What’s So Good About Good Friday?

I’ve never liked the fact that we call the day on which we remember Jesus’ crucifixion “Good Friday.” What’s so good about it anyway? Personally I find the entirety of Holy Week – save for Easter – pretty depressing. Sure, the days are getting longer and things have started to grow all around us, but until Easter, the focus of the week is the suffering and death of an innocent man.

It turns out that, although plenty of folks have their own explanations, nobody actually knows why we call it Good Friday. I think the Germans are spot-on by calling it Karfreitag, which means “Suffering Friday.”

Figures the Germans would be more content to sit with suffering than the rest of us. They’re so serious! But I digress…

Some folks think it was originally called “God Friday,” and somehow it got changed to “Good Friday.” Seems counter-intuitive to me. Another hypothesis is that it’s “good” because Jesus was demonstrating his love for humanity by offering up his life. Or that it’s good because he had to die in order to save us from sin.

I guess it depends on your theology, but I think the crucifixion sucked. Period.

Even if you believe Jesus had to die to save us from sin, why did he have to die then? Why not take on the sinfulness of all humanity on his deathbed, after a long, fruitful life of showing people the way to God? And why so brutal? I mean it’s one thing for God to allow his son to die; it’s another entirely to allow him to suffer.

It smacks of the kind of things I hear when someone dies, such as, “everything happens for a reason,” or “they’re in a better place now.” For one, to dismiss death as a good thing is to minimize the suffering of those left behind. And plus, if the afterlife is so much better, why would God subject us to this flesh-and-blood life sentence?

In a lot of my articles I like to do what I call “untying the knot.” I love to present a problem in the first part of the post, and then come to some resolution by the end. But Good Friday is itself unresolved. It’s tragic. It’s mysterious and terrible. Hitching it to the joy of Easter overlooks the darkness of what the day really represents.

No knot-untying today. Happy Good Friday.

About Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

  • Bassjlr

    The reason Jesus “had to die” is that he was human. Not to die would be a denial of all he was and all we are. [NOTE: by affirming his humanity I am in no way denying his divinity, or vice-versa.] That he had to die the way he did was because in his obedience to God he challenged a socio/political/religous/economic system that was (still is) inherently evil, and that could not tolerate his message of compassionate stewardship of life and resources. God “allowed” his death for the same reason God “allows” any other death. The way he died is the result of what is called “free moral agency,” which means we are free to choose our way, with the caveat that we are responsible and accountable for the choices we make. Part of what makes Good Friday “good” is that the predictable consequences of Jesus’ chosen path did not deter his faithfulness and obedience. Such integrity is rare, and is good, indeed. Aside from all that, however, I agree: crucifixion sucks! [Sorry. I'm a compulsive knot un-tier.]

    • Dayl8 Jodi

       You hit the nail right on the head…Best post!!

  • http://henryimler.com/ Henry Imler

    You’re right.  While “good Friday” isn’t good Friday until Resurrection Sunday, it’s still tragic as Hell.

  • TinaB

    Perhaps the tragedy is the reason so many of us feel humbled and unworthy of His gift. Would any decent person want to benefit through the suffering of another? I agree, crucifixion totally sucks. I watched “The Passion” once, and was so heartbreakingly horrified that I don’t think I can watch it ever again. I don’t feel joy when I think of Jesus suffering for me…I feel ashamed that He had to. For me, joy is felt on Easter….

  • http://twitter.com/mbayer1248 Michael Bayer

    We were having this discussion in a theology seminar once, and a student forcefully pressed the, “Why couldn’t Jesus have gotten married, had kids, and died in his sleep at the age of 85?” position. 

    The response of one author was to point to the Holocaust. Would it have been enough for a prisoner of Buchenwald (or a 9 year old in Uganda who has watched his parents murdered before his eyes… or a 19 year old rape victim… or a person battling bone cancer) if God-become-human had simply died in his sleep? 
    I don’t purport to possess an intimate familiarity with the Divine logic on this or any other topic, but it would make sense to me that Jesus “had” to endure so gruesome and agonizing an experience so as to answer the timeless question from a child to a parent, “How would you know?”

    As in… when a parent tries to console a 16 year old who has just had her heart broken that, some day, she will begin to heal, and she screams at her mother through blurry eyes and tear stained cheeks, “How would you know?” In our moments of most acute pain, we do not want to be told, “It will all be okay,” by someone we are convinced has absolutely no idea what we are going through. For instance when a grieving parent whose son was killed in Afghanistan is greeted by well-meaning parents at church, who repeat tired maxims about “God’s plan” and “time healing all wounds.”

    In a sense, inasmuch as we call God, “Father,” we are all children, lashing out at God and demanding, “How would you know?” when we are in our moments of suffering. Because of the crucifixion, God can say back to us, “Because I’ve been there. I’ve experienced the worst sort of pain and agony and humiliation a human can endure, first-hand. And I promise you… you will find healing.”

    So the theological question becomes… would it have been enough? Would it have been enough for us if God took on our form, led a long, fulfilled life, and passed away in his sleep at 85?

    • Sandra Delemare

      I so agree – this reminds me of the ‘long silence’

  • Anonymous

    I still find significant value in Good Friday. For me, the only way I can in anyway accept religion and/God is with a God that relates to human suffering and death. If God can’t relate to me when I am at my weakest and at the point of death, I’m not really interested. I also find significant value in Jesus’s cry of forsakeness, because that’s how I feel sometimes. Does it suck? Yes. Is it bitter? Yes. However, for me, Good Friday is all about Emmanuel: God with us. Even to the end. Even to death. It makes it real to me, if that makes any sense.

  • http://twitter.com/hymndescants Dawn Schram

    It was necessary to demonstrate the full ugliness and horror of sin to the whole of the universe and to show the depths that Love was willing to go to. He was our substitute.

  • jvaldiviso@yahoo.com

    Even if you believe Jesus had to die to save us from sin, why did he have to die then? - Every man has an appointed day of his death, it is inevitable phenomenon.

    Why not take on the sinfulness of all humanity on his deathbed, after a long, fruitful life of showing people the way to God? 
    -Redemption of all man (in the Church) that will believe that Her is the Son of God, and not all humanity.

    And why so brutal? 
    At the time of the Roman Empire, that was the capital punishment being imposed to criminals. If it was done in our time, it may be done in the electric chair or in the way of euthanasia. LOLS, the craziest part is if it is Electric Chair, then Roman Catholics will display electric chairs in the altar their churches.

     I mean it’s one thing for God to allow his son to die; it’s another entirely to allow him to suffer. 
    -Life of Christians here on crazy world is for sufferings only because there is no real joy other than godliness for Christians. The real joy is in the third heaven.

    The term Good Friday was invented by Roman Catholics and if we are not members of that church, we are not forced to call or treat that as “good Friday”. 

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pu6sxwvuIE George

    GOOD Friday or BAD Friday? Chck out this 1 minute clip:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pu6sxwvuIE

  • Violetfire417

    His death was brutal bc those were the times, and Jesus had to prove he would endure ANYTHING for God and the sins of humankind. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be so special, IMO.
    I believe God puts us here on Earth to learn our lessons and experience everything life has to offer-especially love. And until our soul is pure enough we come back until we “get it right” bc we aren’t worthy of being in God’s presence.(or purgatory is where we “cleanse”)
    I agree things r said to comfort loved ones remaining on Earth but I also believe death is more than life.


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