“Here they crucified him” John 19:18 (NIV)
Many of us will celebrate “Good Friday”. By going to church, singing hymns about the Lord Jesus and His suffering, hearing a sermon drawn from somewhere in the Passion Narratives, we mark this day out as special and important to us. But why do we call this annual event “Good Friday”?
The origin of the term “Good Friday” is uncertain. What was good about it? Everyone knows what it represents. You do not have to be a church goer to put the real meaning into the term. It is fascinating to me as a Christian to see a pluralistic, secular society, such as we have in Canada, still close the stores on “Good Friday” and make it a holiday for all the country.
But back to the question, “Was it a Good Friday”? Well the answer is “No” and “Yes”. When we think of the historical event that established “Good Friday” we realize that the day was anything but “Good” for the One whose life and death we mark by the day.
In Isaiah 53:3 we read, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering…he was despised and we esteemed him not.” (NIV) The lonely sorrows of Jesus are familiar to us all. Our imaginations can outrun the horrific realities of Jesus’ suffering on “Good Friday” As we think on this “Man of sorrows” we must acknowledge it was not good for Him. Actually, in the book of Hebrews 12:2 in the New Testament it says Jesus despised the brutality afforded Him on “Good Friday”.
“Good Friday” was the day that sinners led Jesus out to crucifixion after performing many, and varied, indignities upon Him. So brutally was He physically attacked that His appearance ceased to look human. When He was on the death march to the place of execution women who lined the parade route broke out in tears as they saw His appearance.
In other words Jesus endured “Good Friday” but took no pleasure in it. An expectant mother takes no pleasure in the suffering she endures to deliver her child. No one in their right mind finds pleasure in pain. There is a term masochist that is used to describe people who derive pleasure from physical pain. We feel concern for those who enjoy suffering, but we must acknowledge it is abnormal.
No, “Good Friday” was the worse Friday Jesus ever knew when living among us. So the answer we give on the one hand is that “Good Friday” was not a good day.
But there is also a way of looking at “Good Friday” and seeing that it was indeed a “Good” day. If it was not a “Good” day for Jesus, then, for whom then was it a “Good” day? The answer lies in the words of Jesus in the Gospels. In John 10:11 Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus connected His death on Good Friday with benefits for His sheep.
In Isaiah 53:8 Yahweh speaks and says, “for the transgression of my people he was stricken.” (NIV) So Jesus died for the people of God. This is why God’s people want to be in church on Good Friday. This is a celebration of the fact they have benefitted greatly from the events of this particular Friday in history.
But what if you are not one of Jesus’ sheep or one of Yahweh’s people? Well, this is why many people do not go to church on Good Friday. They have nothing to celebrate except for the fact of a national holiday. So they make other plans for the day to meet with family, have a special meal and so on. But Jesus is no part of their festivities. They do not recognize that His suffering has anything to do with them.
Yet, there is in Scripture a clear invitation to all who will listen to come and take part in the work of Jesus on the cross. In Isaiah 1:18 we read, “’Come now let us reason together’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.’” God asks us to think about our situation and the events of Good Friday. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” So the invitation is given indiscriminately, it is given for everyone to hear and we are all encouraged to respond positively.
Good Friday is not good for you if you are not one of God’s people, not one of Jesus’ sheep. Will you respond today to these invitations from God and make a bad Friday into a Good one for you? The invitation is given, who will respond?