Good Friday: What’s in a Name?

Spy Wednesday was the day Judas Iscariot arranged for a human merchandise. “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him” (Mt. 26:48) he had told the bloodthirsty Jews. The symbolic eating in the same plate with Jesus at the last supper (Cf. Mark 14:18) could not even deter him. Apparently, the meal emboldened him to act fast.

Come to think of it. For just thirty pieces of silver he betrayed his Master (Cf. Matthew 26:15). Well, there is a context. He was the treasure of the Apostles and periodically helped himself from the common purse (John 12:6). As such, his “profession” became a trap for him. I hope yours doesn’t!

Since Jesus made the blind to receive sight, the lame to walk, those leprosy clean, the deaf to hear and the dead to rise (Cf. Mt. 11:-5), Judas thought that he would probably disappear upon being arrested. As such, he wanted to play a smart one on the Jews by doing 419 with their money. Sadly, his yahoo-yahoo did not work!

A remorseful Judas would return the money (Cf. Mat. 27:3). But it was too late. Those who were intent on killing the saviour were already smiling because he was finally in their net. What would he do in that instance? Well, he should have asked Peter (who betrayed Jesus thrice) for some lessons in making amends but no; he killed himself (Cf. Mt. 27:1–10).

While most of us blame Judas for trading the Saviour, the Judas phenomenon is still very much with us. The saying “in every 12 there is a Judas” lends credence to this. In almost every family or institution, there are vestiges of the betrayer. Woe to this soul as Jesus would say: “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Mark 14.16). So, it’s either you reform or perish.

The context of Judas prepares us to better appreciate the lessons of Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday). Although the Crucifixion of the Lord (on Good Friday) and the Last Supper are one and the same, the former was a bloody sacrifice while the later, an unbloody one – this is because Jesus hides himself under the appearances of bread and wine. No thanks to Jesus, Good Friday brings peace and salvation.

On this day, blood and water flowed from his side (Cf. John 19:34). At each celebration of Holy Mass, the priest mixes water and wine praying: “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” Indeed, the hypostatic union reveals Jesus as truly Man and truly God.

Good Friday is the only day on earth that Holy Mass is not celebrated. This is because the sacrifice of Calvary is one and the same with the Eucharist. To celebrate Mass is a needless duplication. In its place, the Veneration of the Cross takes place. Far from idolatry, the ancient rite which dates back to the 3rd century is similar to laying in state when a loved one dies. Since the cross is the symbol of our redemption, it is venerated in a solemn liturgical rite where Holy Communion (Not Mass) is distributed to the faithful and also taken to the sick.

How and why would the day our Lord and Saviour died be termed good? Well, such is the paradox of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. His death is unlike that of anyone other human being. By proclaiming “by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free, you are the Saviour of the world,” we declare that instead of bringing darkness, the death of Jesus has overturned everything.

What is in a name? Well, so much. Good Friday is so named because it is on that day that God reconciled Jews with Gentiles, heaven to earth and human beings with their Creator. Just as the New Eve chances the Old, so does the New Adam replaces the Old. It is on this day that the old rugged cross which was a symbol of sin and shame became the source of eternal redemption for all.

Good Friday teaches us that there is no pain without gain, sweat without sweet, ashes without beauty and cross without the crown. On this, even the thief enjoys respite and the beatific vision thus, stealing heaven. Where he (the thief) sees situation with the eyes of faith, the bad thief views with the eyes of situation; hence a dashed hope.

On this day, the cry “It is finish” reverberates throughout the earth. Yes, our suffering and sorrows are finished. Our hopelessness is nailed to the cross. On this day, the clergy and laity appear as fourth and fifth persons behind and under the cross respectively – beneficiaries of unlimited grace.

Good Friday reminds us about the journey of Lent which started on Ash Wednesday. When we received ashes as a sign of repentance, humility (Jonah 3:5-9) and a reminder that we are sinners but we have a Saviour. With the sign of ashes on our foreheads, we imitate Jesus in prayer, fasting and almsgiving (Cf. Matthew 6:1-18) – all done in secret.

The journey climaxes during the Holy Week ceremonies. With the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the Church leaves us with the passion narrative as an elongated Stations of the Cross. We are challenged to identity with various biblical personages or extras, if you like, who assisted the Lord to Calvary.

In that litany, Mary the Mother of Jesus meets her Son in tears, Veronica wipes his face, Simon of Cyrene carries the Cross, the women of Jerusalem mourned for him and both Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (both rich men and secret disciples) give him a befitting burial. How about Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of Joseph, Salome and the other women who provided for him and followed him to the end (Cf. Mark 15:40)?

Friends in Christ, sympathizing or empathizing with Iscariot might not provide the needed soothing balm for our spiritual malady. The lessons of Good Friday are clear. Beyond fasting and abstinence from meat and alcohol, we are charged to mimic the Lord in goodness by demonstrating unconditional love.

Although the empty tabernacle, veiled crucifixes, naked altar and red vestments smell doom, when at last all is said and done, from the rubbles of the Cross would grow the tree of life. As we look forward to the unveiling of the Paschal events, may we at last stand on Resurrection Sunday morning where we’ll shine forever like stars. Happy Easter!

Fr. Dyikuk is a Lecturer of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Editor – Caritas Newspaper and Convener, Media Team Network Initiative (MTNI), Nigeria.



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