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Do You Really Believe

Good Friday is important?

April 19, 2014

Maybe a first question should be -

Do you really know what Good Friday is about?

After all -
if we don’t know what it’s about -
how can we possibly come to a valid conclusion about whether it’s important?

To get a sense for what it’s about - here is an excerpt from The Voice - who provide Biblical and Theological Resources for growing Christians -

Good Friday, or Holy Friday

Friday of Holy Week has been traditionally been called Good Friday or Holy Friday. On this day, the church commemorates Jesus’ arrest (since by Jewish customs of counting days from sundown to sundown it was already Friday), his trial, crucifixion and suffering, death, and burial. Since services on this day are to observe Jesus’ death, and since Eucharist is a celebration, there is traditionally no Communion observed on Good Friday. Also, depending on how the services are conducted on this day, all pictures, statutes, and the cross are covered in mourning black, the chancel and altar coverings are replaced with black, and altar candles are extinguished. They are left this way through Saturday, but are always replaced with white before sunrise on Sunday.

There are a variety of services of worship for Good Friday, all aimed at allowing worshippers to experience some sense of the pain, humiliation, and ending in the journey to the cross. The traditional Catholic service for Good Friday was held in mid-afternoon to correspond to the final words of Jesus from the cross (around 3 PM, Matt 27:46-50). However, modern schedules have led many churches to move the service to the evening to allow more people to participate. Usually, a Good Friday service is a series of Scripture readings, a short homily, and a time of meditation and prayer. One traditional use of Scripture is to base the homily or devotional on the Seven Last Words of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel traditions.

Father, forgive them . . . (Luke 23:34)
This day you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43)
Woman, behold your son . . .(John 19:26-27)
My God, my God . . . (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)
I thirst. (John 19:28)
It is finished! (John 19:30)
Father into your hands . . . (Luke 23:46)

Some churches use the Stations of the Cross as part of the Good Friday Service. This service uses paintings or banners to represent various scenes from Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, trial, and death, and the worshippers move to the various stations to sing hymns or pray as the story is told . There is a great variety in how this service is conducted, and various traditions use different numbers of stations to tell the story (see The Fourteen Stations of the Cross).

Another common service for Good Friday is Tenebrae (Latin for "shadows" or "darkness"). Sometimes this term is applied generally to all church services on the last three days of Holy week. More specifically, however, it is used of the Service of Darkness or Service of Shadows, usually held in the evening of Good Friday. Again, there are varieties of this service, but it is usually characterized by a series of Scripture readings and meditation done in stages while lights and/or candles are gradually extinguished to symbolize the growing darkness not only of Jesus’ death but of hopelessness in the world without God. The service ends in darkness, sometimes with a final candle, the Christ candle, carried out of the sanctuary, symbolizing the death of Jesus. Often the service concludes with a loud noise symbolizing the closing of Jesus’ tomb (see The Empty Tomb). The worshippers then leave in silence to wait.



At my church - we don’t have statues or pictures to cover in black.  
The cross wasn’t covered either.
But - the sanctuary was rather dark.  It had to be light enough for us to read, but not much beyond that.


We did do the seven last words of Jesus -
with a candle being extinguished after each one.

Here are the full verses that go with each of those last 7 things Jesus said -

Father, forgive them . . . (Luke 23:34)

At verse 34 - Jesus is now on the Cross, and this is what He says regarding the very people who put Him there.

Lk 23:32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.  33 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.  34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.


This day you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43)

Lk 23:35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”

Lk 23:36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar  37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

Lk 23:38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Lk 23:39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

Lk 23:40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Lk 23:42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’”

Lk 23:43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”


Woman, behold your son . . .(John 19:26-27)

Jn 19:25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.


My God, my God . . . (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)

Mt 27:45 From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.  46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

I thirst. (John 19:28)

Jn 19:28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”  29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.


It is finished! (John 19:30)

Jn 19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.


Father into your hands . . . (Luke 23:46)

Lk 23:44 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour,  45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  46 Jesus called out with a loud voice,“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.


And then we did the Stations of the Cross.
It was set up for us to walk from one area to the next -
with a plaque (of sorts) at each station and Bible verses to read and pray on for each of them.


Before getting into that -
I want to give you another article - this one from a Christianity Today called The Goodness of Good Friday -

What a supreme paradox. We now call the day Jesus was crucified, Good.

Many believe this name simply evolved—as language does. They point to the earlier designation, "God's Friday," as its root. (This seems a reasonable conjecture, given that "goodbye" evolved from "God be with you.")

Whatever its origin, the current name of this holy day offers a fitting lesson to those of us who assume (as is easy to do) that "good" must mean "happy." We find it hard to imagine a day marked by sadness as a good day.

Of course, the church has always understood that the day commemorated on Good Friday was anything but happy. Sadness, mourning, fasting, and prayer have been its focus since the early centuries of the church. A fourth-century church manual, the Apostolic Constitutions, called Good Friday a "day of mourning, not a day of festive Joy." Ambrose, the fourth-century archbishop who befriended the notorious sinner Augustine of Hippo before his conversion, called it the "day of bitterness on which we fast."

Many Christians have historically kept their churches unlit or draped in dark cloths. Processions of penitents have walked in black robes or carried black-robed statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary. And worshippers have walked the "Stations of the Cross," praying and singing their way past 14 images representing Jesus' steps along the Via Dolorosa to Golgotha.

Yet, despite—indeed because of—its sadness, Good Friday is truly good. Its sorrow is a godly sorrow. It is like the sadness of the Corinthians who wept over the sharp letter from their dear teacher, Paul, convicted of the sin in their midst. Hearing of their distress, Paul said, "My joy was greater than ever." Why? Because such godly sorrow "brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret" (2 Cor. 7:10).

I like to think the linguistic accident that made "God's Friday" into "Good Friday" was no accident at all. It was God's own doing—a sharp, prophetic jab at a time and a culture obsessed by happiness. In the midst of consumerism's Western playground, Good Friday calls to a jarring caption the sacred "pursuit of happiness." The cross reveals this pursuit for what it is: a secondary thing.

This commemoration of Christ's death reminds us of the human sin that caused this death. And we see again that salvation comes only through godly sorrow—both God's and, in repentance, ours. To pursue happiness, we must first experience sorrow. He who goes forth sowing tears returns in joy.

At the same time, of course, Good Friday recalls for us the greatness and wonder of God's love—that He should submit to death for us.

No wonder, in parts of Europe, the day is called not "Good," but "Great" or "Holy" Friday.

Today, Christian liturgies reflect the gravity of Christ's act. Services linger on the details of Christ's death and the extent of His sacrifice. Often the Stabat Mater is performed—a thirteenth-century devotional poem remembering Mary's vigil by the cross. The poem begins "Stabat Mater Dolorosa"—that is, "a grief-stricken mother was standing."

To commemorate the Lord's hours on the cross, many Protestants hold their Good Friday services between noon and 3. They reflect, in a series of readings and songs, on Christ's seven last words. (1: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." 2: "Today shcaption thou be with me in paradise." 3: "Woman, behold thy son!" 4: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" 5: "I thirst." 6: "It is finished." 7: "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.") This form originated with seventeenth-century Peruvian Jesuits, one of many cases in which modern Protestants have picked up Catholic devotional practices.


I really like that first line -

What a supreme paradox. We now call the day Jesus was crucified, Good.


Having grown up Catholic - although later converting to a Protestant religion -
we used to do the stations of the Cross every Friday night - not just Good Friday.
So - what more Protestant churches are starting to do is something I was used to -
and often wondered why we didn’t do it.

Having gone through it last night -
now I realize how much I missed it -
and really appreciated it.

BTW - for those that aren’t regular readers -
even though now Protestant -
I still wear a Catholic Cross - because I think it’s good to remember that Jesus died so that I may be forgiven and have eternal life with Him.

I guess that kind of gives the answer as to whether I believe Good Friday is important.


So - that’s the setup.
One thing that should be apparent - this is the day Jesus died.
And that is important.
If He didn’t die - what happened a few days later could never have occurred.

But -
there’s more here.
Much more.

And I think it’s important to look at all of it - to really appreciate what that day means for us.


With that in mind -
here are the verses that go with the 14 Stations of The Cross: