As a Christian who has spent most of my life in church, I’ve often wondered why we call “Good Friday” good. It is the day Jesus died. The day he was brutally crucified on a cross. A barbaric and gruesome death. This is the day humanity took the most influential person to walk the planet and decided to end his life at just 33 years old.
What is good about that?
Calling Friday good flies in the face of just about everything we understand in terms of morality. What happened on that cross was decidedly bad! So, why do we celebrate it? Why do we brand it as a good?
I was doing some research on this and there is a lot of gymnastics about how religious holidays are often given the moniker as “Good” or “Holy” no matter if they were negative or not. That certainly checks out. But there is something more at play.
After all, isn’t the cross the most celebrated emblem of Christianity. There are not a lot of empty tomb bumper stickers or necklaces or tattoos in the Christian community. When we think about Easter, when we think about Christianity in general, the cross is one of the first and most celebrated images that comes to mind. It adorns the front of most churches. Not as a warning sign. As a celebration!
So it is not just that we arbitrarily name Friday “good”. We believe there is something dramatically good about it.
Even with the hurt and the barbarism behind what happened on Golgotha, we celebrate. It is as if there is something that is worth the pain. And not just that, something that the pain helps add value to. So that the hurt is not just a means to an end. Not just an obstacle to be overcome. But a value.
The life of Jesus is about miracles and sermons. He came to preach and to heal. It is also about suffering. He came to die. These are all a part of the journey. They are celebrated in equal measure because they are essential elements to the vision of Jesus’ life.
The suffering adds value. If things come at a cost, they are worth more. Perseverance is not just about gritting our teeth and bearing with unpleasantries. It is about growing through struggle, learning through trial. We know in our hearts that intimacy cannot develop without the perseverance of struggle. We know it is good to go through difficult things, even when it hurts.
There are few things sadder than a spoiled child, who has never had to deal with disappointment, pain, or boundaries. These are a part of the human experience. A good part. They grow us, teaching us what we are capable of and what we aren’t, what is worth our effort and what we are willing to let go of.
Good Friday would not be good if it were the end. But it isn’t. Easter is on the way. The empty tomb. Because of this, the crucifixion becomes an oddly beautiful part of the story. It is tragic. It hurts. But it makes the beauty more sweet, the vision more enjoyable.