What’s good about Friday?

Posted on April 22, 2011 at 10:01 am,

Today is Good Friday, the day Christians celebrate the death of Jesus. However, if you’re not a Christian, you may wonder how the commemoration of somebody’s death can be described as “good”. The reason why we call this day “Good” Friday is to do with what we believe Jesus’ death achieved. In order to explain it, I’m going to use one of several analogies that the Bible uses to explain part of what the cross accomplished.

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul describes Jesus as “our passover lamb”. This is not a reference to the fact that Jesus’ death happened during the celebration of the Jewish passover, but a claim that Jesus was the ultimate fulfilment of the Passover festival.

If you’re not familiar with the story, the passover was a key event in the story of the Exodus. Pharaoh had repeatedly refused to let the Israelites (who were slaves) leave Egypt, despite God unleashing plagues on Egypt after each refusal. Eventually, God issued a final warning through Moses – unless Pharaoh sees sense this time around, every firstborn Egyptian child and animal would die overnight. The Israelites were told that each household should kill a lamb and eat it, smearing the lamb’s blood on their door posts so that the angel of death would pass over their house. The following morning every Egyptian firstborn son had died, whilst no Israelite firstborn had, Thanks to this tragedy, Pharaoh finally relented and said to the Israelites “get out of Egypt”. Thus, in a very real sense, the lamb died so that the Israelites could be saved from both slavery and death.

By describing Jesus in this way, Paul is saying that Jesus’ death did the same for Christians. The Bible portrays non-Christians in a position of being slaves to sin – whilst a non-Christian can live an outwardly good life, they are ultimately in rebellion against God. But because of Christ’s death, the Christian can replace sinful attitudes and behaviour with a relationship with God, and escape from the influence of sin in a way that a non-Christian cannot.

But also, Christians are saved from death in two different senses. Firstly, we are saved from spiritual death. Ephesians 2 describes non-Christians as being “dead in their sins” and Christians as having been “made alive in Christ” – this is the same thing that is described elsewhere as being “born again”. Becoming a Christian is to start an entirely new life, an adventure of faith that is very different to your life before that point. Secondly, we are saved from Hell, which Revelation 20 describes as “the second death” – and which the Bible portrays as being the destination where humanity ultimately deserves to end up.

So, according to this one picture of Jesus’ death, the events of the original good Friday accomplished an enormous amount of good. Of course, another crucial part of the reason that this is GOOD Friday is that Jesus didn’t stay dead. But that’s a story for another day…

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