Is Good Friday Good?
|Tomorrow is Good Friday, when we reflect upon the day that Jesus died on the cross. The name seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Jesus dying on a cross hardly seems like something to be happy about. What makes Good Friday good?
What makes Good Friday good is not the isolated event of Jesus’ death; it’s what that event means in the arc of redemptive history. Jesus’ last recorded words before His death vary slightly in the four Gospel accounts. In the book of John, Jesus is recorded as saying, “It is finished,” after which He bowed His head and gave up His spirit (19:30). What did Jesus mean by this? What was, and for that matter, is to this day, finished?The answer to that question gives us a window into why Good Friday is, in fact, good. From an examination of solely John’s Gospel (since the phrase “it is finished” comes from John’s account), we see several clear indications of what was Jesus was seeking to accomplish during His time on earth.
The Revelation of God
The first of these comes in John 1:18, where the author tells us that, “No one has ever seen God; the only God [Jesus], who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” One of the purposes of Jesus’ incarnation was to reveal what God is like. Though God’s people, Israel, had seen God throughout their history in miraculous events, momentary experiences of God’s Spirit, and the testimony of the prophets, Jesus was God displayed in high-def, as “the exact representation of (God’s) being” (Heb. 1:3). When He breathed His last on Good Friday, He had perfectly expressed what God was like, including even in His death, when He said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The Mission of the Messiah
In John 1:29, John the Baptist gives us one of our first introductions to Jesus when He says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” This insight by John (that seems to escape all of Jesus’ disciples) expresses one of the clear purposes of Jesus’ life and ministry. He would function as a true and better Passover lamb, dying in the place of His people so that they could be set free. This echoes Messianic prophecies like Isaiah 53:5, “by His wounds, we are healed.”
The Reconciliation of the World
This is connected to the point above, but is important to clarify separately. In dying for His people, Jesus becomes the bridge or mechanism by which all who trust in Him can be reconciled to God (3:16, 12:32). The gift, or effect, of this reconciliation is eternal life, but reconciliation is what makes eternal life a reality. When Jesus died for our sins, He made the way for the whole world to experience His love and forgiveness in a personal and permanent way.
The Rout of the Devil
Though it gets less attention from modern readers, one of the other things “finished” at the death of Jesus was the defeat of spiritual evil. Speaking of His death, Jesus says in John 12:31, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.” This is a clear reference to Satan, the accuser who seeks to thwart the purposes of God. There is something about the death of Jesus that marks it as the killing blow, or decisive victory, over Satan and spiritual evil. This was a widely acknowledged and celebrated truth during the first few hundred years of the church, but it is has lost some emphasis in our day and time.
And Probably Much Else
We tend to reduce what Jesus accomplished by dying on the cross to a pretty narrow field. In this brief article, I’ve looked at four aspects of Jesus’ atonement from the Gospel of John, but there are many more worth considering. Jesus’ death is like a diamond with multiple angles that all work to bring out the beauty and magnificence of it as we turn it over in our minds.
So, is Good Friday good? Beyond what we could ever imagine.
Let’s not rush to the empty tomb without first considering the love of God expressed in the death of Jesus and all that it means for us and our world.