Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday are all liturgical celebrations that occur in the spring and overlap with Easter. Each one is unique in its emphasis, yet they all center on Jesus and his atoning work. Good Friday might have a more solemn atmosphere than Easter or Palm Sunday. What is the real meaning of Good Friday in the Bible?
In Christian tradition, Good Friday is the Friday before Easter Sunday. Christians all throughout the world use this day as a time to reflect on Jesus’s “passion,” or suffering, and death on the cross. On this day, Christians around the world fast, pray, repent, and reflect on Christ’s death and suffering.
What Is Good Friday?
Have you ever pondered the meaning of the word “good” in “Good Friday?” After all, we remember the day that our Lord, the King of the Jews and Savior, was brutally tortured and killed.
Good Friday is one of the most significant days in the Christian calendar because it highlights the magnitude of our need for a Savior and the amazing depths to which he went in serving us, even unto death (Philippians 2:8).
To those who are unfamiliar with the significance of Good Friday, Jesus died for the sins of the world more than two millennia ago. The events began with Jesus’ entry into the holy city of Jerusalem at the start of Holy Week.
Around the middle of the week, Jesus’ follower Judas Iscariot made the decision to betray him to the authorities in the temple. A number of Jesus’ assertions concerning his deity and as the son of God had proved disturbing to the chief priests (John 8:48–59). They considered his words to be blasphemous and sought to have him executed.
Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane after eating the Last Supper with his disciples (Matthew 26:36–56). There, under the direction of Judas, a mob takes Jesus into custody. When Jesus is put on trial, it’s late at night, which isn’t standard procedure. Pretending witnesses have trouble telling the story right (Luke 22). Christ is given to the Jews, nonetheless, after he has been tortured. They demand his death (Luke 23:21).
Jesus was given the Roman punishment by Pontius Pilate—the Roman governor of crucifixion—for his crimes and was made to climb a hill while wearing a crown of thorns while carrying his cross. He is crucified on Golgotha as passers-by hurl insults at him from the road (Luke 23).
For six hours, Jesus hung helplessly on the cross. There was darkness over the land during the last three hours of his life on the cross, from noon to 3 p.m. Jesus’ last words were said from the cross, and they were a quote from Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus cried out a final time, and then Jesus gave up his spirit. And so he dies.
Jesus’s death is confirmed by a knife wound on Jesus’ body from Roman soldiers (John 19:32–34), and he is taken down from the cross. In addition, Joseph of Arimathea gets Jesus’ tomb prepared (Matthew 27:57). He was given the coffin treatment, with rags covering him and the tomb.
The day Jesus Christ, our Savior, made an ultimate sacrifice is commemorated on Good Friday. Despite leading a faultless life, he pays the price for the sins of mankind by sacrificing himself on the cross in the hopes that we could find salvation in him and only in him through his resurrection on Easter (John 3:16).
David E. Embree, director of Christian Campus House and professor in Missouri State University’s religious studies department, adds that “Good Friday is the Friday before Easter and it’s about remembering the judgment, crucifixion, and death of Jesus Christ at Calvary.”
Christians believe that Jesus’ death on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice for sin, and thus they set aside time to remember and reflect on that event. Christians, according to Embree’s explanation, consider Good Friday to have been pivotal in paving the way for humanity’s eventual reconciliation with God.
Why Is It Called “Good Friday”?
As Christians, we hold Good Friday to be the single most important day in history, and as such, we observe it with great solemnity and fervor every year. Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross on Good Friday is the perfect atonement for our sins (1 John 1:10).
D.A. According to Carson, “it was not nails that held Jesus to that wretched cross; it was his unqualified resolution, out of love for his Father to do his Father’s will—and it was his love for sinners like me.” Today is a good day because Jesus, the son of God, took the punishment that was due to him in order to save sinners like you and me. It’s a happy day because, on that day, Christ overcame sin and death, ensuring that we’ll never be separated from God, either in this life or the next.
On the day of his death, when all hope seemed lost and evil, and death seemed to have triumphed, his friends, family, and disciples would not have said it was a good day. However, three days later, when the forces of evil had been defeated, and death had been destroyed, their responses would have been very different.
Though, the history of the name and why it’s called “Good Friday” have been argued by others. For example, Justin Holcomb noted that “certain Christian traditions do take this approach,” noting that “Sorrowful Friday” (Karfreitag) is the German word for Good Friday. In truth, the history of the word “Good” in English is murky; some claim it was derived from the phrase “God’s Friday.”
The crucifixion of Jesus was a horrific event, it was the climax of God’s plan to redeem his people from their sins, hence the name “Good Friday” is fitting.
It’s called Good Friday because in dying, Jesus Christ offered himself as the ultimate and perfect sacrifice for our sins. Our mistakes were impossible to rectify. In the end, the sins of a lifetime would have tainted our hands irreparably. In contrast, the King of the Jews, Jesus, conquered death and sin.
What Is So Good About “Good Friday”?
The Christian observance of remembering Jesus’ crucifixion and burial at Calvary. Holy Friday, Great Friday, Great and Holy Friday, and Black Friday are all names for the same day.
For Christians, Good Friday is one of the most significant days of the year because it commemorates the beginning of the week we consider to be the most significant in all of human history. Since Jesus was crucified, died, and was resurrected, Christians have declared his death on the cross and his resurrection to be the pivotal moment in history on earth.
The fact that Jesus died for our sins was buried, and rose again on the third day, just as God had promised in Scripture, was “of primary significance” to Paul (1 Corinthians 15:3).
“For what I received, I passed on to you as of first importance; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4).
On Good Friday, Christians reflect at church on Jesus’ final sacrifice on the cross for our sins (1 John 1:10). The next major holiday is Easter, which honors Jesus’ resurrection from the grave and proclaims his triumph over sin and death, as well as the promise of a future resurrection for those who are joined to him by faith (Romans 6:5).
Why Do Christians Observe Good Friday?
All of us are heirs to heaven because of what Jesus sacrificed for us. When no other means of communication existed, he stepped up to fill the void. We recognize our own moral ambiguity, and it is for this reason that Good Friday is commemorated. We are well aware of our transgressions and the depths to which our minds and hearts are capable of sinking.
When we examine the actions that have defiled our hands, we realize that we deserve to be punished. In particular, when we comprehend the sanctity of God’s requirements.
The problem is that we can’t live for God because only the perfect can do it. No one until Jesus came and substituted himself for us on that Friday eons ago. That’s why mankind requires a Savior and the Bible names Jesus as that One (Luke 2:11; Titus 2:13–14). To be saved, we need Jesus since “no one will see the Lord” (without holiness) (Hebrews 12:14). Because we are hopelessly lost, we require a Savior.
The Bible says we need a Savior because, apart from Christ, we are “without God in the world” and “have no hope” (Ephesians 2:12).
The Bible doesn’t explicitly command us to celebrate Good Friday, but we do so anyhow, and we call it Good Friday because it is a great day for humanity. Through the atoning death of Jesus, God showed his love for humanity.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 1 Peter 3:18 tells us, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.”
How Is “Good Friday” Celebrated?
According to Embree, “many Roman Catholic churches and other holy sites incorporate a series of Stations of the Cross” that commemorate events between Jesus’ sentencing and his actual crucifixion as portrayed in the scripture. “Devout Christians try to put themselves in Jesus’ shoes by contemplating his suffering and living vicariously via the stories they tell about him.”
Embree adds that many Christians of many religions attend services and give a prayer on Good Friday to remember Jesus’ death and to reflect on their own beliefs. You can also observe the day by reading Bible gospel accounts, Good Friday, or other similarly significant scripture to discuss at the dinner table or write about in a devotional notebook with your family. This can be done in between the egg hunts, Easter supper, and fun spring projects.
If you choose to commemorate Good Friday, knowing its history should make your soul scream its gratitude and humility to God. Since God was pulling all people to himself in Christ, this day is sacred and makes us holy. Through Jesus Christ, the King of the Jews, God’s kindness and mercy are extended to sinners, and we get the gift of eternal life as a reward.
In the Christian calendar, Good Friday is a day of great solemnity. The terrible burden that our sin has imposed on us is revealed to us. Thankfully, though, we have a great Savior who bore our punishment on that sad yet good Friday.