If Jesus suffered and died, why is it called Good Friday?
On one level, the answer is about the meaning of words.
The term "Good" as applied to Good Friday is an Old English expression meaning holy. It's often called Holy Friday also.
But in another sense, Good Friday is always tied to Easter Sunday, which is a joyful celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. He could not have been resurrected if he had not died first.
Suffering Christ or Glorified Christ?
In planning the mural for the Beeson Divinity School chapel dome several years ago, Samford University had to decide how to portray Christ: glorified or suffering.
He is portrayed in the artwork as exalted in heaven - but also with nail prints in his hands - to remember the suffering of the crucifixion.
"Theologically, we must keep Good Friday and Easter together," Divinity School Dean Timothy George explained. "Good Friday without Easter is doom and despair. Easter without Good Friday is empty sentiment and sentimentality. We have to remember what Jesus did on the cross, which is the fulfillment of God's eternal plan for the whole world. It has cosmic consequences."
Carrying the Cross
Today millions of Christians worldwide observe the somber holy day of Good Friday, which commemorates the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus.
The faithful often act it out by carrying a large wooden cross and crown of thorns symbolic of the suffering of Christ.
In Jerusalem, they follow the Via Dolorosa, or Way of the Cross.
In Homewood, a procession along Oxmoor Road begins at 2 p.m. today, with All Saints' Episcopal, Dawson Memorial Baptist, Edgewood Presbyterian and Trinity United Methodist among the Alabama churches that traditionally take part by hosting stops of the stations of the cross - meditations on the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus.
Jesus told his followers, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24, New International Version)
Jesus' example can provide strength through suffering, said the late Rev. John Claypool, who was a Southern Baptist preacher in Kentucky and later an Episcopal priest in Alabama.
A Glimpse at the depths of evil
"God really does understand from the inside what it's like to suffer, to be abandoned, to be alone," Claypool said. "You can't realize the absolute marvel of Easter unless you appreciate the suffering of Good Friday."
The events of Good Friday described in the Bible include the trial of Jesus, the shouts of the crowd to "Crucify him!" even when given a choice to free Jesus or Barabbas, followed by Jesus carrying the cross and being hung on it to die.
"Good Friday is so powerfully significant because it gives us a glimpse into the depths of human evil," Claypool said. "You see the best and the worst of human nature."
Mercy and patience
God shows incredible mercy and patience in the events of Good Friday, Claypool said.
"It's a time to reflect on the dark tendencies that are in all of us," Claypool said.
"It's a day to be silent, it's a day to remember, to focus on who Jesus is and what He meant for humanity," George said.
"Christians believe the sins of the whole world were poured out on Christ," George said. "It's really a bad Friday, a horrible Friday. When it is seen as leading to the Resurrection, it was indeed a Good Friday."