Why Call It “Good”?
Vol: 78 Issue: 22 Saturday, March 22, 2008
According to Christian tradition, the Friday before Easter is called “Good Friday” because it is the day that Jesus Christ was crucified. GOOD Friday?
I can recall as a kid growing up in a Catholic school thinking it more than a little strange that all those nuns said they loved Jesus, but celebrated the day of His execution as a “Good” day.
Indeed, as a kid, I thought the designation “Good Friday” was evidence that they really didn’t LIKE Him very much, despite their protestations of love. My mother had passed away when I was only ten. I didn’t think that the day that she died was a ‘good’ day for me.
There are lots of possible reasons why the day of Jesus’ Crucifixion is designated “Good” in English. One is that the word ‘good’ was derived from the word “God”.
Our word ‘goodbye’ came from the phrase “God be with you,” so, according to that line of thinking, “Good Friday” would have originated from the phrase “God’s Friday.”
But I think it is less a case of the metamorphosis of language than it is an apt description of the Event that took place on that Friday before Passover two thousand years ago.
The execution of Jesus Christ was an event of incredible evil. He was guilty of no infraction, violated no laws, either Mosaic or Roman civil, and His betrayal was orchestrated, the Bible says, by Satan himself.
“And after the sop Satan entered into him [Judas]. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.” (John 13:27)
But while the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was an act of unspeakable evil, it was a necessary part of God’s Plan for the redemption of our sin debt.
And the manner in which He accomplished was a demonstration of His Power over good and evil, using pure evil to bring about pure good.
“Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1st Corinthians 2:8)
But why was Good Friday necessary? We’ve gone over this before, but not in several years. Good Friday is the perfect day to revisit the topic. Why did Jesus have to die?
The Scripture says God’s Justice demands a sacrifice, but for most Christians contending with the skeptic, that answer is unsatisfactory.
The explanation that only a sinless man was qualified to take on the sins of the world makes sense, but it doesn’t answer the nuts-and-bolts question of why He had to die. Not fully.
The answer to the nuts-and-bolts legalities is found, not in the New Testament, but rather in the Old.
In Genesis Chapter 15, we find Abram questioning God’s promise that his seed will be numbered as the stars of heaven and that they would inherit the land to which God had led him.
Genesis 15:6 says “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
But Abram wanted a guarantee, nonetheless.
“And he [Abram] said, LORD God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?” (15:8)
It was then that God proposed a blood covenant after the manner of the Chaldeans. “And he [God] said unto him, [Abram] Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
Abram knew what to do next. A Chaldean himself, this was something he was familiar with.
“And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.”
The blood covenant worked this way. The animals were slaughtered and cut up. The pieces were intermingled and then carefully arranged to form a kind of aisle through which the two parties to the covenant would walk together, hands joined.
The principle of a blood covenant, and the symbolism of the rended animal parts was clearly understood to Abram. Whoever broke the covenant would end up like those piles of animals.
A blood covenant was, by common custom, a joining of 2 or more persons, families, clans, tribes, or nations, where the participants agree to do or refrain from doing certain acts. More specifically, God had proposed a patriarchal covenant.
The patriarchal form of covenant is a self-imposed obligation of a superior party, to the benefit of an inferior party. In this form, the terms the parties use to refer to each other are: father and son.
God’s proposal included not only Abram, but extended to Abram’s seed forever.
(Galatians 3:29 makes plain that Christians are also “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”)
To summarize, Abram has just prepared a blood covenant between himself and God in which his seed would forever be bound to God as heirs. To be an heir, under the implied terms of the covenant, also required being faithful to the Father. Abram understood those terms and waited for God to appear.
Consider the picture. Abram waited, driving away the carrion eaters from his grisly creation, waiting for God Himself to come down, join hands with Abram and together, they would swear a blood oath. God would be the Father of Abram and his descendents, who would then be required behave as sons to keep that covenant.
Genesis 15:12 records that, as Abram waited for God, a deep sleep fell upon him. During that deep sleep;
“it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:” (Genesis 15:17-18)
And there’s the key! While the covenant was between Abram and God, by passing through the aisle alone, God signed the contract — alone — for both sides, binding Himself to keeping both parts.
We know that Abram’s seed did NOT remain faithful to the covenant. And violating the blood covenant demanded that somebody had to die. That was what justice required.
The Apostle Paul was, before his conversion on the road to Damascus, a Pharisee, or a religous lawyer, one well qualified to explain the law of covenant oaths.
As Paul explains, “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. (Galatians 3:9)
Further, that “they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” (3:9)
And also, “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” (3:11)
Of the covenant that God signed on behalf of Abraham, Paul explains; “Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.” (3:15)
The covenant could only be confirmed when the price demanded for its violation was paid in full.
When the Law was given to Moses four centuries later, it was assumed by the Jews that to break it was to break the Abrahamic Covenant, for which the penalty was death. Remember, somebody had to die.
But since it was God Who signed on behalf of Abraham, Paul pointed out the blood penalty required of the covenant was paid in full on Good Friday.
“And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.”
Why did Jesus have to die? Because the covenant demanded satisfactory payment for its violation, and no one who had broken that covenant was qualified to stand in payment except those who signed it. Abram was long dead. And, in any case, it was God Who signed on behalf of Abram (and his seed).
It is for that reason that God stepped out of eternity and into space and time in the Person of Jesus Christ. To keep the provisions of the original covenant and be a true Son of Abraham, as it demanded.
Once having kept its terms on behalf of sinful humanity, it was incumbent upon Him to make payment, as justice demanded, for its violation by those on whose behalf the covenant was signed.
To be torn and rended like the animals that formed the corridor through which God alone passed.
To make restitution on behalf of the seed of Abraham. You. Me. And everyone who ever broke its provision of faithfulness. All of us.
Jesus made that payment on our behalf. On the Cross, as He gave up the ghost, Jesus cried with a loud voice ‘it is finished’ (Tetelestai!) meaning, “paid in full.”
The terms of the violated Covenant were met, its price was paid by its Signer. God’s justice was fulfilled. That is why Jesus took on a human form and allowed Himself to be crucified by His own creation. That is the reason the Blood of Christ is so precious. Why nothing less would do.
Because justice demanded it. And because justice was satisfied, a lost sinner need only accept the Pardon obtained at the Cross as full payment for his sins to obtain eternal life. Because of Good Friday, “Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord SHALL be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
Our sin debt was paid in full on Good Friday. The only thing now separating God from man is human pride. Accepting by faith the pardon obtained for us at the Cross is a humbling experience.
We’ve noted in the past that God’s way is not our way, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Indeed, God’s way is usually the exact opposite of human thinking. Christians obtain victory by surrendering. We obtain eternal life through the Death of Christ, but to achieve eternal life one has to first die.
“Good” Friday is the day that commemorates the greatest evil ever perpetrated in the history of mankind. But as it turned out, it was the worst day possible for the forces of evil. It marked the first introduction of pure good to this old world since the Fall of Man.
“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes WE are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
Happy Easter season!