In Sweden, public holidays make up a large part of the substantial volume of vacation-days that all workers get. A Swedish-American living in Sweden has this to say on the subject: http://welcometosweden.blogspot.com/2009/03/moving-to-sweden-public-holidays.html. A number of the holidays tend to be religious ones, probably owing to a trifecta of circumstances: Sweden's Lutheran history, the apparent lack of fundamentalist Christianity such as what began in the USA in response to liberal interpretations around the 1900s, and the lack of any historical documents asserting a "separation of church and state." Today being Good Friday, I was reminded of the Swedish term for the same day:
Owing to spending my first 7 years of life in Sweden, and learning to read, write and speak fluently in that language first, Long Friday was the name for the day that I was first introduced to as a child.
After moving to the US, I encountered the name "Good Friday," and I recall being perplexed as to how it could have been good. I knew that Jesus had been tortured and then died a painful death on that day, so it seemed unlikely that it was a good day for Him. In contrast, for Him it must have been a long day, that could not have ended too soon, what with the excruciating pain (incidentally, that word in English comes from the Latin ex crucis, or "from the Cross") that must have made the minutes drag on and on...
As a child, I think I did not understand the full message of the Cross. I knew the story, and to be honest I don't remember at what point I knew that He died for us, and it wasn't until 2010 that I know for sure that I 'fully' understood what that meant, in the sense of the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. Now, as a more mature believer, I understand why Good Friday was good. It was a good day for us. Because of what happened on Good Friday -- the Crucifixion of God Himself, charged with the sin of blasphemy, to which we all guilty because of our rebellion -- we are able to be forgiven of our sins and treated as though we lived Jesus' life, after He was treated as if He'd lived ours. This great exchange is the Good News. God has offered us forgiveness.
Now I see how it could have been a good day. Though it was the lowest point for the Creator's dignity, a perfect being being so dishonored, yet it was a glorious day all the same because through His death He won His great victory, purchasing for Himself all those who would humble themselves and throw their crowns at His feet, proclaiming Him as their Lord. And for those who will do so, that day was the Greatest Day. Without Good Friday, there would be no Good News. There would be no salvation. We would all die in our sins and there would be no hope for us. (1 Corinthians 15:18-19)
Here's the bottom line:
It was a Long Friday for Jesus Christ, who saw the plan through to the end despite the ignominy of it.
It was a Good Friday for us, because through His blood, we are forgiven of our sins (Ephesians 1:7)
A poignant comparison, because now we eagerly await an eternity with Him, which will be both good and long. Therefore remember the past, and look to the future, this Easter holiday.
Song: This Man, by Jeremy Camp
~ Rak Chazak