The name of the holiday sounds like a paradox. After all, what is “good” about the dark, bleak day of Jesus’ suffering and death? It is a puzzle for most children raised in the Christian faith, and therefore, many parents have undoubtedly faced the question at some point: “Mom, Dad — why is it called Good Friday?”
The earliest known use of the term “Guode Friday” is found in The South English Legendary, a text from the 13th century. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, published in 1907, some sources find the origin in the German term “Gottes Freitag, which means “God’s Friday,” while others maintain that the original name in German is “Gute Freitag” (Good Friday). The Anglo-Saxons called it Long Friday; a term used in Demark to this day. In some countries, including my homeland, Brazil, the holiday is called “Holy Friday.”
Regardless, the meaning is the same. The dreadful day of Jesus’ death is truly as holy as it is good. Were it not for his death, there would be no atonement for the sins of the world. Were it not for his death, there would be no resurrection — the very reason Christianity stands out among the world’s religions as the only one whose messiah is alive.
We know that now. Standing on the other side of Good Friday, believers have approached Easter weekend with both reverence and joy. For centuries, we have gathered to partake the Lord’s Supper on Good Friday, a worshipful service where we introspectively meditate on Jesus’ sacrifice to atone for our sins. And then, on Sunday morning, we gather together in colorful dresses, hearts filled with joy, to celebrate that our Savior lives.
But for those who followed the Jewish rabbi throughout Galilee and Judah in the first century, the beginning of that Sabbath marked 35 hours of confusion and despair. They had followed him for three years, witnessed the miracles, and wholeheartedly trusted that he was indeed their long-awaited Messiah. He was supposed to end Roman tyranny and establish King David’s throne once and for all. But instead, their hearts sunk, and their hope vanished when he uttered his final words: “It is finished.”
“It is finished… But it’s really just beginning.” — Louie Giglio
Perhaps the most inspiring message I have heard about enduring faith during the current worldwide health and economic crisis was presented by Passion City Church’s pastor and best-selling author Louie Giglio on March 29. At a time when life is on pause for most societies around the planet, Giglio reminded us that, even though it seemed like all hope died on the day after Jesus’ crucifixion, God was indeed at work, in preparation for the resurrection that would come on that third day.
The message could not be more appropriate and can certainly extend to how we feel this Easter weekend.
It will be a different one for Christians around the world, no doubt. It’s the first time in the history of this country that churches will not open their doors on Easter. Like the rest of the world, it would be easy to conclude that the church is “on pause.”
But that could not be a more inaccurate statement.
I firmly believe that the church is thriving this Easter weekend. Just as on that Sabbath day, 2,000 years ago, when all hope seemed to vanish after Jesus’ death, God is still at work. And — I dare say — we are paying more attention than we were last year on Easter weekend. Why? Because to some, it took this “pause” for us to stop and truly listen.
While we face the dark of uncertainties of how our nation and the world will recover from the economic impact of COVID-19, God has been working on families, redirecting our priorities, our focus, and strengthening our faith.
God is undoubtedly as active in this dark period of our history as he was on that Sabbath, over 2,000 years ago. Like the disciples then, we cannot fathom the full scope of what he is doing quite yet. But while the streets are silent and our churches are empty, let us thank God that our hearts can be full. Rather than worry, let us cling to the image of that empty grave on the third day. Let us remember that what seemed to be a horrible Friday, turned out to be the best one ever.
And finally, let us tell our hearts to cling to the hope of resurrection day as we navigate the ominous silence of the day before.
Patricia Holbrook is a columnist, author, blogger and international speaker. Her newly published Bible Study – Twelve Inches – is now available on her website www.soaringwithHim.com. For speaking engagements and comments, email pholbrook@soaringwithHim.com