“Thank God it’s Friday!” Ever wonder where that phrase came from? I haven’t “googled” it or read a Wikipedia entry. I’m going to do my own digging for the idiomatic origins of this well-used blessing. Actually, all I’m going to say is that it must have started when somebody learned about or was reminded of “Good Friday” from the Christian tradition.
Sure, most of us who are Americans are going to say that this phrase signals that the weekend is upon us. School children and workers who only work Monday thru Friday say this to each other in celebration that work is over for the week and it is time to play! But I think it’s more than that, at least for purposes of this article. You’ll see why.
I hope to teach those who don’t know why today is called “Good Friday”, and remind those who do know what it is about. What do I mean by “Good Friday”? Is this the time of the year for Easter egg hunts and pumping kids full of sugar so they are good to go until Reformation Day—I mean—Halloween?
On a side note, does anyone else find it interesting that Easter and Halloween split the year up pretty evenly so that kids are eating large doses of candy at least once about every six months? Or is the glut of Easter candy simply leftovers from Valentine’s Day? As usual, I digress. My apologies.
No, today is called “Good Friday” because it is the day celebrated by Christians as the day Jesus Christ died on the cross at Calvary. Not coincidentally, today is also the start of Passover for those who celebrate that Jewish tradition. There is much to say about the relationship between Passover and Good Friday, but I won’t go into that here.
How can that be good?
Somebody might ask, “Why is it good that Jesus was crucified?” That’s a good question, especially from somebody who isn’t familiar with Jesus. It’s usually not considered “good” to be betrayed, arrested under false pretenses, bound, denied by friends, struck, flogged, mocked, have a crown of thorns embedded in your head, crucified, robbed and pierced all in one day.
Practically no scholar of the ancient world—including secular scholars—doubts the existence of Jesus, and most agree that he was physically crucified by the Romans. Crucifixion is one of the most painful and humiliating ways to be killed. In fact, the English word “excruciating” comes from the Latin words “ex” (out of) and “crux” (cross). So “out of the cross” becomes the defining adjective for the worst kind of pain.
No, it is hard to imagine that from Jesus’ point of view, any of what I just described is “good”. But from a Christian point of view, what Jesus did was the best good we’re ever gonna get. Jesus himself said that none are good but God alone.¹ He also said that there is no greater love than for a person to lay down his life for a friend.² Well, Jesus is both. He is God and he is the only acceptable sacrifice that will last for eternity.
Today we are reminded of the real historical event of Jesus’ death on the cross, an event that leads up to the even more important real historical event of Jesus’ resurrection from the grave, which we will celebrate on Sunday. Why is the resurrection more important than the crucifixion? Because if Jesus didn’t physically raise himself from the dead and had remained in the grave, then we are all still dead in our sins.
The evidence is basically incontestable
Jesus’ resurrection understood as a metaphor—which some versions of progressive Christianity espouse—carries no weight in the light of reality. Gary Habermas, widely considered the foremost scholar on the resurrection of Jesus, has been asked several times why he believes in a literal resurrection. He answers, “I believe in Jesus Christ’s literal resurrection because the supporting data/evidence is basically incontestable.”
Yes, Jesus is the reason for the season—thinking specifically of Easter right now. Jesus is the reason for a lot of things, including this website. If Jesus had not raised himself from the dead, there would be no New Testament of the Bible. All of Jesus’ followers would have gone back to their pre-Jesus lives—discouraged, disappointed and downtrodden.
Look how the apostle Paul explains that Christianity hinges on the historical event of Jesus’ resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 (ESV):
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
The good news is that the story didn’t end that way. Paul went on to say that Christ, in fact, was raised from the dead. This means that salvation is available for all who put their trust in Jesus. The same power that raised Christ from the dead is available to all who would follow him. That kind of power can change the path of even the worst of sinners, like me, toward eternal life with God.
Romans 10:9 (ESV) says, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” There is more to the Christian life, of course, but that would be a good start! If you have never considered what God has done for you through the work of Jesus on the cross, please look into it now. Start by reading the gospel of John and pay close attention to Jesus.
Thank God it’s Good Friday!
By all means, celebrate Friday being the end of a work week. Say to all you know, “Thank God it’s Friday!” If it’s a payday Friday, be doubly celebratory. But specifically on this Friday, remember why it is so good. There is nothing kinder Jesus could have done for you and me than lay his life down as a willing sacrifice, and then raise it up again after he conquered death—the final enemy.
Remember today as the day the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of the world—the spotless lamb of God slain before the foundation of that same world—gave his life as a ransom for many. And think about how great it is that the story doesn’t end there. The third day he rose again from the dead, as the Scriptures say.³
Thank God it’s Good Friday!
Happy Good Friday and Happy Easter to all!
¹ Mark 10:18
² John 15:13
³ 1 Corinthians 15:4