Major controversy triggered early Christians question of whether and when to observe Jesus’ death and Resurrection. Until the 4th century, Jesus’ Last Supper, his death, and his Resurrection were observed in one single commemoration on the evening before Easter. Since then, those three events have been observed separately—Easter, as the commemoration of Jesus’ Resurrection, being considered the pivotal event.
Although the Bible didn’t mention the term “Good Friday”, the event follows with the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was taken through several trials before the chief priests, Pontius Pilate, and Herod. Three of the trials were by Jewish leaders and three by the Romans. These events led up to Good Friday.
Pilate tried to compromise with the religious leaders by having Jesus beaten, but this act didn’t satisfy them, so Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified. Jesus was mocked by the soldiers as they dressed Him in a purple robe and a crown of thorns. Jesus was forced to carry His cross to the place of His death. It was at Golgotha that Jesus was crucified along with two criminals.
The Bible does not tell us exactly the day of the week Jesus was crucified. Most scholars believe it was either Friday or Wednesday. There are others who compromise and say it was a Thursday.
Proponents of a Friday crucifixion say that in a Jewish mindset, a part of a day was still considered to be a full day. So, if Jesus was in the grave for part of Friday, all day Saturday, and then part of Sunday, that would be considered three days. They quoted Mark 15:42-43 that Jesus was crucified on the day before the Sabbath. If the Sabbath mentioned was the weekly Sabbath, then that lends toward a Friday crucifixion.
For those who advocate a Thursday crucifixion think there are too many events occurring for a Friday crucifixion to be possible. By adding an extra day, this alleviates the problem.
People in support of Wednesday argued in having two Sabbaths that week. The first is the one at the end of the crucifixion, which would have been the Passover. Then the second Sabbath was the weekly Sabbath. They argued that the women would have waited until after the Thursday Sabbath to purchase their spices on Friday, then rested on Saturday (Sabbath), and brought their spices to the tomb on Sunday morning. This they said takes a literal interpretation of the three days and three nights mentioned in Matthew 12:40.
According to Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest known use of “guode friday” is found in The South English Legendary, a text from around 1290.The Catholic Encyclopedia, first published in 1907, states that the term’s origins are not clear. It says some sources see its origins in the term “God’s Friday” or Gottes Freitag, while others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag.
It notes that the day was called Long Friday by the Anglo-Saxons and is referred to as such in modern Danish. It also says that the day is known as “the Holy and Great Friday” in the Greek liturgy, “Holy Friday” in Romance Languages and Karfreitag (Sorrowful Friday) in German.
Is Good Friday really “good”? It may seem odd that people celebrate the day Jesus was crucified as “good.” Obviously, the suffering Jesus went through on Good Friday was not good.
To many Christians, Good Friday is a day of sorrow mingled with joy. It is a time to grieve over the sin of man and to meditate and rejoice upon God’s love in giving His only Son for the redemption of sin. The Baltimore Catechism – the standard US Catholic school text from 1885 to the 1960s, says Good Friday is good because Christ “showed His great love for man, and purchased for him every blessing”.
No matter what day Jesus was crucified, most Christians know that Jesus died and rose from the grave! Since the day is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, they can assume that it is not all that important.