The Friday before Easter is widely celebrated among Christians throughout the world as the day that Jesus was crucified on a hill outside Jerusalem around 33 AD. This day is known as “Good Friday.” But why do we refer to the unjust death of an innocent man as “good?” I was recently asked this question this past Wednesday night by an eager and speculative little brother in Christ of mine. After I explained to the class that Friday is known as Good Friday, this third grade boy raised his hand and asked, “Shouldn’t we call it ‘Bad Friday’?” He continued, “What happened to Jesus is only good on Easter Sunday.”
I initially wanted to jump right in and correct his error with acclamations of how good the death of Christ really is. But I decided to let that question move throughout the room. I asked the class, “What do you guys think? Doesn’t that seem fair? The death of Jesus is nasty and bloody and horrible! How can we call something so epically bad, ‘good’?” The thought started to filter into their young minds. They considered the possibility that Jesus’ death could be viewed as a bad thing while his resurrection could remain viewed as a very good thing.
The truth is, we can all be guilty this time of year of belittling the death of Jesus in favor of his resurrection. We see Good Friday covered with a black cloud, while we see Resurrection Sunday illuminated with a glorious light. While it is important to understand how the disciples must have interpreted Jesus’ death as a very bad thing before his resurrection, it is just as important to understand that his death is viewed as supremely glorious after his resurrection. The death of Jesus can only be rightly understood in light of the resurrection. Likewise, one cannot rightly understand the resurrection of Christ apart from his death. John Calvin writes in his Institutes, “So then, let us remember that whenever mention is made of his death alone, we are to understand at the same time what belongs to his resurrection. Also, the same synecdoche applies to the word ‘resurrection’: whenever it is mentioned separately from death, we are to understand it as including what has to do especially with his death.” So, as believers living in a post-resurrection day, we interpret the death of Christ through resurrection lenses. This means that his death was effective for our salvation and is the greatest news worthy of risk-taking proclamation in all the world.
In light of the resurrection, here are five reasons that we should gladly affirm just how good the Friday of our Lord’s death was.
Good Friday is “Good” Because…
1. In His Cross, Jesus Bore the Wrath of God
Jesus’ death assures salvation for all who believe, because he stood condemned in the place of sinners. Sinners stand guilty before a holy God. The only way for God, the eternally just judge, to forgive these sinners of their rebellion is for a sinless substitute to propitiate his wrath. In the death of Christ, Jesus bears our sin and God’s wrath in our place.
“[F]or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” –Romans 3:23-26
“For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’ Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ But the law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” –Galatians 3:10-13
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” –Isaiah 53:4-6
2. In His Cross, Jesus Crushed Satan
Jesus’ death assures Satan’s ultimate defeat. The ancient serpent who works to deceive the church and disrupt the purposes of God falls right into his unfolding sovereign plan. Christ secured Satan’s defeat in his death. In being crushed, Christ crushed Satan.
“The Lord God said to the serpent…I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” –Genesis 3:14-15
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” –Hebrews 2:14
“He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” –Colossians 2:15
“Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.” –John 12:31
3. In His Cross, Jesus Defeated Death
Jesus’ death assures our hope after death, because in the death of Christ, death finds its death. Sickness, disease, tragedy, and suffering can all be faced confidently because death is swallowed up in the victory of Christ’s death.
“[A]nd which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” –2 Timothy 1:10
“He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.” –Isaiah 25:8
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” –1 Corinthians 15:26
“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” –1 Corinthians 15:54-55
“Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” –Revelation 20:14
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” –Revelation 21:4
4. In His Cross, Jesus Bought the Church
Jesus’ death assures the redemption of a people for his possession. The Lamb of God will receive the reward for which he died—an inheritance of nations. In the death of Jesus, unworthy rebels become eternally rich heirs.
“…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” –Ephesians 5:25
“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” –Ephesians 5:2
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'” –Revelation 7:9-10
5. In His Cross, Jesus Freed Us From Sin
Jesus’ death assures our freedom from sin. We are free to pursue holiness and enabled to flee sin and the passions of the flesh in favor of superior satisfaction in God.
“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” –Romans 6:6-7
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” –Romans 6:22
“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” –Romans 8:2