Christians all over the world celebrate Good Friday, commemorating the day Jesus was put to death on a cross. While those who were raised in Christian homes tend to have a good understanding of what this day is about, new Christians and those considering Christianity often have questions. Here, we’ll take a quick look at the history of Good Friday, plus we’ll talk about how Christians celebrate this feast today.
What is Good Friday?
Good Friday is a day used for the commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, beginning with his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, and culminating with his death on the cross. Good Friday is the culmination of Holy Week, and always takes place on the Friday before Easter.
Based on details from the Canonical Gospels, Jesus was likely to have been crucified on a Friday, in the year AD 33 or AD 34. When you read accounts of the crucifixion in the bible, you’ll find reference to the sky darkening, or a “moon of blood.” Using an astronomical approach, historians point to an eclipse that took place on Friday, April 3, AD 33 as the most likely historic date for Jesus’ crucifixion to have taken place.
The bible relates various accounts of events leading up to Good Friday, and of events that took place on that day itself. The passion begins with Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss on the cheek in the Garden of Gethsemane, and with Peter fulfilling the prophecy Jesus made at the Last Supper the prior evening: “This very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”
Jesus was brought before the high priest and the Sanhedrin to be interrogated as to whether he was the Son of God, and in the morning, Pontius Pilate, the governor of Rome, said Jesus ought to be whipped and released for any wrongdoing, though he and King Herod could not find fault. The crowd assembled ultimately demand that Jesus should be crucified. Though Pilate washed his hands of the matter and continued to state he could find no fault with Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
After being crowned with thorns and scourged viciously, then carrying his own cross through the streets, enduring jeers along the way, Jesus was crucified at Golgotha, or the “Place of the Skull.” At the end of the day, a Roman soldier pierced his side to ensure he was dead before allowing his followers to remove his body from the cross and take him away for burial before the Sabbath, which for people of the Jewish faith, starts on Friday evening.
Christians all over the world celebrate Good Friday by fasting, praying, and commemorating Jesus’ death in a variety of ways. In some places, people participate in cross walks, and in others, congregation members venerate a cross inside their churches. Gospels are read, and in some instances, passion plays are carried out or the Stations of the Cross are prayed.
Whether you celebrate simply by remembering Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, or if you make a pilgrimage to Rome where people follow the traditional path taken by Jesus on his way to Golgotha, this is one day you’ll find you have something in common with Christians everywhere.