In India, even among Hindus and Muslims, Good Friday is Better known than Easter. But Most probably, Most do not know what exactly Good Friday is. This article will help understand that question.
Broadly, this post speaks about:
- What Good Friday is, or, What is its Meaning?
- The Historicity of Good Friday, or, Did Jesus Really Die on that day,
- Was Good Friday Necessary? Was Such a Cruel Death Needed?
- What happened on Good Friday, or, What was Special about Christ Dying on the Cross?
- WHY is it called GOOD Friday?
- And, What should We Do on this day?
1. What is Good Friday, or, What is its Meaning?
As to what Good Friday is, it is the day when, nearly 2000 years ago, Our Lord Jesus Christ gave up His Life for Our sake.
2. The Historicity of Good Friday, or, Did Jesus Really Die on that day?
It is generally accepted that Jesus gave His Life up in 33 AD. There are questions raised by and among experts as to the exact Day and the Year, etc. But It is Historically accepted that Christ was Crucified by the Roman authorities. Two historians of That time, …who were NOT followers of Jesus, attest to this.
1. TACITUS, a Roman, who lived between 55-115 C.E., wrote in his ‘Annals, XV: 44,’ as follows:
“Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus…”
[A few words about the so-called abominations above. Christ Jesus Himself had established what We call the Communion or the Eucharist, which We partake as Christ’s Very Body and Blood. This is being called an abomination by the author above. (For more on the Eucharist, please click here)].
2. Flavius JOSEPHUS, born 37 C.E., wrote thus in his ‘Antiquities 17.3.3. (81-96 C.E.).’
“There lived Jesus, …The Christ. Pilate sentenced him to die on the cross, having been urged to do so by the noblest of our citizens; but those who loved him at the first did not give up their affection for him. And the tribe of the Christians, who are named after him, have not disappeared to this day.”
Needless to say, the statements above are Contested, but are also Replied well.
3. Was Good Friday Necessary? Was Such a Cruel Death Needed?
The description of the Tortures meted out to Jesus, are found in All the Four Gospels. In the Next section, I shall further show the Extent of those Agonies. For Now, Was Good Friday Necessary?
The Modern Trend Seems to Suggest that Punishment is Not Needed, or that it is something to be Avoided, to be meted out Only in Extreme circumstances, etc. For example, while some schools go to extreme Chastisements like making the Children Kneel down in the Hot sun for being Late, etc, in Most Other schools, especially those in the West, Penalties seem to be frowned upon.
Above, A Prisoner’s cell in Sweden. But it seems Prisoners want and Try to escape from these too.
It would seem that Gone are the days when it used to be said: Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child. …Yet, Jails exist. Even in Scandinavia, it should not be forgotten that Isolating prisoners from Society is itself a Punishment. Ergo, Mankind believes in Retribution.
As they speak about the Special cases in the West, there Are people who Exceed limits of Decency, and Indulge and Rejoice in Harming others. Examples are: hitler, Pol Pot, Politicians, Judges, Officials by the Thousands! They do it with a Straight Face, of course. They would even Claim that they are doing the right thing.
Given all that, Crime and Sin Demand Punishment.
We might, of course, ask what all this has to do with Us. The Problem is, that We ALL Sin. And Deserve Punishment.
(To Reiterate), Sin is Wilfully Harming, Injuring., even Hurting Another.
Let us take Examples:
A. Both scenes above are from India, but More often it is like that at Right. The point is that Most of the time, Indian (Bus) Conductors, who are in charge of passengers boarding and alighting, as well as the dispensation of the tickets, would easily Stop the Bus to let a passenger Get In.
But when it comes to people Getting Down, You will find these Conductors in Such an Almighty Hurry, veritably shouting ‘Get off, get off,’ that Many Elderly and Infirm passengers Fall down. The Bus Driver Helps in this by Putting the Bus in Motion before people have fully alighted. Unless the passenger is accompanied by enough people, the conductor will just abuse the fallen passenger for falling down, and the bus will keep moving on.
The other kind of problem is that the conductors Will Not Stop where Passengers sometimes Request stops, but put them down at supposedly acknowledged/recognized ‘points’. What happens is that the Old, the Infirm, and many poor people with young children get to walk long distances in the Hot Sun, Unnecessarily. But the Bus Will stop whenever the Driver wants a cup of tea; or for him to pick up his lunch from his house.
Most of Us do not Protest against these things, do not Speak out. Oh, We might, If they were happening to Us. By Not Speaking Up for the Weak, the Have-Nots and the Downtrodden, We Sin. MOST of Us are Guilty of the Sin of Apathy.
Where, and How Often, have We spoken out against Injustice?
B. Take Old Age Pensions. The government announces schemes. People applaud, and say, ‘Oh, aren’t things being done for the Poor?’
[Forgive me for Inserting this picture of a Widow and her Children, when I had started to talk of Old people. …Widows are supposed to receive government help too. The picture shows How Well they get it].
To go back to the Old people, On the ground level…
- Most of the Time, they have to find out about these things By Themselves. I speak of these things from Experience.
- Those who approach the Village Heads, etc, may be told to Deposit Rs. 150, for Expenses!
- Half of those who applied May get the pension, for 6 months or so! For Most, it gets stopped somehow, automatically! Oh, sure, there are a ‘lucky’ few who keep getting it, and the government ‘show-cases’ them.
- Pensions are delivered about 20 days Late. This allows the local authorities to put the sums, (in a village it would work out to Quite a few thousands, at least, after all), in Short Term Fix Deposits. Money is Earned for just the trouble of going to the bank!
Much, Much more can be said about such things.
These sorts of things Do Not happen to the Well to do. I mean You. You arrive at an Office or the Bank, and the Clerks Smile at You and You get Your work done, maybe Even without paying a bribe. That is because the office fellows Know that You would create a ruckus otherwise.
Who Cares for the Feeble Shoutings of a Poor Man? We Don’t. It would be right Childish of Us to think that people in offices do.
We Applaud Mother Teresa for saying that She saw Christ in Every Poor Person. We Profess to do that too. But I can Very Well Repeat my earlier question: Where, and How Often, have We spoken out against Injustice?
As I said, we create a ruckus, and even get ourselves heard, when things happen to us. But that is Not Speaking Up for Christ in the Downtrodden.
Thus, We All Sin. I have sinned much by my Anger. As a Matter of Fact, the Years I spent in Anxiety were years of Sin. Because it is a Lack of Trust in God. We All Sin, and We have All Sinned. Romans 3:23.
So, Was Good Friday Necessary? Was Such a Cruel Death Needed? …By the Time We even come to Realize Our Sinfulness, Our Burdens of Sins must be Too Great for Reparation. That was Why Good Friday became Necessary. Our BIG bundle of sins needed Big Atonement.
4. What happened on Good Friday, What was Special about Christ Dying on the Cross?
Movies like the ‘Passion of the Christ’ are Easily available, and in Many languages. These moving pictures show How things must Really have happened. Critics say that these depictions are not True. Just shows How Mankind Prefers to Keep Reality Under shades, Under the Carpet. Here are two still from the movie, The Passion.
Mary Wiping Jesus’ Blood after the Scourging is another, Most moving moments of the movie. Before seeing it, even I had not thought about it. But, How Else could it have been? The Blood, even bits of Flesh, Splattering, even on the soldiers who were doing the Scourging, is Very Realistically shown. My salutations to the Director.
There is an event, if We can call it that, that of Disrobing Christ before these things happened. We all take off our clothes. But let Us think How We Feel if and when somebody Else removes them. A teacher of a professor having his pants removed by his students, grown up children doing the same to their parents with malice, etc, could make one’s heart cry. And here is One Who was called ‘Master,’ Not a light word, and stripped naked, (We cannot be sure they had even left a loin cloth on Him). This was Another, Severe Torture, rendered to Jesus. For a little more on this, please click here.
Below, a depiction from the same movie, of the famous ‘Ecce Homo,’ namely Behold the Man, as Pilate had said to the crowd, (John 19:5). What he had meant was, ‘See the Man; the Beating itself has done this to Him. Do you still want Him Crucified?’
This is How Jesus must have looked after the Scourging. Not like the ‘Artistically’ applied strokes we see on our Crucifixes in our churches.
Regarding Jesus’ Blood, see: ‘The Blessed Eucharist‘ in What is Maundy Thursday.
Christ’s Agonies began on the Night of Maundy Thursday, say about 9 PM, and lasted till about 3 PM on Good Friday.
Over and above the Scourging, Christ’s Hanging on the Cross was a veritable Horror. His Cross had not been smoothened and varnished. It must have been Extremely Rough.
The Nails would not have been the ‘smooth’ affairs of today. They were of Centuries old workmanship. Even 4 inch nails of today could not have held a body on a cross. One could have got rid of them by sacrificing the tearing of one’s flesh, and pulling. So, Long, Finger thick, Rough nails. Forced in by heavy hammers.
People died on the Cross because of Suffocation. Try this. Extend Your hands, and let Your body Sag. Along with this, You would have Exhaled. You will notice that, To Straighten the body, which will be Needed to Inhale again, You will have to use Your Stomach and Back muscles. IF Our hands are fixed on the cross, our Body will use the Arms also to Raise the Chest.
We can use the Stomach and Back muscles to raise up the chest Only If We are Sitting or Standing. If We were hanging on the Cross, the Whole job of lifting up the body would fall on the Arms! Using the Arms to keep lifting the body tired the Arms in quite a short while, after which they did not have the Strength to keep lifting it. This would happen Even if the Arms are merely Tied to the Cross, instead of being Nailed to it.
That was Why they Provided a Block of Wood for the Feet, whereby now the legs assisted the body in lifting the chest for breathing. It was Not an Act of Kindness. First of all, the block must have been as rough as the cross, Full of Slivers. But Worse, The Block Prolonged the Agony, Allowing the person to keep breathing longer, Not letting him die! Which was what they wanted, of course. [The feet were Tied to the Block, but in Christ’s case, they were Nailed].
Thus, altogether, it was a Most Brutal treatment. YET. If We look Only at the Physical side, it is Possible that people have suffered Worse, and More Prolonged agonies. Acid attack and Gang Rape Victims could be a case in point.
What made Jesus’ Suffering Exclusive and Most Terrible was this:
- Jesus Must have Healed the people, or the relatives of the people, who were in the Crowd demanding His Death, and Laughing at Him. He would have realized this, and this should have Pained Him.
- More than that, According to Christian Belief, He was Carrying the Sins and the Punishment of the Whole of Mankind upon Himself. That was His Greater Burden, one that made Him cry out, in His Humanity, “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34).
But it Cannot, and Should Not be said that Jesus had Despaired. Firstly, the words I have quoted above are themselves a Direct Quote from Psalm 22:1. It is the Prayer of a Deeply Distressed person. But, after beginning thus, this person declares his Trust in God in the second part of the Psalm, using a goodly 10 verses for this. The psalmist ends by Proclaiming: “People Not Yet born will be told: ‘The Lord Saved His people.'”
Jesus, that Supreme Man, would not have Wasted His time on the Cross. (We are speaking Only of His Humanity here). Psalms make Excellent prayer. So, Psalm 22 must have been one of the many He had used. And We see How that ends. In Triumphant Trust in God. And Luke specifically says that Jesus offered up His Soul to the Father, thereby showing His Trust in Him, as we see in the words: “Father, In Your Hands I place my Spirit.” (23:46).
So, that is what is So different about Christ’s Death on the Cross. He suffered the Consequences of the sins of the Whole of Mankind.
All that as a Mere Man. God cannot Die, on the cross or otherwise. And Christ manifested His Godhead by Rising on the Third day.
5. WHY is it called GOOD Friday?
I came across a little comic strip that speaks in this regard. From the Very Famous series: BC.
Logically, the strip proceeds very well indeed. But one can raise questions on the statement in the second panel, about one being hung on the cross. The question comes, ‘What have I done to deserve being Hung?’
Just leave One room in Your house undusted, unused and unopened, for, let us say Ten years. Can You imagine the Amount of Dirt that would accumulate? Particularly in Indian conditions? Have We Any Idea? ANY Idea as to How firmly the grime would be sticking, particularly to the floor? And How Hard it would be, and How Long it would take to clean that up? …And What Is there? Just Dust. Just Particles of Dust.
Even If We say I am not guilty of Big sins, WE have counted the Moments when We have been Ignored. From Childhood. It has gone into our Sub-Conscious. It has affected our lives. …And We have done that Same to Others. Sins of Commission and Omission.
We should have Got it in the Neck. After all, We are ALL God’s children. When one brother hurts another, we might Ignore that. But the ‘Hurt Brother’s’ Tears, and sometimes his Blood, Cry Out. Have We not cried out?
When somebody gobbles up our hard earned money that we had paid for an Apartment, We Cry Foul. But We want to Pass over the Years and Years that We have been Apathetic.
The Idea of Punishment is Ancient. Called Hell, Gehenna in Hebrew, Jahannum in Urdu of our Islamic brothers, and Nurk in India, We can Try to Wish it Away, but it Exists. That is Why, in Every Country, We have a ‘Justice Department,’ however foul that may be.
Christ took upon Himself Our Punishment, and Paid Off Our Debt. That is Why We Call it GOOD Friday. It has to be Claimed, but that, elsewhere.
6. What should We DO on this day?
There are Many things We do, like Arriving Late for Church Service, (Not to say the Office!), Not paying Attention to the Readings of the Reflections (the Sermon), Fidgeting, and Forgetting about the Day or the Thought of the Day as soon as We come out of Church.
We have to consider whether We would do these same things at Our Work Environment, or Allow our Staff to be so!
It is Not only Our Time In the Church. Our Life lived at Home, in the Office, Our Service to Others, and all that could Always do with a Freshening Up.
Given all this, Good Friday is the Best Day to Reflect on Our Life and to Make Decisions to Change. We should not Forget to Live according to these New Decisions! …I Wish You All a Holy and Fruitful Good Friday.