Why “Good” Friday?

I’m writing this on Good Friday after reading the account of that historic day from each of the four gospels. It all raises the question, why do we call this “Good” Friday?

There are slight variances in the way the story is told, but the essence is that Our Lord was betrayed by Judas, one of his followers sometime near midnight on Thursday; was then taken bound and captive to the dwellings of a corrupt high priesthood; and stood trial through the night. By dawn he was sentenced to die; abused mentally and physically by the minions of that office; and then led away in bonds to appear before the Roman governor, Pilate, because Jewish leaders were seeking Roman agreement for the state to put him to death.

The mind boggles at the corruption of the religious hierarchy of the day. Take Annas, before whom Jesus first appeared. This official held the office of high priest himself for only seven years, but managed to have five of his sons succeed him, then his son-in-law, Caiaphas, and later still, a grandson. For this trial of Jesus, he was long out of office but he still had his hand on the levers of ecclesiastical power.

In the mock trial that took place under Annas and his son-in-law Caiaphas, a whole string of illegalities were committed: the trial was held during the night; the verdict of death was pronounced on the spot rather than after one full night had elapsed; the accused was tried on the day preceding a religious feast; the prisoner was compelled to testify against himself; he was struck across the face without reason; false witnesses were sought (perhaps even bought); and the prisoner was not released when the witnesses could not agree and the case could not be proved.

The rules by which the Jewish nation was to carry on the practice of justice were clear but obviously broken with abandon, and with blind fury.

So, why do we observe this day as “Good” Friday?

Some say it is because the original meaning of “good” was related to the word “God.” In spite of the fact that corrupt religious leaders appeared to be in complete charge, it turned out to be “God’s Friday.” In perspective we say the evils perpetrated that day leading finally to his vacated cross brought forth the greatest good — through Our Lord’s undeserved suffering, the penalty for the world’s sins was paid, eternal salvation was purchased and made available to all mankind in response to faith.

In any event, our awareness of the dark strands of that momentous day should not be limited to that one single day. They should be woven daily into our everyday thanksgiving as we say, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

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