Good Friday is the day that Christians commemorate the betrayal, crucifixion and death of Jesus. The solemn day is spent with fasting, prayer, repentance, and meditation.
Learn more about its history, meaning and traditions.
1. Jesus Was Crucified on this Day
Judas, one of Jesus’ 12 apostles, betrayed Jesus by kissing him, which ultimately exposed him to the chief priests. They arrested Him. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor in Judea, found Jesus innocent, but the crowd that gathered cried, “Crucify him!”
Jesus was beaten and spit on, and a crown of thorns was placed on His head.
Nails were driven through his wrists and ankles and he was placed on a cross that held this mocking inscription, “The King of the Jews.”
The Gospel passages that reference the crucifixion of Jesus are Matthew 27:27-28:8; Mark 15:16-16:19; Luke 23:26-24:35; and John 19:16-20:30.
In the Gospel of John, it states, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
The scene above is from 2004’s The Passion of the Christ.
2. Mass Is Not Celebrated
The Church is not decorated on this solemn day, and the altar is bare. There is no Eucharist present in the church, and the tabernacle’s door remains open.
A life-sized cross is placed at the center of the altar and parishioners pass it by and kiss or touch it if they choose.
In the video above, Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, gives us insight into the meaning of the day. He also recites what is said at the Good Friday service, “We adore thee oh Christ and we praise thee, because by thy Holy Cross thou hast redeemed the world.”
3. The Rules of Fasting & Abstinence Apply
In Mark’s Gospel, it is said that the crucifixion began at 9 am and Jesus died at 3 pm. Christians usually are reverent during those times and maintain a quiet atmosphere, with limited television, radio and computer use, and partake in little or no outside activities.
4. The Stations of the Cross Are Walked
The Stations of the Cross, according to the Vatican, “follows Jesus through different stations of his torture and eventual crucifixion, with reflections on his suffering at each point.”
The stations are as follows:
1st Station: Jesus is condemned to death
2nd Station: Jesus carries His cross
3rd Station: Jesus falls the first time
4th Station: Jesus meets his mother
5th Station: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross
6th Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
7th Station: Jesus falls the second time
8th Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
9th Station: Jesus falls a third time
10th Station: Jesus clothes are taken away
11th Station: Jesus is nailed to the cross
12th Station: Jesus dies on the cross
13th Station: The body of Jesus is taken down from the cross
14th Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb
Last year on Good Friday, Pope Francis led the Stations at the Colosseum in Rome and said, “Evil won’t have the last word, but love, mercy and pardon will.”
In the clip above, the BBC reports on the Good Friday commemoration in 2013. This year’s reflection, the Vatican detailed, will be “When will the death penalty, still practiced in many states, be abolished?”
5. There Are Possible Reasons That It’s Called ‘Good’
There are different theories as to why a day that is marred with the death of Jesus Christ could possibly be called good. Some say that the word “good” signifies that it is holy. The Oxford English dictionary says that “good” can refer to “a day or season observed as holy by the church.”
Another explanation is that the words “God’s Friday” were changed over time.