Why is Good Friday called “good”?
April 16, 2022 | Jenni Nolan
About the Author: Jenni is a longtime member of ZPC. She and her husband, Scott, live in Carmel, where they raise their four children, ages 10-20. When she’s not carpooling kids all over God’s green earth, Jenni enjoys reading, barre workouts, and working as a patient billing advocate.
Today’s Scripture: Mark 15:21-47
Editors note: In the events of Holy Week, the Saturday before Easter was a pretty silent day, so this Easter Saturday let's continue to reflect on the events of Good Friday.
Today’s scripture picks up in the middle of Jesus’ trek to Golgotha, where he is to be crucified.
Convicted by Jewish leaders of blasphemy and false prophecy, and by Pontius Pilate of claiming to be the King of the Jews (only after much mob-like persuasion from the Jews), Jesus has already been flogged near to death. He has been awake all night, and he is painstakingly carrying the heavy wooden cross on which he will be crucified. Once he reaches Golgotha, Jesus is hung on a cross between two other convicted criminals. He is mocked. He is taunted by Roman soldiers, Jewish leaders, passersby, and gawkers. At one point just before his death, the weight of the world’s sin upon him, he even feels abandoned by his own Father. Finally, he breathes his last.
This final, horrible day of Jesus’ earthly life—the sixth day of the Christian Holy Week—is called Good Friday. But why? How could a day that causes us to recall the atrocities Jesus faced—from the emotional trauma of being given up by one of his disciples, denied by another, and threatened by angry mobs who wanted him dead, to the physical traumas of being flogged with a whip, forced to carry a burdensome cross on his already-bleeding back, and subjected to the pain and suffering of death by crucifixion—have come to be known as “good?” I’ve asked myself this question ever since first learning the events of Good Friday, and—for the purposes of this devotional—I took to the Google machine to get some answers…
There seem to be many hypotheses as to how Jesus’ final hours came to be called Good Friday: some say “Good” Friday is actually a morph from “God” Friday; others say our modern interpretation of the word “good” originally meant “holy,” and Holy Friday certainly makes sense.
Another view is that Good Friday is “good” because the day doesn’t end with Jesus breathing his last. As soon as Jesus takes his final breath, the scripture tells us, the temple curtain separating the Jews from God’s holy presence is torn from top to bottom, revealing that there is no longer anything separating them (or us!) from him. Immediately, non-believers and naysayers—including some of those who had just been mocking him—begin to believe that Jesus is actually who he says he is—Christ the Lord and King of the Jews. Joseph of Arimathea (a member of the very Council that had just argued for Jesus’ death, but who secretly opposed the Council’s conviction) honors Jesus by asking Pilate for Jesus’ body so that he may prepare it for burial himself. These are all good things!
While we may never know the true reason for which Good Friday obtained its name (without way more work than a quick Google search), we do know this: Good Friday is a day to solemnly reflect on Jesus’ trial, torture, death, and burial, and to remember that he allowed himself to endure all of these things to save us from our sins. Oh, how good this is!
Gather your family or Home Hroup and watch “The Passion of the Christ” or some other on-screen depiction of Jesus’ final days/hours.
We thank you for reminding us via this scripture of all that your Son endured during the final hours of his human life. Let us never gloss over this part of the story between the celebrations of Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday. Help us to solemnly reflect on all that Jesus went through for us, while remembering and anticipating the good that follows.