Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why Is It Called "Good Friday"?

By Sue Fairchild

Tomorrow is Good Friday, a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. You can get a full explanation of the holiday here:
I’ve been a Christian my whole life… or at least as far back as I can remember. I know what Good Friday commemorates, but I have always been hung up on the word “Good” as part of the holiday’s title.
I understand that for Christians, it was technically a good day. In fact, for all of humanity it was a good day, because with the death of one man, it freed us of all our sin. No more would we be burdened with the need to sacrifice lambs for their sins… it was now all paid in full.

Good for us.
Not so good for Jesus as he bled and died the most painful of deaths.

It doesn’t seem like it would have been a good day for the apostles either. I’ve read many fictionalized accounts of this important day and I’ve pondered what it would have meant to be there, beneath the cross as my beloved mentor and friend struggled with the pain. It’s hard for me to watch those shows on T.V. where people get accidentally hurt. It’s hard for me to go into hospitals and nursing homes. It’s hard for me to look at the face of a loved one who is ill. How could I have stood there and watched the unspeakable agony of pain and death as it cut through Jesus’ body?
Certainly that would not have felt like a good day.

Our pastor recently spoke on the Fruits of the Spirit and focused one Sunday on goodness. In his sermon he mentioned that in Jewish tradition the title “The Good” was a title reserved for God. So people would not have been referred to as “good” and certainly a day would not have been deemed “good.” It was a word used for a much higher entity. Yet, today, we use the word “good” very often. Everything, it seems, is “good”: “Oh, this soup is good” or “How are you? I’m good.” It has become commonplace.
Of course, the event is not titled “Good Friday” in the bible. From what I can discern from my research it was probably the Roman Catholic Church that titled the day “Good Friday” because it leads into the day when Jesus rose from the dead. has this to say:

The Baltimore Catechism declares that Good Friday is called good because Christ, by His Death, "showed His great love for man, and purchased for him every blessing." Good, in this sense, means "holy," and indeed Good Friday is known as Holy and Great Friday among Eastern Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox. Thus the answer given by the Baltimore Catechism seems a good explanation, except for the fact that Good Friday is called good only in English. In its entry on Good Friday, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes that:

The origin of the term Good is not clear. Some say it is from "God's Friday" (Gottes Freitag); others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag, and not specially English. Sometimes, too, the day was called Long Friday by the Anglo-Saxons; so today in Denmark.
If Good Friday were called good because English adopted the German phrase, then we would expect Gute Freitag to be the common German name for Good Friday, but it is not. Instead, Germans refer to Good Friday as Karfreitag—that is, Sorrowful or Suffering Friday—in German.

So, in the end, the historical origins of why Good Friday is called Good Friday remain unclear, but the theological reason is very likely the one expressed by the Baltimore Catechism: Good Friday is good because the death of Christ, as terrible as it was, led to the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, which brought new life to those who believe.

I have to admit… I’m with the Germans on this one—I think Sorrowful Friday is a better title. But it did lead to the Resurrection and so I can see that point too… now that I can see the big picture, of course.

On this “Good” Friday I would like for you to consider how it must have felt for Jesus’ friends to see him up on that cross. How it would have felt for his mother watching from the ground. I think it’s important for us to consider how it was in that moment. They didn’t know he would rise from the dead, despite Him repeatedly telling them that He would rise. They didn’t know that three days later they would be celebrating once again with him. They just saw his excruciating pain and suffering. If we don’t think about that moment, I think it can lose its powerful message. Do we truly understand what had to happen for us to be free from our sins? Although Sunday will certainly be a “good” day… let’s not forget what had to happen to get there.


No comments:

Post a Comment