Friday, April 22, 2011

Why Is Today Called Good Friday?

Why is today called Good Friday?

As my six year old son said, “Shouldn’t it be called Sad Friday?”

His twin brother suggested that it be called Bad Friday, since Jesus was killed on a cross.

Indeed it was a bad day for God. His one and only son was unjustly condemned, slandered, betrayed, abandoned, tortured, mocked and murdered.

It was a sad day for God. It was a sad Friday for Jesus.

Why call it Good Friday when it is a day of grief, of sorrow, of suffering, a day of affliction and transgressions, a day of iniquities and wounds?

Why call it Good Friday when God’s Son is humbled and crucified for preaching the Good News of God’s Kingdom?

If anything, it should be called God’s Friday. On it God’s Son was killed by God’s people, they had killed another of God’s Prophets as they had done in centuries past, another of God’s Servants rejected. On this Day it was God’s Kingdom that was resisted, God’s good News of Deliverance and Salvation of Peace and Righteousness was rejected.

God the Father sent His Son to be the New King of Israel; to fulfill that ancient promise to Abraham: I will bless you, I will make you a blessing, through you I will bless the world.

They killed their king.

It was a bad Friday for God the Father. Why call it Good Friday when it’s a day marked by violence, rebellion, and defiance?

If nothing else, call it God’s Friday, just not Good Friday.

The earliest Christians called today Holy Friday. Holy carries with it the meaning of set apart, unlike all else. For obvious reasons, today is holy, unlike all other Fridays in all of history.

Today also became known as Great Friday. A tradition developed in early Christianity when every Friday became a Holy Feast Day in remembrance of Christ’s crucifixion. This day today became known as Great Friday, a distinction from all the other Holy Feast Days.

Holy Friday. Great Friday. Those are the ancient names for today.

Maybe we should reclaim those early titles for today. Instead of calling it Good Friday, call it Holy Friday, or Great Friday. Just not Good Friday. For too many years now, whenever someone hears the title for today, it often prompts that searching question: Why is today called Good Friday?

For obvious reasons, today is God’s Friday. It’s when God died. We believe that God was in the flesh on the cross. Here’s how St. Paul writes it:

Who, being in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he made himself nothing,
By taking the form of a servant
Being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a human being,
He humbled himself
By becoming obedient to death
Even death on a cross.

You could say that God’s heart was hammered onto a hardwood tree that day. A day of rejection, a morning of brokenness, of shattered, bleeding love.

Instead of calling it Good Friday for all these years, we should’ve been calling it God’s Friday. All by itself, there is nothing good about today. When you look at just today, it’s not a Good Friday.

It’s God’s Friday. God suffered on this Friday. God in the flesh was staked to a rough-hewn pole amidst criminals. On this Friday God the Son who came to serve and save was ripped to shreds. His life and blood pouring out onto the stones on this Friday.

God gave a vision of this many centuries earlier to a prophet who was also rejected and tortured and destroyed on a tree. Well, according to legend, in a tree. It is told that on his final day, Isaiah was stuffed into a hollow tree and then sawn in half.

Isaiah was a servant that suffered. He was the servant of a God who suffered. He was given words to remember about another servant to come who would suffer. A poem for how God would suffer again:

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering.
Yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him and afflicted.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers are silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away,
yet who of his generation protested?
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death.
Though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit found in his mouth.

This makes for a Sad Friday. As my son Levi said, “It should be called Bad Friday.” Or at least, instead of Good Friday, God’s Friday.

If any of you know your German, you’ll remember that today is known in their land as Gottes Freitag. For a nation that predates ours, they carry the tradition of calling today God’s Friday. But it also seems that some in Germany long ago referred to today as Gute Freitag.

Gute carries with it the meaning of Benevolence, Charity, Kindness, Goodness.

And so it seems the tradition of calling today Good Friday can stand.

Today is God’s Friday. And on His Friday, God turned a Bad Day into a Good day.

As we read the sorrowful story in the Gospel According to Luke, amidst the words of grief and paragraphs of pain, there is a simple, stunning line from God’s Son that transforms God’s Friday into a Good Friday:

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with them to be executed. When they came to the place of The Skull, they were crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. And Jesus whispered amidst his tears groans: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

He’s not supposed to be there, between two brigands.

Jesus was a good man. He brought good news. He was good news. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, befriended the poor, lifted up the lame, set sinners free, generously gave away faith, hope, and love.

It can’t be a good day when God’s good Son is unjustly put to death. But even amidst the torture and agony and pain, God’s Good Son lets his body:
Be pierced for our transgressions,
Be crushed for our iniquities.
He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

This is the Father’s Friday. For those that believe, trust, accept, want it, today can be a Good Friday.

How would someone know that you believed that today is a Good Friday?

How would someone know that you trusted in the Father’s Forgiveness?

How would someone know that you believed that on Good Friday the Father laid on his Son the iniquity of us all?

How would someone know you want today to be a Good Friday? They would know it when they hear you whisper those same words of Jesus on the cross amidst your own sorrow and suffering.
Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.

When you are afflicted and crushed, we’ll know you believe God’s Friday is a Good Friday when you whisper the words of God’s Son.

Why is today called Good Friday? Because one by one, Christians quietly choose to respond with forgiveness when they are sinned against.

It’s always been God’s Friday. Through our response to the Father’s forgiveness, our lives, our words, our forgiving just as God forgave us – this will become the best answer to the annual question:
Why is today called Good Friday?

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