Good Friday? What’s to celebrate?

Listen to the message here:

Luke 23:3 reads:

Then Pilate asked Him, saying, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ He answered him and said, ‘It is as you say.'”

And the rest is history, as they say. 

Jesus was sent to Herod, as Pilate says (Luke 23:4), “I find no fault in this Man.” Herod couldn’t get a word out of Him, and handed Him back to Pilate. The chief priests, the rulers, and the people gathered around cried, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” And He was crucified and died on the cross.

So what’s so good about Friday?

Well, to start off with, this didn’t happen on the Friday! We all assume, when we first hear the Easter story, that Jesus died on the Friday, and rose again on the Sunday … or was it the Monday? He rose from death after three days. So where does Easter Sunday fit in? Three days from Friday is … Monday. Ah, that’s why we have a bank holiday on the Monday, then?

No, no no. It’s not like that at all – it’s far more complicated!

Let’s start with Friday, so that we can get that out of the way. Good Friday was chosen as a day to commemorate the whole Easter story – the Last Supper (which Jesus took with His disciples), His death, and His resurrection – until the 4th century. Since then, the three events have been observed and commemorated separately. Hence we have Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and the bank holiday Monday. (Ref. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Good-Friday)

The Monday bank holiday seems to have nothing to do with Easter at all, at least, when it began, according to https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/uk/easter-monday.  “The tradition of having a holiday on the Monday after Easter stems from the medieval festival of Hocktide. This was a two day festival on the Monday and Tuesday after Easter, originating in the eleventh century.”

So, if Friday and Monday have little to do with the specific events of Christ’s death and resurrection, when did it actually happen?

The confusion seems to be due to the reference to the Sabbath. In John 19:31 it says:

Therefore, because is was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.”

You see, the bodies on the cross were taken down and buried before the Sabbath. And most people assume that the Sabbath was the normal Sabbath, which in those days was on the Saturday. If that were the case, then Jesus’ body would have been taken down and buried on the Friday. However, this “Sabbath was a high day.” It wasn’t the normal Sabbath day, but a special Sabbath day – one of the annual Holy Days celebrated by the Jews. This day was on Wednesday (see further explanation on https://www.ucg.org/).

Thus, Jesus remained in the tomb from Wednesday at sunset until Saturday at sunset – the three days until He rose again. So it’s not really a question of what’s to celebrate on Good Friday, but what do we have to celebrate at all?

A cause for celebration

Of course, we all rejoice because Jesus conquered the grave, He defeated death and He rose to life again. And that’s a real cause for celebration – whether you celebrate on Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday – or perhaps on all four days. Let’s rejoice! Let’s sing and dance! Let’s shout with joy – He is alive!

And it was all part of the plan. God is in control throughout all of this. It’s meant to happen. Judas Iscariot was meant to betray Him; Pilate and Herod were meant to crucify Him, despite all their efforts to set Him free; the Jews were meant to condemn Him and demand that He be crucified. It was all part of God’s intricate, inexplicable, incomprehensible, plan for us. Yes – He was crucified for us! 

He died so that we might live; He died that we might be forgiven for all our wrong-doings; He died so that we can enjoy a close relationship with God, who now sees us through the blood of Jesus, His precious Son; He died that we might be free – free of the devil’s hold on us; He died that we might become children of God, and inherit everlasting life after death. Yes – He died that we can join Him in heaven one day, where all our sorrows and our sadness will be no more, where there will be no more illness and no more pain, no more struggles and no more shame. 

So, this Good Friday, and all through Saturday, Sunday and Monday; and even to the end of your time here on earth – rejoice, celebrate, sing, dance, shout with joy – He’s alive and living, so that you can too.

May we pray …

Heavenly Father, Thank You for Good Friday; Thank You that we commemorate the crucifixion of your precious Son, Jesus, who died that we might live and that we might be set free. May we always remember the amazing gift You have given us – everlasting life after death in heaven. We recognise and Thank You, Jesus, for the torture and the trauma that You took for us. We are so undeserving, please forgive us that we can’t ever Thank You enough. May we know you more, heavenly Father; may we grow in faith and in fellowship with You. In Jesus’ name. Amen