Mom, why is it called ‘Good Friday’?

Maybe your child has asked this question. Maybe you’ve asked this question.

It came up among my boys earlier this month while sitting at the kitchen counter discussing our plans for Easter weekend.  I was talking about “Good Friday” as though it was self-explanatory – until Brennan broke in — “But Mom. I don’t understand why it’s called Good Friday. What happened to Jesus is really sad. It’s not good.”

Thankful they’re trying to figure these things out, I replied, “You’re so right, Brennan. It confused me for a long time too. Why don’t we re-read the story to try and find the answer?”

We’ve read the crucifixion story, I don’t know how many times, in their Jesus Storybook Bible. But this time we would read it with new eyes, looking for the answer to the question, “Why is it called Good Friday?”

Here is just a portion of the story, as told in the Jesus Storybook Bible:

They whipped Him. And spat on Him. They didn’t understand that this was the Prince of Life, the King of heaven and earth, who had come to rescue them.

Then they nailed Jesus to the cross.

“Father, forgive them,” Jesus gasped. “They don’t understand what they’re doing.”

“You say you’ve come to rescue us!’ people shouted. ‘But you can’t even rescue yourself!”

But they were wrong. Jesus could have rescued Himself. A legion of angels would have flown to His side- if he’d called. But Jesus stayed. You see, they didn’t understand. It wasn’t the nails that kept Jesus there. It was love.

The Jesus Storybook Bible continues to explain how a dreadful darkness covered the earth, how the whole earth trembled and quaked, and rocks split in two as God’s fierce anger at sin was coming down on Jesus, rather than on us.

We closed the Bible and talked about how the physical pain of the crucifixion paled in comparison to the pain Jesus must have felt as He absorbed all of our sin and shame. 

But because He loves us so very much, He chose the nails.

And there we found our answer.

Why is it good? Because as horrific as that day was, it was part of God’s good and glorious plan to rescue us.  It was good for US.

On Good Friday, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21)

Did you see that? So that WE, you and me, might become the very righteousness of God.

Our standing before God is no longer dependent on what we do or don’t do, but on what Jesus Christ has done for us.

He was pierced for our transgressions,
 He was crushed for our iniquities; 
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
 and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5-6)

By his life, death, and resurrection, we are forgiven. We are free.

The boys and I talked about the magnitude of that GOOD news and tears began to fill my eyes.

“Mom, why are you crying?” Brennan asked.

“Well, because it makes my heart really happy and really sad all at the same time.  Sometimes it just overwhelms me that Jesus, our King, would chose to love us like that.  Remembering that it’s my sin that nailed him to the cross on Good Friday makes me really sad.  But knowing He loved me enough to die for me makes me really happy.”

A few days after our conversation, I received an email from a lovely woman who helps teach our boys at church. She said she asked the group of children a question about how Jesus must have felt on His was to His death.

And my Brennan raised his hand and said with confidence, “Jesus was happy to do it for us but sad because He knew what He had to go through.”

I know there are various explanations for how the term Good Friday evolved. But I think the answer I most love is my son’s. It reminds me they are listening and they are learning, and Jesus is always working in their hearts.  I write about this very thing and the importance of inviting hard questions in “Parenting the Wholehearted Child”:

It’s easy to get nervous and either pretend we know more than we do or simply avoid the conversation with a distraction. When they ask hard questions, we don’t have to be afraid to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers and that there are so many things about God, and the Bible, that will remain a mystery until we see him face to face (Rom. 11:33 – 36; 1 John 3:2 – 3).

We can humbly say, “I’m really glad you asked that question. Let’s read the Bible — and discover together — what God’s Word says about that.”

Allowing our children to explore their faith and the things that don’t always make sense teaches our children to bring those questions to us instead of burying them where doubt can pile up. In fact, we can use our children’s questions as opportunities to teach them about what the Bible says about faith: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). And we can help them uncover the thrill of coming to trust Jesus and encountering him in our curiosity, even when life doesn’t seem to make sense. He meets us even in our doubt and lack of trust. He can handle it!

What I was reminded of, alongside my son, is that Good Friday is good because it reminds us that “We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Indeed Good Friday was good for us. 

Jeannie Cunnion is the author of “Parenting the Wholehearted Child,” and a blogger at She has a Master’s degree in Social Work, and her background combines counseling, writing, and speaking about parenting and adoption issues. Jeannie and her husband, Mike, are the proud parents of three wild and awesome boys.

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