Holy Week Ponderings: Friday
Known as Good Friday, it might be confusing as to why the death of Jesus would be called good. It was a day full of activity from the all-night trial to the burial of Jesus just before sundown. In some Anglo-Saxon and modern Danish references, the period is labelled Long Friday. This is a reasonable title for the day considering all that Jesus endures.
Jesus was shuffled back and forth between the Jewish High Council, the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate, Herod, and back to Pilate. Jesus said very little in these interrogations, which amazed Pilate and Herod. If you are accused, aren’t you going to defend yourself? they must have thought. Pilate, who had the final say, finally gave in to the Israel High Council’s loud appeals and sent Jesus to be crucified.
“Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.” -John 19:17-18
The crucifixion occurred in such a public place in order for myriads of people to witness the torture. The religious leaders wanted maximum taunting. They added to the taunting. They said, “Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.” (Matthew 27:42)
There is deep irony here. Coming down from the cross would have been far easier than the later outcome…the leaders actually believing. The only thing physically holding Jesus up there was three nails. Removing nails seems simpler than rising from the dead. The religious leaders said they would believe if He came down. But they still resolutely refused after He did something far greater by resurrecting.
So all these public spectacles and words shrouded a deeper ulterior motive. The religious leaders were all about self-preservation, and never about truly believing in a Messiah that didn’t fit their archetype.
Two remarkable things happened during Jesus hours on the cross.
The Gospels record the sky went dark for three hours, the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom, and an earthquake broke open tombs causing the first Walking Dead event in history (check that out in Matthew 27:51-53). These are only outcomes.
The first remarkable thing: without even speaking, Jesus’ death impacted people watching. Now Jesus did speak seven phrases while suffering, but it wasn’t those phrases that impacted the Roman guards.
“When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” -Matthew 27:54
Many were affected by the event: “When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away.” (Luke 23:48) Who knows in what ways they were affected, but it at least gave them deep pause to consider what Jesus stood for. Or to consider the quality of a the man when such events coincided. The Roman guards reconsidered who Jesus was.
The second remarkable thing: Jesus’ act of care while He Himself suffered. Near the cross stood several key people in His life. Among them, His mother Mary, and a disciple named John. Jesus charges John to care for His mother. The scriptures say, “From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:26-27) What an stunning, caring action to think of others while suffering in the worst way.
In itself, that is a quality we could strive to emulate: caring for others while we endure difficulty. Hard to do but not impossible. But I am glad for the example of Jesus doing this so I can see it’s importance.
The Historical Good
So where does good come into the picture? The death doesn’t appear good. None of His followers certainly thought so. But the effect is. First Peter 3:18 tells us, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”
The word good hearkens back to Middle Ages English where it denoted piety or holiness. It is unclear whether this intended to denote our piety in following Christ, or Jesus’ holiness in being the righteous one who dies for our unrighteousness. Regardless, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Good Friday is a display of God’s pursuant love for us, marking a way for us to return to relationship with the Father. This is very good indeed.
Making it personal
Have you ever wrestled with seeing the death of Jesus as good?
Are you able to explain why Good Friday could be referred to as good?
Mick Haupt is a missionary with Cru. He uses his photography and graphic design skills to give people the opportunity to encounter Jesus. You can learn a little bit more about his ministry by going to www.mickandclarice.com