What’s good about Good Friday? It’s a weird name for such a dark day in the Christian calendar. It is the Friday before Easter when Jesus was crucified. It is the day the Bible tells us that turned dark by noon and by 3:00 Jesus took his last breath. It’s the day that the people killed the Messiah. So what’s so good about it?
Theologically it is good because it represents the culmination of God’s plan to save and love us. Jesus’ terrible death was a perfect sacrifice for the sins of humanity. It also set up the perfect scenario for Jesus to overcome death and evil in this world by showing an unstoppable divine power beyond human ability. God accomplished beautiful and good things out of a dark moment in human history.
But why do we call it good? Disappointingly, the origin is unclear but refrences to the phrase are found as early as 1200. Some say it’s because of the theological reasons listed above. Most believe it was a corruption of the phrase “God’s Friday”. Here is an interesting look at different phrases different languages use to name this day I learned from the BBC. Notice the language similarities between Good and God. I think it makes the case for the pronunciation shift.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, first published in 1907, states that the term’s origins are not clear. It says some sources see its origins in the term “God’s Friday” or Gottes Freitag, while others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag. It notes that the day was called Long Friday by the Anglo-Saxons and is referred to as such in modern Danish. It also says that the day is known as “the Holy and Great Friday” in the Greek liturgy, “Holy Friday” in Romance Languages and Karfreitag (Sorrowful Friday) in German. http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-27067136
Regardless of the origins of its name, it is a powerful day and one of my favorite services of the year. (Although last night’s foot washing service was so very powerful as we humbled ourselves to allow someone to wash our feet and then took on the role of servant to wash another’s feet. Powerful.) Tonight we worship with a service of Tenebrae or darkness where we will hear the Passion story put to music. We will sit in darkness and spend some time with the painful reality that our divine but also human Savior, Jesus, genuinely suffered a terrible death on a cross. And that makes all the difference in the world.
I hope you will find some time to mark this day in some way. To worship (our service at Centenary will be at 7:00 PM). To read or hear the passion story from the Gospels. To consider the symbol of the cross and why it matters. To consider the gift of love this tragic day represents. And to see the good in it all.
Grace and Peace,