Matthew 27:1–66; Mark 15:1–47; Luke 22:66–23:56; John 18:28–19:37
Years ago, a powerful story was told about a mountain-area school that had a hard time keeping a teacher. It seems there was a group of big, rough boys who took pride in running the teacher off. The biggest and roughest of them all was named Tom.
A new young teacher won the boys over, however, by letting them write the rules for the school, which were very strictly enforced with a rod. For example, cheating would be punished with five strokes of the rod and stealing with 10 strokes, both to be given with the offender’s coat off.
Everything went well until one day Tom’s lunch was stolen. A frail little boy in hand-me-down clothes that were too big for him admitted his guilt. The school rules demanded that he be whipped. When the teacher called the little fellow up front, he came whimpering and begging to leave his coat on. The pupils insisted he obey the rules and take off his coat. When he did, a deathly silence settled over the room, for he had no shirt on and his emaciated body looked like skin stretched over bones. The teacher gasped and dropped the rod. He knew he could never whip that little boy.
Suddenly, big Tom strode up and stood between the two. “I’ll take it for him, Teacher, for after all it was my lunch he stole.” He shrugged out of his coat. At the third blow, the switch broke, and the teacher threw it in the corner and said, “That’s all. School dismissed.” The frail little boy laid his hand on big Tom’s arm and through his tears said, “Thank you, Tom, it would have killed me.”
Who could help but be moved to gratitude by someone willing to take your place, take your punishment, suffer your consequences? That’s exactly what Jesus did for us on that Friday of Passion Week, often called “Good Friday.” He took our place and received our punishment for sin. He did what we could not do. He was our substitute. He suffered cruel pain and hung on a wooden cross until His death.
Why is it referred to as “Good Friday”? What was done to Jesus definitely was not good (see Matthew 26–27; Mark 14–15; Luke 22–23; John 18–19). Why not call it “Bad Friday” or something similar? Many suggestions have been given as to why it has been officially termed “Good Friday.” Regardless of the origin, however, the name “Good Friday” is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as cruel and terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God’s plan to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
As mentioned in the introduction to this group of Passion Week devotional messages, early Friday morning, after Jesus’ betrayal by Judas and arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was abandoned by His disciples and endured false trials, condemnation, beatings, and cruel mocking. Then He was forced to carry His own cross and was crucified on Golgotha (The Place of the Skull) along with two prisoners who were convicted thieves. Before sundown that day, Jesus’ body was placed in a borrowed tomb.
Seemingly anything but good happened that day. Jesus was falsely accused, beaten, mocked; one of His followers betrayed Him and another denied Him. Good Friday is “good” because, as terrible as that day was, it had to happen for us to celebrate the joy of Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday! The wrath of God against sin – my sin, your sin, the sin of the world – was poured out on Jesus, the perfect sacrificial substitute. Without that awful day of suffering, sorrow, and His shed blood on the cross, we would have no hope for salvation and eternal life in heaven. Jesus willingly took our punishment, God’s righteous wrath against sin, so that we could receive His forgiveness, mercy, and peace, and have real, lasting joy. Think about it. Jesus endured the cruel death of the cross on Good Friday, knowing that it would lead to His resurrection and our salvation! One commentator says that Good Friday marks the day when wrath and mercy met at the cross. That’s why Good Friday is so dark and so good. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Remember: “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”
Think about sacrificially serving someone today. Let this be a day when you do something for someone else that perhaps that person couldn’t do for himself or herself. And remember the sacrifice of our Savior as you serve that person.
“Dear God, I really don’t have adequate words to say ‘Thank You.’ That’s really what I want to do today – thank and praise You for salvation. Thank You for forgiveness, for Your mercy, for Your love and compassion. Thank You for being my substitute. Thank You for the joy of salvation. Help me to live a thankful and sacrificial life today. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
— by Pastor Greg Joyner