What Is "Good" About Good Friday?
The Confusion of Good Friday
Good Friday is the day Christ-followers observe Jesus Christ’s death on a cross. It is the Friday before Easter. Some denominations hold special services to commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion while other denominations hold regular Easter services throughout Easter weekend.
Whether you observe Good Friday or not, you might wonder why we call a day of suffering and death “good.” Even Jesus’ followers were confused after Jesus’ crucifixion and death. Despite the confusion, there are a number of theories from religious scholars and linguists about how we started referring to this day of suffering as “good.”
The Origins of the Word
According to BBC’s Magazine Monitor, the earliest recorded use of “Good Friday” (“guode Friday”) is found in an Old English text from 1290. But there are debates surrounding how this name came to be used for this significant religious and historical event.
Linguists have theories for why we call the Friday before Easter “Good Friday.” Many linguists think the term “good” derived from the word “holy” used at the time when Jesus was crucified. The Oxford English Dictionary and its editors support this theory.
According to BBC’s Magazine Monitor, the Oxford English Dictionary “states that ‘good’ in this context refers to ‘a day or season observed as holy by the church.’” Furthermore, Oxford English Dictionary’s Senior Editor Fiona MacPherson states the adjective, “good,” is traditionally used for days or seasons during which religious holidays are observed.
As stated in The Catholic Encyclopedia, Good Friday is known as “the Holy and Great Friday” in the Greek Liturgy and “Holy Friday” in Romance languages. Therefore, the term “Good Friday” could have come from its early ties to “holy” and the church’s early observances of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
However, there are also other theories about the origin of the word “good” in relation to this Friday. One theory is that it is derived from “God’s Friday," an older name used for Good Friday. So, some suggest “good” is simply a corruption of “God.”
No matter how it all began, we know that Good Friday is one of the most significant events in our history. Good Friday changed the course of humanity and of our world.
The Early Observance of Good Friday
According to BibleStudy.org, an encyclopedia from 1911 states the observance of Jesus’ crucifixion arose from the Jewish celebration of Passover. Passover is a Jewish spring festival that commemorates the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. Passover also represents the final plague that God brought down on Egypt: the killing of the firstborn sons. Jews were instructed to apply a lamb’s blood over their doorposts, so their houses would be “passed over,” saving their sons.
In Christianity, Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God because He is the final sacrifice that freed us from the bondage of sin. Therefore, some believe the act of sacrificing lambs during Passover paralleled to the Lamb of God being sacrificed on the cross. This connection may have caused early Christ-followers to observe Good Friday.
In the 4th century, the Roman Catholic Church designated Good Friday as a day of fasting to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus. The early church’s observance of Good Friday led to many viewing it as a day to celebrate and remember before the celebration of the resurrection at Easter.
The Impact of Good Friday on Us Today
Although it is interesting to know the origins of Good Friday, the Friday before Easter is a day that has significance beyond its beginnings. No matter how Good Friday received its name, the important part is we can look back and see the “good” on the day Jesus faced suffering and death.
Yes, Jesus was mocked, beaten, and executed. He suffered pain no other man has ever endured. But He did it out of love and compassion for us—for all of humanity. If Jesus had not endured His suffering and death at the cross, we would not have escaped the bondage of sin.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –Romans 6:23
His suffering and death made a way for all to come to Him, to have a personal relationship with Him, and to be transformed by His powerful love and passion for us.
Aside from the sins His blood took away, His death led to His victory—the resurrection. Without Jesus’ crucifixion, there could not have been a resurrection. His death paid the penalty for our sins, but His resurrection brought us hope for our future.
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