Good Friday: Where did we get it?
Tradition can be a good thing when it is based on truth because it can be used as a reminder of important events that have taken place and provide opportunities to review where we stand on our beliefs about things. Tradition, however, can also be a bad thing if the story it tells is inaccurate.
Each year millions of people celebrate a number of traditional holidays that observe various aspects of the “Christian” religion. While there are many of them, there are two that are considered the main holidays – Christmas and Easter. Here we will deal with the 2nd of the two and its accompanying holiday known as “Good Friday”. Let’s have a look at this set of holidays (also sometimes known as ‘Holy Week’). There are several components to “Holy Week” but we’ll primarily deal with Good Friday/Easter in this study. (By the way, the term “Easter” is a misnomer – Resurrection Sunday is only called “Easter” by association. Easter is a pagan fertility ritual that has nothing to do with true Christianity).
The correct part
Good Friday and “Easter” are traditional holidays that attempt to remind people of the events that took place at the end of the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Approximately 2,000 years ago Christ, the creator of the universe (paying us a visit to pay for our sins!) allowed himself to be nailed to a Scaffold (known commonly as a ‘Cross’). Let’s take a quick look at the two pieces of this holiday pair before we dig it apart and see what has “fallen through the cracks” so to speak with this tradition.
The Crucifixion (“Good Friday”)
The Resurrection (“Easter”)
John 20:1 -
OK … Right – Good Friday = Execution, “Easter” Sunday = Resurrection, So what?
So far so good. “What”, might you be saying, “is the big deal? I know this story by heart!” (Or maybe not if you’ve never actually read it – but I digress). Jesus was crucified on Friday and he rose again on Sunday morning right?
Well … not quite. He did rise again by Sunday morning. It says that clearly in John 20:1 – Mary came to the sepulchre on the first day of the week. Here’s where the problem comes in. Jesus was not crucified on Friday. According to the written record it is much more likely that he was crucified and laid-
“What?” you say. “But that’s what my preacher [priest, bishop, elder, Church Fathers, etc.] have been telling me for years. It’s tradition. I’ve always believed that way! Just look – the church celebrates Good Friday. The company I work for takes Good Friday off. Even the government takes Good Friday off! Who are you to tell ME that the tradition is wrong?”
I’m not telling you that – the scripture does! Let’s have a look at it, shall we?
(By the way, you probably also believe the three wise men were at the manger. They were not – but that’s for a different study!)
How Long did Jesus say it would be?
What did Jesus himself say about how things would go? How long did he say the period of time would be between his crucifixion and resurrection? (Emphasis mine)
Mat 27:40 Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
Mar 8:31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Mar 15:29 And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days,
OK … so he said three days. What’s the big deal?
Here’s the “big deal”. The tradition says that he was crucified on Friday and rose again on Sunday. Does that sound like 3 days to you? He specified three days and three nights (Matt 12:38-
Pull out your calendar and have a look. If Jesus was crucified and died on Friday afternoon and rose on the first day of the week then here’s what you’ve got.
Friday – Crucified [Fri Night] Saturday: Dead [Sat Night] Sunday – Gone-
Oops … looks to me like there’s only 2 nights here. What happened to the other night? Note in the above verse references the Lord Jesus Christ said he would rise after three days – not after the evening of the first, one full day and then first thing in the morning on the third day! (That’s an old Cruise Line trick – sell a 2-
Thurs [night] Fri [night] Sat [night] Sunday
Now we have three days and three nights. (Thursday, Friday and Saturday). Makes a little more sense, doesn’t it?
If we wanted to stretch it a little further, we could actually make a case for the crucifixion having taken place on Wednesday night. How? Well, consider this: Jesus said plenty of times that he would rise after 3-
One conclusion is clear, though: he was not crucified on Friday. It just doesn’t work.
One Last thing … didn’t it have to be Friday because of the Sabbath?
Nope. One thing that most Christians don’t understand is that the term Sabbath does not strictly refer to Saturday. There are other Sabbath’s.
Exo 35:2 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.
Lev 23:24 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.
Lev 23:32 It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.
Note that it calls the seventh day(of the week) a sabbath – not the sabbath. The term sabbath refers to a day of rest, not to a particular calendar day of the week. Lev 23:24,32 – neither of those were the “regular” weekly sabbath.
The Sabbath being referred to here (if you’ll just read it) is the PASSOVER. The Passover does not necessarily fall on a Saturday yet it is still considered a Sabbath day. Even though it was on Thursday you can still call it “the sabbath day” – just as you would say “the holiday”.
It’s better to trust the written record than tradition. Tradition can carry error with it. Are there any other traditions you might know of that don’t accurately convey the story?