Good Friday is a time of reflection and devotion for Christians around the world. They commemorate the crucifixion and death of Jesus on this day, and await the celebration of His resurrection on Easter Sunday.
The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of Passover. It is also known as Holy Friday, Great Friday, Black Friday,or Easter Friday,though the latter properly refers to the Friday in Easter week.
Based on the details of the Canonical gospels, the Crucifixion of Jesus was most likely to have been on a Friday (John 19:42).
The estimated year of the Crucifixion is AD 33, by two different groups, and originally as AD 34 by Isaac Newton via the differences between the Biblical and Julian calendars and the crescent of the moon.
A third method, using a completely different astronomical approach based on a lunar Crucifixion darkness and eclipse model (consistent with Apostle Peter's reference to a "moon of blood" in Acts 2:20), points to Friday, 3 April AD 33.
Main articles: Passion (Christianity), Crucifixion of Jesus, and Sayings of Jesus on the cross
The Judas Kiss by Gustave Doré, 1866
According to the accounts in the Gospels, the Temple Guards, guided by Jesus' disciple Judas Iscariot, arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas received money (30 pieces of silver) (Matthew 26:14-16) for betraying Jesus and told the guards that whomever he kisses is the one they are to arrest. Following his arrest, Jesus was brought to the house of Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest, Caiaphas. There he was interrogated with little result and sent bound to Caiaphas the high priest where the Sanhedrin had assembled (John 18:1-24).
Conflicting testimony against Jesus was brought forth by many witnesses, to which Jesus answered nothing. Finally the high priest adjured Jesus to respond under solemn oath, saying "I adjure you, by the Living God, to tell us, are you the Anointed One, the Son of God?" Jesus testified ambiguously, "You have said it, and in time you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Almighty, coming on the clouds of Heaven." The high priest condemned Jesus for blasphemy, and the Sanhedrin concurred with a sentence of death (Matthew 26:57-66). Peter, waiting in the courtyard, also denied Jesus three times to bystanders while the interrogations were proceeding just as Jesus had predicted.
A Good Friday procession in Mumbai by Indian Roman Catholics, depicting the Way of the Cross
In the morning, the whole assembly brought Jesus to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate under charges of subverting the nation, opposing taxes to Caesar, and making himself a king (Luke 23:1-2). Pilate authorized the Jewish leaders to judge Jesus according to their own law and execute sentencing; however, the Jewish leaders replied that they were not allowed by the Romans to carry out a sentence of death (John 18:31).
Pilate questioned Jesus and told the assembly that there was no basis for sentencing. Upon learning that Jesus was from Galilee, Pilate referred the case to the ruler of Galilee, King Herod, who was in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Herod questioned Jesus but received no answer; Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate told the assembly that neither he nor Herod found guilt in Jesus; Pilate resolved to have Jesus whipped and released (Luke 23:3-16). Under the guidance of the chief priests, the crowd asked for Barabbas, who had been imprisoned for committing murder during an insurrection. Pilate asked what they would have him do with Jesus, and they demanded, "Crucify him" (Mark 15:6-14).
Pilate's wife had seen Jesus in a dream earlier that day, and she forewarned Pilate to "have nothing to do with this righteous man" (Matthew 27:19). Pilate had Jesus flogged and then brought him out to the crowd to release him. The chief priests informed Pilate of a new charge, demanding Jesus be sentenced to death "because he claimed to be God's son." This possibility filled Pilate with fear, and he brought Jesus back inside the palace and demanded to know from where he came (John 19:1-9).
|Antonio Ciseri's depiction of Ecce Homo with |
Jesus and Pontius Pilate, 19th century
Coming before the crowd one last time, Pilate declared Jesus innocent and washed his own hands in water to show he has no part in this condemnation. Nevertheless, Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified in order to forestall a riot (Matthew 27:24-26) and ultimately to keep his job. The sentence written was "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." Jesus carried his cross to the site of execution (assisted by Simon of Cyrene), called the place of the Skull, or "Golgotha" in Hebrew and in Latin "Calvary". There he was crucified along with two criminals (John 19:17-22).
Jesus agonized on the cross for six hours. During his last 3 hours on the cross, from noon to 3 p.m., darkness fell over the whole land. With a loud cry, Jesus gave up his spirit. There was an earthquake, tombs broke open, and the curtain in the Temple was torn from top to bottom. The centurion on guard at the site of crucifixion declared, "Truly this was God's Son!" (Matthew 27:45-54)
Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin and secret follower of Jesus, who had not consented to his condemnation, goes to Pilate to request the body of Jesus (Luke 23:50-52). Another secret follower of Jesus and member of the Sanhedrin named Nicodemus brought about a hundred pound weight mixture of spices and helped wrap the body of Christ (John 19:39-40). Pilate asks confirmation from the centurion whether Jesus is dead (Mark 15:44). A soldier pierced the side of Jesus with a lance causing blood and water to flow out (John 19:34), and the centurion informs Pilate that Jesus is dead (Mark 15:45).
Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus' body, wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and placed it in his own new tomb that had been carved in the rock (Matthew 27:59-60) in a garden near the site of crucifixion. Nicodemus (John 3:1) also brought 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes, and placed them in the linen with the body, in keeping with Jewish burial customs (John 19:39-40). They rolled a large rock over the entrance of the tomb (Matthew 27:60). Then they returned home and rested, because Shabbat had begun at sunset (Luke 23:54-56). On the third day, Sunday, which is now known as Easter Sunday (or Pascha), Jesus rose from the dead.
1. Good Friday has recently become a national holiday in Cuba – at least for 2012. In March, Pope Benedict XVI paid a visit to the Caribbean nation and asked President Raul Castro to make the special day, April 6, a public holiday. Castro reportedly gave the Pope his answer before the pontiff left the country. It is the first time Good Friday has been recognized by the government since religious holidays were abolished in the 1960s. Christmas was reinstated after Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1998. It is unknown if Good Friday will remain a national holiday in Cuba after this year.
2. Congregations around the world reenact the crucifixion on Good Friday. In the Philippines, where Catholic fervor blends with indigenous beliefs, some devotees are actually nailed to crosses each year. The Catholic Church has condemned that ritual, but less gruesome reenactments are held in many other countries, including the U.S. Last year groups observed Good Friday with crucifixion reenactments in Michigan, Louisiana and Florida, among other states.
3. Good Friday is also known by several other names, such as Easter Friday, Great Friday (in the Russian Orthodox Church), and Holy Friday. Another name was even was thought to stem from the German, “Gottes Freitag” or “God’s Friday”. Although it may seem odd that such a sad event would be granted a name like “Good Friday,” Christian adherents believe that Jesus’s sacrifice
for the eternal life of humanity is ultimately a positive message.
4. In 1985, two Oxford University researchers published a paper naming April 3, 33 AD as the original date of the crucifixion. They derived that date from astronomical tables, Scriptural documentation, and the years of Pontius Pilate’s term as procurator in Judea – 26-36 AD. The researchers point out that all four Gospels agree the crucifixion occurred during the Jewish festival, Passover.
5. Many religion scholars believe Jesus was crucified by nails driven into his wrists, not hands. French physician Pierre Barbet wrote a book called A Doctor at Calvary, in which he said humans are able to bear their own weight with the strength of their bones and ligaments within the wrists, but not with palms alone. Barbet posited that if Jesus was nailed only in his hands, he would have fallen to the ground. By the time of Jesus’s death, crucifixion had already been practiced for some 600 years and was a detailed procedure designed to be a very painful process for the victim.
Good Friday is a prominent holiday for Christians around the world, both in past centuries and today. Although governments and communities might change the practices around the holiday over time, for many the essential message remains the same.