THIS YEAR, GOOD FRIDAY falls on March 25. According to an old Christian tradition, this was the day in the Roman calendar when Jesus was crucified. We don’t really know the date of the crucifixion.
The Gospel follows the Jewish lunar calendar and only says that it happened on Preparation Day, that is, the Friday before the Sabbath of the Passover.
In the early Church, the first disciples wanted to commemorate Christ’s death and resurrection every year the same way they had celebrated the Passover as Jews.
As pious Jews, the date in the Roman calendar did not matter. What mattered was that Jesus died on a Friday and rose from the dead on a Sunday, close to the first full moon of spring. So that was the day chosen to celebrate Easter. Christians have followed that tradition ever since, eager to remember the connection between Christ’s death and the Passover of the Old Covenant.
The Jewish Passover was a sacrifice. A lamb was sacrificed on the altar. The blood of that lamb saved Israel from death. The first Christians looked upon our Lord’s death on the cross as a sacrifice.
Jesus is the “Lamb of God” who takes our guilt upon himself to save us from eternal damnation. Second Corinthians says: “For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God.” The Letter to the Hebrews says that Jesus offered his body and blood to cleanse us from our sins. “By virtue of that one single offering, he has achieved the eternal perfection of all who are made holy.”
Jesus said his death was a sacrifice, as we read in St John’s gospel: “The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, and as I have power to lay it down, so I have power to take it up again.
This is the command I have received from my Father.” St Peter wrote in his first letter: “For you know that the price of your ransom ... was paid, not in anything perishable like silver or gold, but in precious blood as of a blameless and spotless lamb, Christ.” This is why St John the Baptist told the Jews, after baptising Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God.”
Moses freed the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. Jesus frees us from slavery to sin. Moses led Israel to milk and honey in the Promised Land. Jesus leads us to the wedding feast in the Kingdom of God. On Good Friday, let us spend time with Jesus to thank him for all he has done for us.