Have you ever wondered, like I did for so many years, why on earth today is called “Good Friday” when it’s the very not good day when Jesus Christ was killed? I’ve heard it explained in various ways, but one of my favorites is perhaps that it’s called “good” because our Lord’s terrible death lead to the resurrection and salvation of the world and what is “more good” than that? Granted, there is so much evil in this world right now and more and more proof of unbelievers tooting their horns, but there is still good. There is still hope. And hope is what Easter is really all about.
The first time today was called good, or “guode” in Old English, was in a text from back in the 1200s…and I don’t mean a text on a phone. Later, in 1885, the Baltimore Catechism explained it as “good” because Jesus showed great love for man. And that is good.
There is no rainbow without a storm and we can’t have dawn without dark. That’s kinda how Good Friday relates to Easter Sunday. And yes, Sunday is all about joy and celebration but the sadness that came before it is unspeakable. So unspeakable in fact, that none of the four Gospel writers describe it. Matthew merely writes “after they crucified him…” That’s it. Five words to describe what is history like no other history. Mark, Luke, and John don’t write much more about the actual crucifixion and perhaps for good reason. It was brutal. It was too awful to tell; even for them.
He was forced to carry an extremely heavy cross on the way to His own crucifixion. All the way mocked and in today’s language, “offended” but protected by no one.
A crown of painful and sharp thorns was placed on His head.
He was thrown to the ground; kicked and spat on.
His arms were painfully stretched on the crossbeam of the cross and he was held down as they drove nails into his palms. Nails into His palms.
His feet were wrestled with and placed atop one another as nails were driven into them. Driven into them.
The cross was hoisted up with his body precariously nailed to it and writhing as He hung for all to see.
He must have wailed and screamed in pain right before He whispered, “Forgive them Father. They know not what they’ve done.”
Would any of us ever be so forgiving?
This, my friends, was an incomprehensible act of love.
To show His love, Jesus died for us. To show our love; we live for Him.
Perhaps we’ve become all too familiar with and used to what happened on that cross and the cruelty that lead to His last breath. I remember the first time I saw the movie “The Passion of the Christ.” I could hardly watch parts of it as it was so graphic and real. I’d never witnessed it all like that and should probably watch it again. We all should.
The fact that it all took place on a wooden cross should not go unnoticed. On that cross made from a tree, Christ reversed the curse Adam reaped on humanity by eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. By being lifted up on the cross, He prepared our way upward toward heaven and the cross stretched His body toward the four corners of the world.
Crucifixes are nothing new to Catholics as they adorn our churches, homes, and bodies. The word comes from the Latin “cruci fixus” meaning “one fixed to a cross” and serves as a symbol and a reminder of Christ’s journey to earth, His trials and death at the hands of humanity, and His victory over death. Plain crosses are equally popular among fellow Christians. (Why a crucifix you ask? Because it’s not the cross that saved us.) But the cross is not the only example of Christ’s humility and undying love for us demonstrated during His passion. It is said that when we make the Sign of the Cross, the first two gestures form the letter I and the next two cross it out. It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It was about Him.
He is King, but the only crown He wore was one made of thorns. Instead of being seated on a throne, He was nailed to a cross. And instead of wearing a royal robe, He was cloaked in mockeries. And yes, He could have ended it all and saved Himself but instead chose to save us.
So, as we “celebrate” Good Friday today, let’s remind ourselves about what actually took place some 2000+ years ago. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t painless. But it wasn’t the end. We believe that death is not the period, but the comma. There’s more to come. Death is not a good-bye but rather a “see you later.” Yes, we grieve but we do not grieve the same as those do who have no faith. We grieve in hope knowing that like on Good Friday, sorrow does not get the last word or last laugh. Sunday is coming.