“Why do we call it Good Friday? Jesus died, dying isn’t good?” I was asked this by a 7-year-old a couple of Easters ago. How would you have answered?
So much of today’s reading is difficult, it’s cruel, unfair, gruesome, it doesn’t seem good at all. However, we have the blessing of living after these events, so we can see more of God’s eternal purposes through it all.
Jesus was betrayed and denied by close friends. He was questioned by the High Priest and His response was met with violence, they provided Jesus with no answers. The Jewish leaders didn’t even have a specific charge when they brought Jesus to Pilate, but they were clear that they wanted Jesus put to death (John 18:30–31).
Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews? What have you done?” and Jesus responded saying, “His kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:34)
Verses 38 and 39 tell us a lot about Pilate. He said that there was no basis for an accusation against Jesus, and that should have been the end of it. But Pilate was weak and fearful of unrest. He tried to act cunning and get Jesus released by an annual custom, but the crowd wanted Barabbas instead, a man who had done wrong. His name means “son of abba” or “son of a father.” He was released while the Son of the Father was flogged severely.
Often, people died in this process, even before being nailed to a cross, as the flogging was so fierce. During this Jesus was also mocked. It was brutal and unfair, but it wasn’t enough for the Jewish leaders. Pilate brought out before them the badly beaten Jesus, still wearing the crown of thorns and purple robe, and said he had no reason for accusation (John 18:4–6). But they shouted for Jesus to be crucified. Finally their accusation came in John 18:7: “he ought to die, because he claimed to be the Son of God!”
This frightened Pilate, and he tried to release Jesus, but the Jewish leaders pressured him by accusing him of being a traitor to Caesar if he did. They even shouted, “We have no king except Caesar!” These are amazing words to hear from the Jewish religious leaders, as God was to be their King. The weak Pilate could resist no longer and he handed Jesus over to be crucified.
Crucifixion is a horrific, torturous way to be killed. Yet, even on the cross, when every word would be incredibly painful, Jesus showed love by providing for His mother Mary.
When Jesus cries “It is completed!” This was not the cry of defeat, as some may have thought, but it was the cry of victory. This was why Jesus came.
This was the day to prepare for the Sabbath, when no work was permitted, which would begin at sundown that evening. This was no ordinary Sabbath, but Passover. The Passover lambs were slaughtered in the afternoon on the day of preparation, at the same time that Jesus died, our sacrificial lamb. Hebrews 7:27 says, “He has no need to do every day what those priests do, to offer sacrifices first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people, since he did this in offering himself once for all.”
Jesus’ body was quickly prepared and buried before the Sabbath began by Joseph of Arimathea, a secret believer, and Nicodemus, a Pharisee, who’d spoken to Jesus at night in John 3. Both of these men showed great respect and love for Jesus.
Nicodemus, a Pharisee, made himself unclean, just before Passover (See Leviticus 21:1–2 and 22:3–4). Therefore, while the other Pharisees and Jewish religious leaders rushed off after Jesus death to prepare for the Passover—celebrating God’s rescue of His people from slavery in Egypt—Nicodemus stayed. He helped bury Jesus and, as a result, would not be able to participate in the Passover because he had touched a dead body. This was a huge deal for a Pharisee. However, Nicodemus realized the truth of Jesus’ words spoken to him in John 3:16 “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” Nicodemus’ actions show he was convinced that Jesus is the Son of God and the only way to eternal life.
So why do we call it Good Friday? It was the worst day in history. But it’s also the best day. This is when everything changed; Jesus’ death was no mistake. While it may have seemed like evil triumphed, it was actually God’s rescue mission. Jesus fulfilled Scripture. He is our Passover lamb, our one and only sacrifice, God’s precious gift to us. He died as our substitute. We can have a relationship with God through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Our sin is dealt with, the barrier removed. This is the foundation of His eternal kingdom! Amazing love!
“For if, by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ!” –Romans 5:17
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