I once saw a Sunday School lesson for children that discussed Good Friday and Easter. The lesson explained to boys and girls that Good Friday is the “Sad Day” and Easter Sunday is the “Happy Day.” The lesson even came complete with happy and sad emojis you make in craft time.
I thought this was an interesting and compelling way to teach children about the heaviness of the cross and the joy of the resurrection.
We grown-ups in Evangelical circles also often seem to think about Good Friday and Easter Sunday this way too. The popular poem, “It’s Friday—But Sunday’s Coming” depicts the heaviness of the crucifixion over and against the glory of Christ’s resurrection.
Of course I would “amen” the truths in each of these lessons. At the same time, they raise the question, if Good Friday is the “Sad Day” and a sort of interlude until “Sunday’s Coming,” why have Christians through the centuries called Good Friday “Good”?
Now I’m no theologian or church historian. But in doing some reading, we find some clues. One article said “Some sources suggest that the day is ‘good’ in that it is holy, or that the phrase is a corruption of ‘God’s Friday.’” I also found out that “the earliest known use of ‘guode friday’ is found in The South English Legendary, a text from around 1290. According to the Baltimore Catechism—the standard U.S. Catholic school text from 1885 to the 1960s—Good Friday is good because Christ “showed His great love for man, and purchased for him every blessing.”
On Good Friday, therefore, the greatest of ‘good’ happened. On this day, we commemorate, celebrate and recognize the atoning work and agonizing crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God.
The Bible says, “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). And on the cross, Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).
Therefore, it is fitting for us to remember that Good Friday is not merely a sad day—though it is that. Good Friday is good because of the finished work of Jesus Christ, paying for our sins, which is central to the Good News. Without recognizing the full aspects of Good Friday, we could miss out on the full joy of Easter Sunday and Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
All of that being said, I am extremely encouraged to see many Evangelical churches start to embrace the Easter week more fully. In times past, you would be fortunate to see the average Evangelical church mention Palm Sunday, perhaps put on an Easter musical at some point and then skip right to Easter Sunday. As a result, many Christians skipped over an opportunity to recount and call to mind Christ’s atoning death on the cross.
These days, you will find many churches having a Palm Sunday service, a Holy Thursday communion service, a Good Friday service and, of course, worship the risen Savior on Easter. As Christians, this is truly our highpoint of the year, and we should take every opportunity we can to worship the Lord Jesus.
To that end, I recommend we ponder anew Good Friday and fully embrace it, commemorating the day on which the sinless Son of God Himself died for sinners like you and me. And so doing, our hearts will be primed and ready for Easter Sunday, on which we proclaim to the world, “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!”