Holy Week History: What is Good Friday

By Jessica Wolstenholm

What is Good Friday?

Good Friday remembers the day of Christ’s death and the moments leading up to it. Many Christians devote this day of Holy Week to thinking about Christ’s final hours and the suffering that He endured. Services for Good Friday tend to be somber, even though we know that Jesus rose from His death three days later.


The Importance of Good Friday

So why is it important to enter into this dark, sorrowful time if we know the joyous ending of Christ’s resurrection? By meditating, or thinking very deeply, about the suffering of Christ we are reminded of how powerful our sin is. This realization of the weight of our sin makes Jesus’ sacrifice all the more powerful and real!

Jesus’ suffering also reminds us that He was truly human, experiencing emotions of sadness and temptation. Before He is arrested, Jesus prays to God asking Him to “Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36). He knew that His death would be incredibly difficult, but He chose to carry out the will of the Father.

Jesus suffered the death that we deserve because of our sin. It was painful and humiliating. Jesus was mocked and taunted by people who said that if He were truly the Christ, He should save himself from this death (Mark 15:31)! Before Jesus dies, He cries out God “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). This marks God turning away from his Son, who has become sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus experiences the ultimate separation that we will never have to experience, separation from God.

When Jesus dies, the temple curtain tears from top to bottom signifying that Christ’s perfect sacrifice has covered our sins, making us blameless in God’s sight and giving us direct access to Him (Mark 15:38). “We have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (Hebrews 10:19-20).


Celebrating Good Friday

Churches have different ways of celebrating Good Friday and remembering Christ’s suffering. Some use the Stations of the Cross, a series of 14 images depicting moments of Jesus’ journey to the cross and ending with his burial. Oftentimes, church services are dark and include a black veil draping the cross. Others may practice the act of nailing their sins, written out on paper, to a cross.
As your family prepares to celebrate Good Friday, talk about the purpose of the dark and sorrowful tone of the service. It is appropriate that we should feel sad, but not because something “bad” or “wrong” happened. It was unjust that the blameless Jesus died a criminal’s death with the stain of our sins, but it by this “unjust” act that we are justified for eternity. Christ’s terrible death was necessary for our salvation. This is a humbling realization, but one that should make us all the more grateful for what He has done in order to call us His children.


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Read about all the days of Holy Week in this series:

What is Holy Week? 

Holy Week History: What is Palm Sunday?

Holy Week History: What is Maundy Thursday?

Holy Week History: What is Good Friday?

Holy Week History: What is Easter Sunday?