Good Friday is one of the most important days of the year for Christians. According to the Bible, the source of Christian beliefs, this day marks when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, allowed himself to suffer brutal beatings, tortures, and crucifixion, to remove the wrath of God, the penalty for sin, from those who would put their faith in him. This is the reason why, as odd as it may seem, Christians around the world celebrate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The reason the celebration seems odd is because on the surface it appears that believers are celebrating an extreme act of violence, the horrific ending of a person’s life, but that is not what Christians are commemorating. Followers of Jesus are not celebrating the brutality that he experienced, but the purpose behind it, the act of saving others by selflessly exchanging his life for theirs.
Christians across the world celebrate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in many different ways. For example, many Philippine Catholics participate in a re-enactment of the crucifixion with participants allowing themselves to be nailed to wooden crosses. Yes, they are actually crucified during the re-enactment, and many do this year after year. Believers in the Philippines believe that suffering through the pain enables them to atone for the sins they have committed, receive cures for diseases, or as a way of saying thank you to God.
In Jerusalem, Christians commemorate Good Friday by walking the path that Jesus walked through the city on the way to his crucifixion. This event is called the Via Dolorosa, which means “Way of Suffering,” and many carry crosses as they make their way along the path, stopping at points where it is believed that Jesus fell while bearing the burden of his own cross. The somber celebration ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the location where it is believed that Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead.
In Latin America, Good Friday is a national holiday, while here in America, it is not. There are several states in the U.S. that have declared Good Friday a state holiday and all state government offices are officially closed.
Many countries around the world also fast on Good Friday, with different sects of Christianity having different rules for how one is to properly abstain from food. Catholics the world over will not partake of eating meat, and are permitted to eat one full meal, with two others spread throughout the day. No other food is to be consumed in between the meals.
While the Bible informs Christians on how they are to properly honor God and the sacrifice Jesus makes on the cross, different cultures are free to commemorate special occasions like Good Friday, so along as biblical principles are not violated. It is important to note that according to Christianity, there is no way to earn God’s favor, to erase all of the sins a person has committed during their lifetime. This was the reason why Jesus suffered and died on the cross. In light of this, perhaps some, those who inflict pain on themselves in an attempt to atone for sin, are missing the point of the Christian gospel.
From a religious standpoint, Good Friday is a day to reflect on the seriousness of sin, the peril of being placed under God’s wrath as a result of that sin, and how Jesus needed to die in order to free people from those consequences. It is a day for Christians to rejoice in, as Jesus suffered unbearable pain, both physically and spiritually, to unite them with the God that their sin estranged them from. Christians who celebrate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ should not spend the whole day in somber, brokenhearted reflection, but also in quiet contentment, for if the Bible is true, then today marks the greatest act of love in all of human history, and that is a pretty good reason to celebrate.
Opinion by Michael Cantrell