Have you ever wondered how Good Friday got its name? You would think the day we set aside to remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross would get a less cheerful designation, but I believe there’s a good reason why Good Friday’s name continues to stand the test of time.

Many scholars point to the fact that “good” used to have a definition much closer to that of “holy,” but the original meaning doesn’t translate very well in today’s English vocabulary. So why don’t we change the name?

Ultimately, it’s because everything that happened on the first Good Friday showed the full extent of Jesus’ love for us.

John’s Gospel begins like Genesis 1 and ends with a hint at what would come in Revelation. It’s a mini-Bible in one Gospel with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, who appears in the first chapter to invite his disciples to “come and see.” Those are words of invitation—not only to them but to us. Jesus wants us to “come and see” who he is, to see his love, and to see how far that love will lead him.

Everything Jesus did was an act of love, but it was all leading up to the day of his death when he would demonstrate the full extent of his love.

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. — John 13:1

The Goodness of Good Friday

Good Friday is good in spite of the brutality of Jesus’ death on the cross. It’s good in spite of the betrayal of Judas and the cowardly desertion of his disciples. It’s good in spite of the miscarriage of justice, the corruption of the Jewish leaders and the practical self-serving decision of Pontius Pilate.

Jesus is what’s good about Good Friday. He showed us that his love has no limits, and that his love is determined to break down all barriers between him and us.

When the Roman soldiers and temple guards came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, he immediately identified himself as the one they were looking for and said, “Since I am the one you want, let these others go.” Even as Simon Peter drew a sword to keep them from taking his Lord away, Jesus said, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:3-11)

It’s clear that Jesus wasn’t taken by force; He gave himself intentionally. Like he told Peter to sheath his sword, Jesus sheathed his own power and refused to save himself. We must never make the mistake of thinking Jesus was taken by force. He could have destroyed all those who came to arrest him, but he didn’t.  And as he allowed himself to be arrested, his only terms were that his disciples would be allowed to go free.

“Since I am the one you want, let these men go.”

Do you hear his love in those words? This picture of love and mercy toward his disciples is a powerful image of the same love he demonstrates for us on the cross. Jesus loves us more than he loves himself. He gives himself so we can be spared, and he surrenders himself so that we can we can be released from sin and restored to our Father.

From the Garden he goes to the high priest and then to Pontius Pilate before being turned over to the soldiers.

“The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying,  “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face. — John 19:2-3

Even in moments of humiliation and suffering, Jesus is majestic in his love. As he emerged into the view of the crowd wearing his a purple robe and crown of thorns, he silently endured the the chief priests and their officials chanting, “Crucify! Crucify!” (John 19:6)

He’s awesome in this moment of humiliation because he’s doing it voluntarily. Jesus said the Good Shepherd would die to protect his sheep, and that’s exactly what he’s doing. We’re helpless to protect ourselves from the evil one, but when our Shepherd King goes to his death he throws himself in front of us and protects us. He does it because he loves us more than he loves himself.

“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

And this is it, this is the full extent of his love:

“So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others — one on each side and Jesus in the middle.— John 19:17-18

What do we do with a love like this?

We hear from a lot of listeners and readers who wonder if God loves them. They’re looking for evidence of his love in their own circumstances. But when we do that, we’re looking in the wrong place—Jesus demonstrates his love for me and for you personally on the cross. He died for YOU. Take it personally. Take it the way Paul did in Galatians 2:20 where he said, “I live by faith in the one who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Rose Marie Miller is a good friend of mine who who heard the message of the cross many times but never took it personally for herself. The wife of a pastor, she knew the gospel backwards and forwards, but it never got past the surface of her heart. She worked hard, she tried her best, and she couldn’t really see her need for this sacrifice. And if you don’t see that you’re a sinner, then you won’t be able to see the love of Jesus. Sadly, that was Rose Marie.

Until one Sunday, as she was sitting in a worship service half-listening to her husband preach, it came time for communion. Her husband raised the loaf of french bread and broke it with a loud crack saying, “This is my body broken for you.” And at that moment, she finally saw it—the spear of the soldiers was piercing and breaking the Body of Christ for her sins. Jesus was suffering this terrible death for her sins. She took it personally—Jesus died for me. Later she would say, “It was like a fire entered my heart, burning away at my intense self-centered moralism.”

The love of Jesus is meant to break our hearts. We look at the cross and we see our sin and the punishment our sins deserve. Whether they are flagrant sins of the flesh or the hard-hearted, self-righteous sins of a Pharisee, Jesus is there in our place, taking on the consequences of our sins and dying so that we can be spared.

The cross humbles us and captures us and binds us to Jesus. That’s what it’s meant to do. And that is what’s so good about Good Friday.

About the Author

As the leader of the Haven Ministries, Charles Morris is always thinking of ways to lead Christians and non-Christians to Christ—hence the familiar slogan, “Telling the great story … it’s all about Jesus.” A former secular journalist, Charles has worked for United Press International, and as a press secretary for two former U.S. senators. He and his wife, Janet, have authored several books, including Missing Jesus. Charles’ latest book is Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus: The Real Story of God At Work.

Most of the thoughts above are taken from broadcasts of Haven Today. Corum Hughes serves as the editor of this blog and coordinator for Haven’s digital content. A graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Corum lives in Boise, ID with his wife Molly.

Haven Ministries is part of an 81-year legacy that began under the leadership of radio host Paul Myers. Known as First Mate Bob on the air, he encouraged listeners for decades on the radio program called Haven of Rest (now called HAVEN Today). Learn more about our history.

Recently, we thought it would be fascinating to dig up an old “Log of the Good Ship Grace,” an update First Mate Bob wrote regularly, about what Christians can look forward to when World War II would finally be over. And we weren’t disappointed.

This is a word-for-word transcription of what First Mate Bob wrote in 1944, just one year before the end of World War II. He was writing to a war-torn nation, but I think you’ll find that the words he wrote 71 years ago continue to be true for each of us today.


By First Mate Bob

When will that be? Looking back across the sum total of human history we can find comparatively few years when there has been peace. Yet today our radio broadcasts, our newspapers and magazines are full of plans both social and economic, designed to create what man has never been able to bring about, namely: a post-war Utopia, devoid of armed conflict, and providing perfect living conditions for all peoples.

One school of post-war thought lays emphasis upon the economic problem of tomorrow. Its exponents declare that our main efforts should be directed toward worldwide stabilization of currency. They talk glibly of “reconversion to consumer-goods production,” and “resumption of world trade on a far more gigantic scale.” Will a planned readjustment to “economic stability” solve the problems of such a world as this, or is our need deeper than that? We now have more than forty million people in war industries. Many of these have had their standards of money and living distorted all out of proportion. There will be a “bottle-neck” when peace comes which will make a wartime traffic jam mild by comparison. How about rebuilding “small business” which has been wrecked by the war?

Another school of thought sees the “social problem” as being the greatest task which will confront us in the post-war era. We are told on every hand that we must first rebuild bombed cities and homes, clothe and feed starving millions of devastated nations. After this, a world-wide police force must be set up to prevent war-minded nations from arming themselves and slaughtering their neighbors. But how about rebuilding American home life? What sort of social planning must we have to recreate the form of family life upon which this nation was founded? How about the “factory orphans” and the juvenile delinquency which has resulted in the most perplexing problem our law enforcement agencies have ever known?

Certainly, the economic and social problems are many and staggering. Millions of people have been pulled up by their roots, physically and mentally, perhaps never to be re-established. Mere social and economic planning alone will not suffice in the bewildered world of tomorrow, for we are face-to-face with sinister forces at work throughout the world today, which defy the cunning of mere man. History’s greatest disasters, hatred and wars have marked our generation. One by one, nations have fallen and disappeared, having been snuffed out like lights.

The old order of things is disappearing and a new one is taking its place. What this will turn out to be, no one knows. Everywhere one hears the expressed opinion that this war is caused by the clash of ideologies and theories of government, such as Fascism, Nazism and Communism. These are not first causes, but are, rather, the results and the produced effects of spiritual wickedness.

The main problem of today is a spiritual one. Something is going on in the world at this moment of history which the post-war planners have failed to take into consideration. There is an invisible, evil power with secret agents everywhere. It has been organized into “principalities” and “powers,” and these agencies are more powerful than the combined forces of men. The best minds of humanity are helpless against these rulers of the darkness of this world.

Satan, “the prince of this world,” has blinded the minds of men, and has organized their campaigns of hatred against God and His people and every preacher, minister and evangelist. We in radio Gospel broadcast have but recently felt the furious attack of this spiritual fifth column. No human power can successfully plan and execute a program to prevent the ravages of these devastating forces of destruction. No social or political philosophy can stem the rising tide of evil. This old world is rushing toward Armageddon, driven by unseen agencies. All of the plans and schemes of earth’s brilliant intellects which reckon without God and His supernatural power to help, are but feeble futile efforts.

All about us today are the unmistakable signs of the imminent return of our Lord Jesus Christ to this world. Surely before long, the kingdoms of this earth will become the Kingdom of our God and His Son, Christ. Remember the words of Jesus to His embattled church, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) This promise is soon to be fulfilled. “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, Whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.” (Dan. 7:27)

How about your own personal “post-war planning?” Are you prepared to live in the kingdom that is to come? Have you made intelligent and adequate preparation? Your citizenship in God’s “new-world order” will depend upon what you do with His Son, Christ Jesus, here and now. If you do not crown Him King of your life now, you will never take your place among those who are to rule and reign with Him. Mercy’s gates are still open, but soon they will close. Today, open your heart to Him.