What’s So Good About Good Friday?

By Dr. Robert Jeffress

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “excruciating?” Probably some unbearable pain that you thought would never end, like the pain of childbirth or a kidney stone. The word “excruciating” actually means “out of the cross” and was coined by the Romans to describe the worst kind of pain of all that came from crucifixion.

In his book, The Life of Christ, Frederic Farrar describes the torment of crucifixion:

“A death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can give in terms of the horrible and ghastly. Death by crucifixion, invented by the Persians and embraced by the Romans, involved dizziness, cramps, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, shame, publicity of shame, the long continuance of torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of untended wounds, all intensified just up to the point at which the person could endure it but stopping just short of the point where unconsciousness would bring some relief. It was designed to keep the person conscious and suffering.  

The unnatural position made every movement painful. The lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish. The wounds and the arteries, especially at the head and stomach, became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood. And while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pain of burning, raging thirst, and all these physical complications caused an internal excitement and anxiety which made the prospect of death itself a delicious and exquisite release. But the person couldn’t die.”

This is what Christ experienced on the day of his death that we call Good Friday . . . which begs the question “What’s so good about Good Friday?”

The answer is that the death Jesus died for us provides the answer to life’s most important question. It was a question Job posed in Job 9:2, “How can a person be right before God?”

Admittedly, it’s a question that not that many people in our day ask, for several reasons. A few don’t even believe there is a God in heaven whose approval we need. However, the majority of people are too preoccupied with short-term needs and immediate gratification rather than worrying about their eternal destiny.

People’s disinterest in spiritual matters today is not that different than the mindset Paul encountered 2000 years ago. In Rome, people were much more interested in sex and sports than they were in salvation. Nevertheless, the apostle was faithful in proclaiming the answer to life’s most important question: How can a person be right before God? And we find the answer in Romans 3:21

All of us deserve nothing except an eternity in hell. That’s the bad news. But when we come to verse 21, we come to a major turning point in Romans that is indicated by those two little words BUT NOW.

Salvation is not a reward; it is a gift to those who trust in the redemptive work of Christ.

1. The Reality of God’s Gift (Romans 3:21-26)

I believe that these six, sometimes confusing verses can be summarized by three simple statements.

2. The Results of God’s Gift (Romans 3:27-31)

Can you imagine how miserable heaven would be if we played any part in getting there?  People strutting around like peacocks, asking, “Tell me, what did YOU do to get here?” And before you could answer, they would start telling you what they had done. 

But when you understand that our right standing before God is not a reward to be earned but simply a gift to be received, it eliminates all boasting.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, God has provided a way of salvation.

Years ago, before he died, I used to visit regularly with Dr. Frank Pollard, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. Dr. Pollard told me that when he first went to the church many years ago, on his first Sunday, he extended the invitation to anyone who wanted to come into the church. Everyone was welcome. The next week, the past chairman of deacons called him into a meeting and politely but firmly began to explain to him what kind of people were not welcome in their church: certain skin colors, economic backgrounds, etc. Dr. Pollard said he prayed for wisdom in how to answer these men and that he replied with an answer that could only have come from God.

He said, “Gentleman, I grew up in a three-room shack. I was the eighth child. When I was born, the next youngest child was 12 years older than me. My family didn’t have room for me. I’m sure my brothers resented me. As a little baby, I was smelly, I couldn’t talk like them, and I didn’t have the manners not to awaken them in the middle of the night. What if my brothers had gone to my father and said, “We don’t want him in our house any longer? He’s not like us. He bothers us.” My father would have said, “Forget it! He is my son, and this is my house. So he stays.”

Then Dr. Pollard said to those deacons, “Gentlemen, I don’t think we have the right to determine who is and isn’t welcome in our Father’s house.”

Paul said everyone is welcome. Everyone, Jew or Greek, slave or free, man or woman, rich or poor, is free to accept the gift of eternal life. Think about it. If God had added one requirement for salvation, one thing we had to do, then some would be excluded.

Does the fact that God declares sinners righteous mean that God’s law is unimportant? No, if anything, it underscores and upholds the seriousness of God’s law.

Think about it this way: What if God said, “Instead of sending my Son to die, I will let people work for their salvation? As long as they keep 70% of the law, then they can come into heaven.” Such a system would say that 30% of God’s law is unimportant.

But a holy God cannot do that. God demands complete perfection, a standard none of us can meet. The fact that only Christ’s death could satisfy the demands of God emphasizes, not diminishes, the importance of God’s law.

The fact that salvation is a gift, not a reward, demands our humility, it democratizes salvation, and it demonstrates God’s justice.

God’s righteousness is not a reward but a gift to those who trust in the redemptive word of Christ.

And that’s what makes Good Friday so good.


Full Passage: Romans 3:21-31