke the mason’s fall and saved his life.  The builder was so impressed with the miracle that he had the stone lamb placed there, as a lasting tribute.”

That is precisely what happened to Jesus, but it was no mere accident: In your place, He was crushed purposely.

So we call it Good Friday because He’s the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We call it Good Friday because on that cross He was crushed for our iniquities. We call it Good Friday because on that cross God made him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. We call it Good Friday because on that cross God shows His love for us in that while were still sinners Christ died for us. We call it Good Friday because on that cross we see that God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. Amen.

Erick is married to Melissa and they have 3 boys together. He earned his Master of Divinity Degree from Lutheran Brethren Seminary and has served as a Pastor in Fontana, California and Staten Island, New York. He also serves as the Chairman of Fifth Act Church Planting. In September of 2015 Erick started to plant Epiphany Lutheran Church in Manhattan.

Twitter @ErickSorensen