Why Is it Called ‘Good Friday’ When Jesus Died?

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Getty Pope Francis carries a crucifix during the Celebration of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday at St Peter's Basilica, on April 19, 2019 in the Vatican.

Catholics are marking Good Friday today in the lead-up to the Easter celebration. Good Friday is the most sorrowful day on the Christian calendar because it commemorates Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion and death.

So why is it called “Good” Friday? Bishop Robert J. Brennan of the Diocese of Columbus in Ohio says the answer is simple: The word “good” is used to mean “holy” in the Catholic Church.

The bishop also told Heavy, “We could say that Good Friday is good because by the death of Jesus we are reconciled to the Father.” Catholics believe that Jesus died on the cross to atone for humanity’s sins, therefore paving the way for believers to have eternal life in heaven.

Here’s what you need to know:


Jesus Prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane Before He Was Betrayed & Arrested, According to the Bible

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Getty Military cadets take part in a representation of Jesus’ arrest, before his crucifixion and resurrection during Holy Week on March 28, 2013 in Asuncion, Paraguay.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday marks the end of Lent and the beginning of the Triduum, which is the three days of Christ’s Passion. As the story is told in the Bible, Jesus and his disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper. By this point, Judas had already left to betray Jesus to the authorities.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus instructed his disciples to stay awake and wait for him while he prayed. Jesus knew he was about to be arrested, tortured and put to death. He asked God to lift the burden from him. “‘My Father,’ he said, ‘if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.'” Twice, Jesus walks back to the disciples and scolds them for falling asleep. Jesus prays to God a total of three times to spare him from what is coming, but each time concedes that he will do God’s will.

On its website, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops shared the verses from the Gospel of John, which Catholics will hear in mass today. The Gospel explains that Judas knew to find Jesus at the garden “because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.” Judas led “a band of soldiers and guards from the chief priests and the Pharisees and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.”

According to the Bible, the soldiers said they were looking for “Jesus the Nazorean.” Jesus responded three times that he was the one they were looking for. The apostle Peter tried to defend Jesus; he cut off the right ear of the high priest’s slave. But Jesus scolded Peter, “Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” Jesus was arrested and the disciples fled, per the Bible story.


Catholics Commemorate Jesus’ Arrest & Death on the Cross on Good Friday

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Getty Christian men are tied to wooden crosses as they and fellow worshippers re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, during Good Friday celebrations in the southern Lebanese village of al-Qurayeh, on April 19, 2019.

The religious leaders in Jerusalem had felt nervous about Jesus because he could be viewed as a troublemaker by the Romans. During Jesus’ time, the Roman empire tolerated the Jewish people and allowed them to practice their religion freely, PBS explains, as long as they paid their taxes and didn’t oppose Roman authority.

Jesus was brought before Caiaphas and the rest of the Sanhedrin after he was arrested. They asked Jesus whether he was the Son of God. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus responded, “You have said so. But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” The high priests decided Jesus had committed the sin of blasphemy.

As Learn Religions explained, the religious leaders did not have the authority to condemn anyone to death. The Bible story goes on to explain how they surrendered Jesus to the Romans for trial and execution. The Roman governor Pontius Pilate was the person who ultimately gave the order for Jesus to be crucified.

The Gospel of John explains that Jesus was “scourged” and a crown of thorns was placed on his head. Jesus was forced to carry the cross to the hill at Golgotha, which was also called the Place of the Skull.”

All of this took place early in the morning. The Gospel of Mark says Jesus was crucified around 9 in the morning. The gospel explains, “At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).”

In the moments after Jesus took his last breath, Mark wrote, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

READ NEXT: Can Catholics Eat Meat on Good Friday?


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