top of page

A "Good Friday" Reflection -- if your back is against the wall.

What whiz-bang Church marketing guru came up with the term "Good Friday" anyway to describe this day when Christians mark the crucifixion of Jesus?

Some have suggested it's a variation of "God's" Friday, looking to the German. But Germans refer to the day not as Gottes Freitag but as Karfreitag (“Sorrowful Friday”). Other variations include "pitkäperjantai" ("Long Friday," in Finnish) and ദുഃഖ വെള്ളി ("Sad Friday," in Malayalam). The scholarly consensus seems to be, according to the good people at the Oxford English Dictionary and other linquists, that the use of "Good" Friday derives from an antiquated meaning of "good" as "holy" or "pious."*

This has all come to mind as I've been re-reading, with a group of clergy and lay leaders, "Jesus and the Disinherited" by Howard Thurman. Thurman opens his text, which Martin Luther King, Jr. reportedly carried with him at all times in his briefcase, with a pressing observation which, in Thurman's mind, had been largely unexamined by the greater Church. He wrote, thinking specifically of the African American experience, "The significance of the religion of Jesus to people who stand with their backs to the wall has always seemed to me to be crucial."

What does this Jesus mean for African Americans and others who find themselves with their backs against the wall? What does this Good Friday, Holy Friday, Sorrowful Friday, Long Friday, Sad Friday -- along with the the Good News to come on Easter Sunday -- mean for them?

The irony and tragedy for Thurman is the extent to which this religion of the Crucified and Risen One, which "was born of a people acquainted with persecution and suffering has become the cornerstone of a civilization and of nations whose very position in modern life has too often been secured by a ruthless use of power applied to weak and defenseless peoples."

That is a sobering indictment of the White church and leads me to re-phrase Thurman's observation as a question on this Good Friday: "What is the significance of the religion of Jesus to White people whose legacy and position in society (intentionally or not) causes others to stand with their backs to the wall?"

What is the significance of the religion of Jesus to me?

*Sources: Wikipedia and Slate posting by Forrest Wickman.

30 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page