What’s so Good About Good Friday?
What’s so good about “Good Friday?” How could such a horrific, unjust, and cruel death of the Messiah of God come to be known as “Good Friday?” The etymology of the term “good” may give a clue as to the naming of the Passion of our Lord this way. Here is a common summary of a possible naming of Good Friday:
"Good Friday" comes from the obsolete sense "pious, holy" of the word "good." Less common examples of expressions based on this obsolete sense of "good" include "the good book" for the Bible, "good tide" for "Christmas" or Shrovetide, and Good Wednesday for the Wednesday in Holy Week.
Good Friday, Good Book, Good Tide. That’s helpful, true. Although this word explanation helps, it still falls short in our normal usage of the term, “good.” How can we consider the sad and grievous day to be called Good Friday?
Though tragic and horrible, this day displays in stark brilliance the faithful devotion of our Lord to the Father. Without complaint or hesitation, He offered himself to His accusers, who falsely testified, abused, and cruelly treated Him before the high priest, Pilate, Herod, the people, and the soldiers. Though He had done no wrong, and could have appealed to God for divine deliverance, He received their accusations, beatings, and blows, asking His Father for forgiveness for them. His words were gracious and loving to those who abused Him, and while He cried out to God for deliverance while hanging on the cross, He accepted his death.
Throughout this spectacle and ordeal, Jesus was acutely aware how the things unfolding before Him were fulfillment of Scripture. And, when He cried, “It is finished!” on the tree, and gave up His spirit after hanging on the cross roughly for six hours (9 am-3 pm), He obeyed His Father’s will to the limit, to the extreme end. He gave everything He had, all that God demanded, to the very end.
One observance recognized in the Eastern Orthodox tradition known as The Order of Holy and Saving Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ has a congregational response after the first of twelve Gospel readings that captures the “goodness” of Christ’s sacrifice for all humankind in His death on the Cross:
Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross (three times).
He who is King of the angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the Heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
He who in Jordan set Adam free receives blows upon His face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails.
The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear.
We venerate Thy Passion, O Christ (three times).
Show us also Thy glorious Resurrection.
Words can’t capture the wonder of God’s love on display in the death of Jesus for the world. He gave everything for us. On second thought, it makes perfect sense to call this day, “Good Friday.” What a mighty God we serve!