Why is Good Friday called Good Friday?
Okay, yes–It is good because, as professed believers, our debts were paid in full by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.
But I’m talking about the actual day. Is it contradictory for us to say that the day Jesus was beaten, berated, spat upon and nailed to a cross was a good day? And let’s not forget his betrayal at the hands of Judas, his denial by Peter, his loyal followers turning bloodthirsty, religious leaders with their false charges and political leaders refusing to take a stand on either side of the issue of His guilt or innocence. On this day, Jesus stood betrayed and abandoned, even by those who were closest to him. It seems just about everyone around him played a role in fate. Is it any wonder, being fully God and yet fully human, he would ask that “this cup be taken” from him? How could this day possibly be good?
In an column written for The Seattle Post in April, 1991, Anthony B. Robinson writes:
Why is Good Friday called “Good?” Perhaps because on that day, and in this story, God stands with the forsaken, the victims, the abandoned and the despised. More than that, God is one of them, is one of us. In our hearts, our deepest fear may be just this, that we shall be forsaken, abandoned, despised and rejected. And sometimes these fears lead us to do terrible things.
Surely at times in life many, if not all of us, will know just such an experience. Whether because we stand alone for an unpopular truth or have been forsaken by a family member or friend in whom we trusted, or because we find ourselves on a sick bed able only to look up at the world from our backs or wheelchairs. In this story, God takes the side of the outcast. He is put to death “outside the gates of the city,” a symbol of his very forsakenness. But, of course, if God is among the forsaken and rejected, then they, then we, are never wholly abandoned, never truly forsaken. Which may be reason enough for calling this Friday “good.”
In the end, “Good Friday” is like so many of the great spiritual truths. It is a paradox. A contradiction that just happens to be true. Like “You shall find yourself by losing yourself.” Or “Less is more.” Or “The only way to have enough is to learn to give it away.” These things, these paradoxes are never things we can wholly grasp. But sometimes they take hold of us. And when they do, nothing is the same ever again.