musings on the meaning of good friday

jesus was a mystery to me two years ago, and he still is.crosses

so let me muse on him a bit more, today, on good friday. a day that changed everything, for a lot of people in the last 2000 years.

many adults have experienced days like that. bifurcation days – before that day, life was X, after that it was Y. one of my bifurcation days was the birth of my son. the change is so sharp, it’s as if there is a change in brain chemistry, maybe more than that – you’re a different person.

a friend was telling me today that in her church, they gradually strip the altar during good friday until it is totally bare. then a big wooden cross is pushed, it falls on the floor with a big BANG. then everyone leaves in silence.

good friday – the big bang.

is that part of jesus’ message, part of the message of good friday? that life will never be the same again?

in a lovely, too short facebook chat with my good friend nancy, we mused about other meanings of good friday.

we mused about the parallels between the last supper and jesus’ dying on the cross with the two others that were being crucified. in both, there was communion, intimacy and generosity.

the communion and intimacy in breaking bread together, and having one’s life broken, together.

the generosity of offering wine and bread. the generosity of sacrifice. the generosity of forgiveness.

perhaps it seems to you that the religious message of good friday is just for christians. i believe there is also something in this story of jesus’ death that can resonate with all of us. what do you think?

image by foreversouls


  1. Beautiful reflection – I keep rereading the gospels and books/new translations putting them and the life of Christ in new light. I stopped practicing Catholicism long ago, but its contemplative traditions now seem more interesting than ever (e.g. Thomas Merton). Unfortunately, the Christian churches tend to emphasize the agony and suffering of the days leading up to his death and then the literal resurrection of the body on Easter. The focus is more on the symbolic figure made of Christ, the later church doctrines, and the strictures of Paul. But what can be pieced together of the life and words of Christ himself is the profound and enduring part of this faith. I’ll always be inspired and moved by this life as a blending of spiritual power and human vulnerability.


    John Folk-Williams’s last blog post..What We Deserve from Life

  2. Nice article, and I’d say you’ve got the concept of bifurcation down perfectly! The moment our child is born is definitely a bifurcation event.

    A wise priest once explained to me when I was struggling with whether I could return to the Church after a 20+ year absence that biblical stories can be understood on two levels: one literal and the other metaphorical.

    When we look at the metaphorical level, the stories – including the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection – are metaphors for our own lives. We die, in a spiritual sense, many times throughout our lives, only to be reborn in a new form. So, Good Friday followed by Easter is a reminder that those times when we think our whole way of life is ending, our Good Fridays, will be followed by a resurrection, the beginning of a whole new life.

    Nice post! Keep up the good work.

    Raima’s last blog post..The Call to Self-Organization

  3. I am biased, since I am an orthodox Christian. I cannot tell you how much it meant for me to be at the Good Friday service last night. To hear from people all over the world who could identify with the skeptics, the doubters, the centurion, and those who did not know what was going on, yet have been changed by an encounter with God made flesh, giving Himself up for all of us. My encounter with Him has changed me forever.

  4. Totally different cultures to celebrate Good Friday…but the logic of the season is the same. How I wish that the good purpose of this important event be applied in real life. I believe it will eradicate chaos.

  5. Jesus message is definitely for everyone.

    My secular translation: life comes free, life can embrace and transcend division, by dying to the past new life is possible (this is not just a metaphor, anyone who has done deep work knows that it can be scarier than dying. That it is dying to our old way of living.).

    Evan’s last blog post..Depression, Belief and Purpose

  6. what strikes me, as I’ve continued to reflect on our facebook chat, is the raw, primal intimacy and inclusivity of both events – the “last supper” and the crucifixion. One of the great sadnesses of the religion-of-christianity is that it so easily devolves into “i’m in” and “you’re out”. In contrast, Christ’s sharing of bread and wine (a constant theme in the gospels, and *always* for one-and-all), and ultimately sharing his physical body — both are wildly inclusive.

    Nancy’s last blog post..Better to live richly than to die rich

  7. @evan, your words “jesus’ message is for everyone” seems to be the common thread here in the comments.

    i’ve always found it strange and a little sad that some fundamental christian theologians get upset when jesus is “only” seen as an inspirational figure. i presume it comes from the idea that jesus is god, and passages such as “leave your father and mother and follow me.”

    raima, steve and nancy (seeing that you’re christians) – what do you think – should non-christians be encouraged to see jesus as an inspirational figure, or does he really need primarily to be worshipped as the son of god, as one aspect of the trinity?

    btw, by christians i mean all people following the religion of christ. (i’ve always found the practice of calling only evangelicals/fundamentalists christians not only strange but also utterly confusing)

  8. @Isabella – the best answer to your question is from Jesus himself.
    It seems pretty clear to me that he was easy about people taking (or not) him on their own terms.
    Just want to be healed? No problem, done. And please don’t tell anyone about what just happened.
    Just want to hear me read scriptures in the synagogue? You got it.
    Just want to share some bread? Here you go.
    Jesus was eerily modest.
    So I’d be pretty sure that Jesus is happy to be simply an inspirational figure to people. Having said that, my take is: if he *is* the son of God, part of the holy trinity (which I personally believe), it would be a shame (as in, personal loss) to omit interacting with him on that level, too.

    Nancy’s last blog post..Better to live richly than to die rich

  9. Isabella, I think it is perfectly okay to look to Jesus for inspiration. A lot of people take the WWJD (What would Jesus do?) approach and this can be a good way to learn a lot of what he was trying to teach us.

    However, if Jesus is looked at only as a teacher or an inspiration, then we miss one deep point of the Christian faith — that God became human and dwelt among us. Because Jesus was flogged and beaten and crucified, God now knows what our pain and suffering and dying is like. So Jesus is Emmanuel, “God with us,” even — and especially — when we are hurting. People who are suffering can benefit from knowing that God is right there hurting and suffering with them. This is what the incarnation is all about.

    Thank you for your provocative questions!

    Raima’s last blog post..Love is come again…

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