Hey Mom, why do they call it Good Friday?

by Kelley Mathews

Crown of Thorns and Three Nails With Hammer on Wooden background

Kids have a lot of questions about Easter. For that matter, so do most of their parents. The Easter story is a tough story to tell kids. I used to remind Jim, my preacher husband, to be aware of the little faces in front of him when he was preaching the events of Good Friday. I’ve only watched The Passion of Christ one time. I couldn’t bear to watch it again. It is difficult to see anything “good” about that Friday.

Jesus was violently abused and tortured. How did that day ever get labeled good? There are three answers to that question:

  • The word “gospel” means “good” news. The best news about the life of Christ is that he died to take away the sins of the world. On that Friday, Jesus paid the penalty for every sin with his perfect sacrificial blood. On other words, Good Friday is when Jesus enabled all of us to be “good” enough for heaven. That is the gospel, or good news, about Easter.
  • The second answer is that the name was changed from “God’s Friday” to “Good Friday.” That theory is the least popular because it is only based on speculation.
  • The third answer is that “good” is historically another word for “holy.” Holy Friday came to be Good Friday. The language experts often choose this explanation.

But, how do you answer that question when your child asks? Here are some “age appropriate” answers to the question about “Good” Friday.

  • A preschooler: It is the day Jesus gave his life so that all of us could be “good enough” for heaven.
  • An elementary age child: It is called “Good” because it is a holy day . . . a day to remember the choice Jesus made to die for our sins. None of us can live without making some bad choices. Jesus chose to die so that we could find forgiveness for our bad choices by choosing to trust in him as our Lord and Savior. Good means holy. Friday is the day Jesus gave us the chance to be made holy by trusting in him.
  • To junior high and older: Good Friday is the day Jesus became the final sacrifice of the Old Testament and ushered in the New Covenant between God and man. The sacrifice Jesus made on the cross was sufficient to cover every sin for all time, that is why He was called the Lamb of God. The good news of Easter isn’t just the resurrection; it is also the sacrificial blood that washed away our sins—and made us good enough to live eternally in heaven. The horrible moments Jesus endured were because we would never be good enough for heaven on our own. But Good Friday is only “good” for those who will choose to allow Jesus to be their Savior, and their Lord.

Most kids have a hard time understanding why they aren’t “good enough” for God already. They know He loves them and they know He loved Jesus. Why would a loving Father let his Son die? My favorite story to use with children of any age is a version of this one:

Four people lined up on a beach in California. One was a toddler who had just learned to swim. Another was a young, strong teenager who had been swimming for years. The third was an older man who had been a good swimmer, but he was old and feeble now. The fourth man was a tri-athlete and had trained to be a strong, long distance swimmer.

Those four people were lined up on the beach and each tried to swim to Hawaii. The toddler didn’t get very far before he drowned. The older man swam for a couple of hours, but then grew too tired and drowned. The teenager was able to swim, float, and then swim some more. But after a day in the ocean, he drowned too. The marathon swimmer lasted for days, but eventually even he had to give up too. None of them were good enough to swim to Hawaii.

Some people are kinder than others. Some people go to church more than others. Some people are stronger than others. Some people don’t make many mistakes. But no one is good enough to get to heaven on their own.

Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The only people who get to Hawaii—or heaven—are those who recognize they need help. Good Friday is the day Jesus provided all of us a boat, kind of like the ark. When Jesus pulls up in the boat and puts out his hand, we can choose to take it. The people who don’t, think they can swim to Hawaii on their own. Then ask, are you swimming on your own, or have you taken his hand yet?

Has Good Friday become a “good day” for your child? It can be.

Janet Denison

JanetDenison
Janet Croswhite Denison grew up in California and moved to Texas during her college years. She is a graduate of Houston Baptist University where she majored in Elementary Education and English. Janet met her husband, Jim, at HBU and they married in 1980. They have two sons, Ryan and Craig. Ryan married Candice Williams in…
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