Bible Society of South Africa

What’s so good about Good Friday? – 1 April 2021

By Xanthe Hancox

Bible text(s)

The Death of Jesus

28Jesus knew that by now everything had been completed; and in order to make the scripture come true, he said, “I am thirsty.”

29A bowl was there, full of cheap wine; so a sponge was soaked in the wine, put on a stalk of hyssop, and lifted up to his lips. 30Jesus drank the wine and said, “It is finished!”

Then he bowed his head and died.

John 19:28-30GNBOpen in Bible reader

I’ve always struggled to read about the death of Jesus.

From the physical pain of torture and crucifixion to the betrayal of those closest to him and the spiritual torment of being forgotten by his Father, the horror is too much to bear.

Why then, would anyone call it ‘Good’ Friday?

I’ve always understood that it’s called Good Friday because of what was accomplished. We can call it “good” if we appreciate the fact that Jesus’ trial, punishment, and death brought our salvation. Despite this, the name has always felt counterintuitive to me. It bypasses the horror of what happened that day and skips forward to Easter Sunday.

I did a little digging to see what this day is called around the world.

It was known as Long Friday by the Anglo-Saxons and is still referred to as such in modern Danish (Langfredag). It is known as “the Holy and Great Friday” in the Greek liturgy, and Karfreitag (Sorrowful Friday) in German.

And there’s another explanation for the name “Good Friday” in English. There’s a theory supported by both the Oxford English Dictionary and most language experts that the name comes from an antiquated meaning of good.

The old meaning of the word ‘good’ is, in fact, ‘holy’ and that makes a lot of sense. It explains why there was once Good Wednesday, the Wednesday before Easter, which these days is more commonly known as Holy Wednesday.

To think of tomorrow as ‘Holy Friday’ or as ‘Long’, ‘Great’, or ‘Terrible’, allows us to grieve and mourn with Jesus’ mother and sister at the cross (John 19:25) and contemplate the enormity of what happened on that terrible day.

Of course it is true that a good thing (the very best thing!) follows Good Friday. The Resurrection of Jesus and the celebration of Easter, the very pinnacle of our Christian celebrations.

Prayer: Lord God, tomorrow is Good Friday, and we lament the sin and evil that made this horror necessary. We are so grateful for your sacrifice. Thank you too for Easter Sunday, for the joy and wonder of your victory over death and sin. In your holy name, Amen

Bible Society of South Africav.4.16.20
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