In the Christian calendar, Good Friday is the day we remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
As an historical event, it is an example of gross injustice and brutality. Jesus preached a message of radical love and trust in God. He exposed much of the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his time, their concern with little ritual things instead of the fundamental principles of their religion, and their obsession with their own status and privileges. Because of this the leaders came to hate him.
It was a volatile political situation. The Jewish community was under the rule of the Roman Empire. Because of their unique religious principles – their refusal to worship any other god, their opposition to idols, and their strict rules of purity – the Romans regarded them as an awkward and demanding subject people. There was constant tension and uneasy compromise. Jesus was rocking a boat that was barely managing to stay above water, so it was convenient for a lot of people that he should be out of the way.
In a hasty process that was hardly legal, the religious authorities condemned him for blasphemy, for offences against God, and then persuaded the Roman governor to execute him for treason. The punishment was to be nailed to a cross and bleed to death – one of the many cruel punishments human ingenuity has devised down through the ages.
So what’s good about it? Why is it called ‘Good Friday’? The simple answer is that actually ‘good’ is an old English word for ‘holy’. So what’s holy about it?
Well, if you ask a Christian what God is like the answer will be like Jesus. So the death of Jesus on the cross shows God, in his uncompromising love, pouring out his very lifeblood for the world he has created. It shows his solidarity with all who suffer: because of the cross we have a God who knows from experience the very worst that we can suffer.
In that event of “holy Friday” is the hope of the world. It shows God being prepared to take the very worst that human beings can do to him and to each other. This is very different from the picture we often have of God Almighty sitting on a throne in heaven, judging and controlling. This is the picture that says “God is love” and in such love is the hope of the world.
So after all it really is a Good Friday.