This was the question a co-worker put to me yesterday as I the elevator door was closing between us. I didn’t get a chance to answer then but appreciated the question. Another co-worker had asked yesterday, “What does Maundy mean?” so let’s tackle both of these.
Let’s start with Maundy Thursday. Wikipedia has a great article on this here. ‘Maundy’ you’ll remember derives from the Middle English and Old French mande’. … You didn’t remember that, did you? Neither did I. In fact, one of the only people who would is Milt Rosenberg of Extension 720 fame. In one show a few months ago he couldn’t resist reading through Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in Middle English. Very funny. Anyway, continuing on, mande’ then is a derivation of the Latin mandatum, which means “commandment”. It is a reference to the first word in the Latin for the Gospel of John chapter 13 verse 34: “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos”. Translation: “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another even as I have loved you.” So, in summary, ‘Maundy Thursday’ really means “Commandment Thursday”, and the command being referred to is that believers in Christ love others the way that Christ has loved them. Cool…
So, turning then to Good Friday, what’s good about it? The Wikipedia article (see prior link) doesn’t explain this but there is an interesting note on this in the discussion section for the article. Another term used with reference to ‘Good’ is ‘Passion’, which is a reference to Christ’s ‘passion’, or the event of His death on the cross. What’s good about Good Friday is that this was the day that God’s one and only Son went to the cross to secure victory over humanity’s curse. This curse is called sin, which means alienation from God.
Presumed in all of this story is a key question: what is wrong with us? Whenever I hear about torture, starvation, and other profound cruelties I’m reminded of this question. It’s a question that each of us has to answer for ourselves. The answer that I’ve come to is that the Bible has it exactly right: what is wrong with us, ultimately, is that we need God in our lives. The secular culture in which we live, which wants to divide the sacred from the secular (or “earthly”), and wants to hold the sacred at arm’s length with both skepticism and disdain, can distract us from acknowledging or even recognizing this need. Yet at the same time our own brokenness reminds us daily that something is indeed very wrong.
The good thing about Good Friday is that it is an opportunity to recognize what is wrong with us, accept God’s offer of forgiveness in the form of Christ dying for our sin on the cross, and then to invite God to be with us, heal us, and bless us.
Good Friday is good.. right? If we will say ‘yes’ to God it is good indeed.