“GOOD” Friday is the most solemn day on the Christian Liturgical Calendar. It is the day we remember Christ’s sufferings and death on the cross. It was a day like no other. It was the day that changed the world. It was that day that changed me forever. Why do Christians call this day “GOOD”?
On the first “Good” Friday, Judas tried to undo his betrayal of Jesus by returning the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests. But it was too late. He threw the money into the temple and went and hanged himself. The chief priests decided to use the money for the “Potter’s Field”, a graveyard for strangers. (Matthew 27:3-10)
The chief priests took Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman ruler of Judaea. Pilate asks Jesus if He is “the King of the Jews” and Jesus says, “It is as you say”. Jesus stops answering questions, at this point, regarding the accusations against Him. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Pilate about Himself and His kingdom. He tells Pilate He has come to “bear witness to the truth.“ Pilate asks the age-old question, “What is truth?”. Jesus answered that question for His disciples, in John 14:6: “I am the way and THE TRUTH and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Pilate finds no reason to put Jesus to death, but the chief priests press him. (Matthew 27:2, 11-14; Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-5; John 18:28-38)
When Pilate heard that Jesus was a Galilean, he jumped at the opportunity to “pass the buck” and sends Jesus to Herod, the tetrach of Galilee. Herod was in Jerusalem at the time. Herod wanted Jesus to perform miracles for him, but Jesus kept silent. Herod’s soldiers mocked Jesus, dressed Him in a purple robe and sent Him back to Pilate. (Luke 23:6-12)
Pilate tried to release Jesus because he did not see Jesus guilty of death. In the Gospel of Matthew, it tells of Pilate’s wife having a disturbing dream about Jesus and warns Pilate not to have anything to do with Him. According to the custom of releasing a prisoner during the Passover Feast, Pilate tries to persuade the crowd that has gathered outside to release Jesus. The chief priest incite the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas, a murderer and insurrectionist, and shout for Jesus to be crucified. The Gospel of Luke records that “their voices prevailed”. John’s Gospel tells how Jesus is scourged and given a crown of thorns, and Pilate presents Him to the crowd, saying, “Behold, the Man!” This does not appease the crowd. They shout even louder, “CRUCIFY! CRUCIFY!” Matthew records Pilate washes his hands and gives over the bloodguilt to the crowd. He releases Barabbas and hands Jesus over to be crucified. (Matthew 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:39-19:16)
The entire Roman cohort took Jesus to the Praetorium and stripped Him of His clothes, Gave Him a purple robe, a crown of thorns and a reed for a staff. They spit at Him, beat Him and mocked Him shouting, “Hail, Kind of the Jews!” (Matthew 27:27-30; Mark 15:16-19). After beating Him, the soldiers took the robe, gave back His clothes and led Him to Golgotha (“the Place of the Skull) to be crucified. They had Simon of Cyrene help carry His cross. Hanging on the cross, Jesus refused wine mixed with gall [berry from a poppy plant]. (Matthew 27:31-34; Mark 15:20-23; Luke 23:26-32; John 19:16-17)
As Jesus hung on the cross, with nails that pierced His hands and His feet, between two thieves, the soldiers cast lots for His garments and all the people mocked Him. The sign nailed on top of His cross read, “JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS”. Luke’s Gospel records Jesus saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke also records Jesus forgiving the thief who believes in Him. On the cross, Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!“ (He is reciting Psalm 22), as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells “the disciple Whom He loved” [John] to take care of His mother Mary. In Luke, Jesus says, “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” John also records Jesus saying, “It is finished.” When Jesus died, the earth grew dark; the curtain in the temple, which hid the Holy of Holies, was torn in two; and many of the dead were raised from their graves and came back to life. Matthew’s Gospel records a centurion declaring, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:35-56; Mark 15;24-41; Luke 23:33-49; John 19:18-30)
Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the council who did not approve of Jesus’ death, who was a secret disciple of Jesus, asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. He is helped by Nicodemus, and they wrap Jesus’ body in linen and spices weighing one hundred pounds and lay Him in a new tomb. Some of the women disciples were also at the tomb and saw where He was laid. (Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:31-42)
Did we get to the “GOOD” part of “GOOD Friday” yet? I am going to let one of my Favorite “GOOD Friday” hymns answer that question:
O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
(By Paul Gerhardt)
O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns Thy only crown:
How pale Thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn,
How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn!
What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior; ’tis I deserve Your place;
Look on me with Thy favor, assist me with Thy grace.
What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee. Amen.
Before the Sabbath began, the women prepared spices to anoint Jesus’ body the next day (Luke 23:55-56). The chief priests asked for a guard to be placed at Jesus’ tomb because they were afraid His disciples would steal the body. Pilate agreed and posted guards at the tomb, and had them set a seal on the stone in front of the tomb.
But wait! There’s more to why “GOOD Friday” is so GOOD. It has to do with the GOOD NEWS that comes on Sunday! I encourage all of you to go to church tomorrow, the most JOYOUS Sunday on the Christian Liturgical Calendar. If you don’t have a church and live in the Northampton area, I invite you to come to the College Church. You can look us up at thecollegechurch.org. If you come, please come and say “HI” to me. I’m the one who brings my own chair and have a big smile on my face.
Because He Lives,