Good Friday represents the commemoration of one of the most important events in human history: the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. For 2,000 years, Christians have remembered this day with solemnity, reverence, and hope for the promise of the coming Resurrection. This Good Friday, take this opportunity to reflect on the history of this important date in church history.
Rooted in Ancient Israel
The history of Good Friday begins with the story of the exodus. For months, Moses had warned Pharaoh that he must set the Children of Israel free from Egypt. However, Pharaoh refused time and again - even through nine plagues. Before God carried out his devastating 10th plague, he told the Israelites to splash the blood of a lamb or goat on their doorways (Exodus 12:21-22). God would see this sign to “pass over” their homes and spare them. Since then, Passover is a religious festival that commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. It also is symbolic of the coming of the Messiah, who would set his people free from the slavery of sin.
Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the 10th day of this month, every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household... Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats,” Exodus 12:3,5 (ESV)
Before the Passover, God commanded the Israelites to bring a spotless lamb into their homes to live with them as part of their family. Then, on the day before Passover, the father would sacrifice the lamb and prepare it for roasting. The next day, the family would hold a celebratory ceremony, where they ate the lamb. This served as a reminder of how God had delivered them and would deliver them again in the future.
The Day of Preparation
Around 1,500 years after the events of the exodus, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to the praise of the people. Just as the lamb lived in the house for four days before Passover, Jesus stayed in Jerusalem in his final week. After his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was brought before Pilate and the people when cried out, “Crucify him!”
And so it was, on the day of preparation, when the lamb was slaughtered for the Passover, the blameless Lamb of God was slaughtered on Mt. Calvary. Good Friday is not merely an accident of the calendar, it is the date chosen by God to bring about the climax of his plan of redemption.
For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12:40 (ESV)
A Tradition Worth Continuing
Even as the Israelites prepared for the coming Passover, Good Friday can be a day of preparation for us as well. As we honor the day Christ was crucified, let us also prepare our hearts for the message of hope brought about by Christ’s resurrection three days later -- a holy day known as Easter.
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