What Is Good Friday and When Does it Occur?

cross and prayer candles

What Is Good Friday and When Does it Occur?

The Bible has much to say about the events of Good Friday. Each of the Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) include accounts that enhance a person’s understanding of the enormity of Christ’s suffering.

Good Friday is the day we commemorate the Lord Jesus’ crucifixion and death on the cross (Matthew 27:50, Mark 15:37, Luke 23:46, John 19:30). He died to save us from our sins (John 1:29). The use of, “good” to describe the fulfillment of passion week originates from the Middle English word, pious and/or holy. The Oxford Learners Dictionary defines its meaning as, “observed as a holy day.” In Italy, it is called “Venerdì Santo,” which is translated as Holy Friday. It always occurs the Friday two days before Resurrection Sunday.

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What Is Good Friday? And what Does the Bible Say About Good Friday?

On Thursday before Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday:

Jesus’ sweat was like drops of blood (Luke 22:44) while He agonized in prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane.

He suffered betrayal at the hands of Judas, a disciple who had been one of the original 12.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, when the mob came to arrest Jesus, “all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matthew 26:56b).

When He was handed over to Annas for His first Jewish trial, Peter, the disciple who said, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You,” (Matthew 26:35) indeed denied him thrice (Matthew 26:69-75, John 18:15-27).

When Pilate presented Him to the crowds as “King of the Jews,” they cried, “Crucify Him,” and “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15).

Jesus was beaten beyond recognition as a human (Isaiah 52:14).

In His battered condition, the soldiers placed a crown of thorns on His head, and then Jesus dragged the beam of His weighty cross through the avenues of Jerusalem, bearing the taunts of the crowds. The soldiers called Simon of Cyrene to help carry the cross (Matthew 27:29-32, Mark 15:21, Luke 23:26).

The Bible has much to say about the events of Good Friday. Each of the Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) include accounts that enhance a person’s understanding of the enormity of Christ’s suffering at the hands of the religious and political authorities. Herod, the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, questioned Jesus while the chief priests and scribes vehemently accused Him (Luke 23:6-12). After contemptible mocking, Jesus said nothing in answer to Herod or the religious leaders. He was then remanded into the hands of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. The Jews wanted Him dead, but when questioned by Pontius Pilate that Friday morning, they said it wasn’t lawful for them to put anyone to death (John 18:31b). They, therefore, handed Jesus over to Pilate with the hope he would exact their wishes to have Him killed, and they supplied false witnesses during the trial (Matthew 26:59-62, Mark 14:55-57, Luke 22:54-62, John 18:15-18, 25-27). At the hands of Pontius Pilate, who held sway over the Roman proceedings that led to Jesus’ crucifixion and death, Jesus was subjected to scourging that left Him with an appearance unlike even a human being (Isaiah 52:14). Pilate said he found no fault in Jesus and washed his hands of the whole affair (Matthew 27:24).

Why Do We Call This Holiday Good?

When God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), seven times the Bible says, “And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). And when He surveyed everything He made, the Bible says what He saw was very good (Genesis 1:31). When He made man, however, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). He then made “a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18b), which we can surmise is a good thing, for God only does wondrous things (Psalm 72:18).

After that, the fall followed the interaction between the devil and the man and woman. Man became separated from God and immersed in his own sin. God enacted His reconciliation plan, built on Jesus, the Cornerstone. We know that God is good (Psalm 145:9), and Jesus came for our good as He preached the “good news of the kingdom (Luke 8:1) and “gives His life for His sheep” (Isaiah 61:1, John 10:11). Looking past the cross, Romans 8:28 gives us further reason to call Good Friday indeed good, for all things work together for our good (“for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose”). Good Friday is the day the devil thought he won, but instead he (and death) met defeat at the hands of our good Father. Jesus’ resurrection completed God’s plan to reconcile us to Him. Because of Jesus’ atoning work for us on the cross, all a person needs to do is say yes to His kind invitation (Romans 2:4). That’s good news!

As we ponder these events, think about what my pastor said when I asked why, on such a horrific day, do we call the Friday of Christ’s crucifixion and death, good.

 His four-word answer should satisfy every soul. He said, “It’s good for us.” It’s the best news for us because it led, two days later, to Jesus Christ’s resurrection. It’s why we remember all He did because without the resurrection, our hope is founded on nothing.

When Is Good Friday This Year?

Good Friday always occurs right before Easter Sunday, but the specific day of Good Friday shifts each year. For 2021, Good Friday occurs on April 2, 2021. We’ve included the upcoming dates for the next few years as well.

April 15, 2022

April 7, 2023

March 29, 2024

April 18, 2025

April 3, 2026

How Do We Observe Good Friday?

Christians the world over honor the remembrance of what the Lord Jesus did at Calvary with a service sometime on Good Friday. Some people fast through the day in preparation for the evening’s remembrance. As is Maundy Thursday, the Friday service is somber and reflective but is not shadowed or in darkness. People in many churches decorate the platform of the sanctuary with a cross draped with a purple cloth, signifying the “gorgeous robe” in which He was mocked and adorned when tried by Herod (Luke 23:11). It may also represent the cloth used to gently lower Jesus’ body from the cross after His death. Usual hymns include those which speak specifically to Jesus’ death and can either be accompanied by musicians and singers, instrumental, or a cappella. A pastor will lead the congregation in at least two prayers and will allow the people a time of silence to reflect on what Jesus did. Some churches have various members read directly from the Scriptures about the events of that day. Each of the Gospel accounts is read, plus prophecies about Jesus’ suffering and death from Isaiah, the Psalms, and Zechariah. Some churches serve communion that evening, and others wait to partake in that ordinance during Resurrection Sunday service. The Roman Catholics commemorate Good Friday with a liturgy that has three parts, the Liturgy of the Word, the Veneration of the Cross, and Communion. In Jerusalem, Christians follow Jesus’ steps through the Via Dolorosa to the “place of the skull.” The Aramaic language renders it, “Golgotha” (Matthew 27:33, Mark 15:22, Luke 23:33, John 19:17). Some churches create lavish productions that focus on Passion week. London’s annual remembrance occurs in Trafalgar Square, where thousands of people crowd around to watch a performance that depicts Christ’s last week. Many denominations host a reenactment of Christ’s scourging, carrying of the cross, and crucifixion. Another tradition involves food, specifically hot cross buns which carry a visual reminder with each bite.

Most services in the US usually end, however, on a bright note. Many people, when departing, say, “Sunday’s coming!” This is the highest holy day of the Christian’s year, the day we celebrate a risen and living Lord.

Further Reading

Why Is it Called 'Good Friday'?

What’s So Good about Good Friday?

What Is Good Friday, and What Makes it so Good?

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/BulentBARIS

Lisa BakerLisa Loraine Baker is a rock & roll girl who loves Jesus. She and her husband, Stephen, inhabit their home as the “Newlyweds of Minerva” with crazy cat, Lewis. Lisa is co-author of the non-fiction narrative, “Someplace to be Somebody” (End Game Press, spring 2022). She has also written for Lighthouse Bible Studies, and CBN.com,