Have you ever wondered why we call Good Friday “Good”? After all, the date commemorates the brutal torture and execution of our Lord and Savior. Why would anyone call that good?
As one of the most important—and difficult to stomach—holidays in the Christian calendar, Good Friday reminds us about our desperate need for a Savior, and the incredible outpouring of his love and obedience, to even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).
In this article, we’ll analyze the nature and history of Good Friday, talk about why we call this holiday good, and when Good Friday will take place this year.
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What Is the Meaning of Good Friday?
For those not familiar with Good Friday, this day remembers when more than 2000 years ago Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world. The events kicked off at the beginning of Holy Week when Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Mid-week, Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ followers, agreed to betray him to the temple leaders. Jesus had been making, in the eyes of the religious leaders, uncomfortable claims about being God (John 8:48-59). They saw this as blasphemy and wanted to put him to death for it.
After Jesus shared a Last Supper with his disciples, he prays in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-56). There, Judas leads a mob to arrest Jesus. Jesus stands trial late in the night—certainly not the proper legal practice. False witnesses can’t seem to get their story straight (Luke 22). Nevertheless, Jesus is tortured and presented to the Jewish people. They call for his death (Luke 23:21).
Jesus is sentenced to die via crucifixion, a Roman punishment reserved for criminals (most often, insurrectionists). He is nailed to the cross on Golgotha, where those who travel via the road nearby jeer at him (Luke 23). Jesus cries out seven times, and then he gives up his spirit. He perishes.
The meaning of Good Friday marks the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he lived a perfect, unblemished life, he dies for the sins of mankind. So that, through his Resurrection on Easter Sunday, that we may have a way of salvation through him (John 3:16).
What Does the Bible Say about Good Friday?
All four Gospel accounts contain entire chapters dedicated to Christ’s trial, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. We don’t have enough time to dive into every verse and passage. However, I will include a portion of each Gospel account below.
Matthew 27:11-14: “Now Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor. “Are you the king of the Jews?” the governor asked him. Jesus replied, “You have said it.” But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.”
Mark 15:6-15: “Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did. “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them. “Crucify him!” they shouted. “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.”
Luke 23:32-38: “Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS”
John 19:28-30: “Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
Why Is Good Friday Called “Good”?
These are incredibly difficult passages to read, let alone to have been alive to witness these events. So why would we call Good Friday “good” when Jesus experienced such horrible pain and agony?
According to Christianity.com, some Christians do call Good Friday “Sorrowful Friday” as a somber reminder of the events. But what about the rest of the church?
We call Good Friday good for a number of reasons. First, we remember that Good Friday did not end on that Friday. We had Resurrection Sunday a few days later to look forward to. It is good in the sense that we anticipate what would come to pass days later.
Secondly, we call Good Friday good because we cannot have the Good News of the Gospel without the bad news of sin first. Good Friday helps us to realize the gravity of our sinful nature and how much we need a Savior. People don’t need good news unless they’ve endured something bad before.
When Is Good Friday This Year?
Good Friday always occurs right before Easter Sunday, but the specific day of Good Friday shifts each year. For 2021, Good Friday occurs on April 2, 2021. We’ve included the upcoming dates for the next few years as well.
April 15, 2022
April 7, 2023
March 29, 2024
April 18, 2025
April 3, 2026
A Prayer for Good Friday
Jesus, I stand amazed at what you had done for me on that Good Friday. That you, Lord of all Creation, would live a perfect life and pay the ultimate penalty for my sins. I cannot thank you enough and want to submit myself to you and your will every day. Thank you that Good Friday didn’t end on that Friday, but that we had the glorious Good News of that Resurrection Sunday. Amen.
Good Friday can be a very somber event in the holy calendar. We learn just how great a cost our sin had indebted us. But thankfully, we have a wonderful Savior who paid the penalty for us and that sorrowful but Good Friday.
Photo credit: ©Unsplash/Alicia Quan
Hope Bolinger is an editor at Salem, a multi-published novelist, and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 1,100 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her modern-day Daniel trilogy released its first two installments with IlluminateYA, and the final one, Vision, releases in August of 2021. She is also the co-author of the Dear Hero duology, which was published by INtense Publications. And her inspirational adult romance Picture Imperfect releases in November of 2021. Find out more about her at her website.