What is Good Friday?

Today we celebrate Good Friday. What happened?


In the early hours of the morning, just after midnight, Jesus and his disciples would have been in the garden where the Lord went to pray. There Jesus was arrested by a group of soldiers and temple police led by the treacherous Judas Iscariot. Over the next several hours, Jesus went through no fewer than six trials, all of which were illegal, none of which produced any actual evidence of wrong doing. Three times, Jesus would be pronounced innocent by Pilate before the Roman governor gave in to mob mentality and sentenced Jesus to death.


Yet, what was most important happened mid-morning. After being abused by soldiers, Jesus was led out to a hill where he was crucified. So many of us are tempted to dwell on the physical details of this brutal form of execution, but these are not the focus of this day. The central focus of this day is the drama going on in the spiritual realm.


As Jesus was dying on the Roman cross, God the Father and Jesus, God the Son, were involved in the most important exchange in history. The Father looked at his Son, and he counted Jesus guilty of all of the sins that he would ever forgive. Then over the period of those six hours one Friday nearly two thousand years ago, the Father punished Jesus with his full and just wrath for the sins of all of his children.


As Jesus died, he declared, “It is finished.” In that declaration, the Lord told all who would hear those words that the price for sin had been fully paid. The Father’s wrath had been fully satisfied. Jesus’ mission of living a perfect life and dying a sacrificial death was accomplished. And then, the Savior died, willingly giving up his spirit in order to complete the transaction.


When Jesus died, the curtain in the temple in Jerusalem was torn in two from top to bottom. God was clearly telling the world that no longer would the sacrificial system be the way that people would approach him for forgiveness. Afterward, Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb, and many wondered what had happened.


How does all of this work? God is perfect, infinitely so. Our rebellion against God is, therefore, an infinite offense. The just punishment for the crime of offending the God of the universe is rightly one of infinite consequence. Jesus, the infinitely perfect Son of God, willingly took upon himself the judgment of God for all of the sins that God would ever forgive. This means that, in the end, all sins will be justly punished by God. Those of us who find ourselves under God’s grace because of faith in Christ have our sins paid for because the Father poured out the judgment that we deserve on Jesus. Those who refuse this offer of God’s grace will personally face the right wrath of God for their sins.


Why is today Good? It is Good Friday because, in the most loving act of human history, the Son of God suffered the wrath of God that we deserved in order that we might be forgiven. None of us could survive the punishment we deserve. Jesus took that punishment for all who will come to him, reject their sin, and embrace him as Savior and Lord.