While Church tradition commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday,
there are many debates over which day of the week Jesus died. Did Jesus really
die on Friday - or did he die on Wednesday evening, or Thursday?
The Friday view is based on the wording of Mark 15:42, which says that
Christ's crucifixion occurred on the day of preparation, "the day before the
Sabbath". Since the Hebrew Sabbath is on Saturday, the Church traditionally held
that Jesus was crucified on Friday. However, Jesus prophesied that he would be
dead for three days and three nights before his resurrection: "For as Jonah was
three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be
three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:40). There
are obviously not three days and three nights between Friday evening and Sunday
The problem appears easily resolved by a clarification of what Mark meant by
"sabbath". Along with the weekly Sabbath day, the Jews had other "sabbaths"
throughout the year, marking high holy days. In Matthew 28:1, the Greek should
be translated, "at the end of the sabbaths" - a plural word - noting that there
had been more than one sabbath the previous week. The first day of the Feast of
Unleavened Bread was also considered a "sabbath" (Lev. 23:6,7). This Feast is
celebrated on Nisan 15, the day after the Passover (Lev. 23:5-6). Jesus was
crucified on the Passover and Mark 15:42-43 notes that Joseph of Arimathea
desired to take Christ's body down from the cross before the high sabbath began.
[Luke 22:1 and Matt 26:17 create confusion. Denotatively, the two Feasts are
separate days. Connotatively, the entire period from Passover through the 7 days
of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is considered "Passover".]
If Passover, the 14th of Nisan, fell earlier in the week, the 15th could have
been any day prior to Saturday, the weekly Sabbath. "When the sabbaths were
past" would, of course, be Sunday (actually, Saturday after sundown), in
accordance to the Feast of Firstfruits. (Some hold to a Thursday crucifixion on
a similar basis.)
John 12:1 mentions that Jesus traveled to Bethany six days before the
Passover. Hebrew days are reckoned from sundown to sundown, so that each "day"
begins at sundown the evening before. These six evening-to-morning periods are
important to our understanding of the fulfillment of Old Testament Feasts,
particularly the Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits. We will
track these days and see how they match the pattern set down for us in the book
DAY ONE - FRIDAY -
The 9th of Nisan
We know from Luke 19:1 and Mark 10:46 that Jesus was in Jericho prior to
traveling to Bethany. Jesus would have had to be in Bethany before sundown on
Friday, since at sundown the Sabbath would start, and long-distance travel was
not permitted on the Sabbath.
DAY TWO - SATURDAY (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) -
The 10th of
"On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard
that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees, and went forth
to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in
the name of the Lord." - John 12:12-13
This is Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, commemorated on Palm Sunday
(in accordance with the Friday view, which put it 5 days before the
crucifixion). However, it appears it occurred on a Saturday. Jesus went into the
Temple and threw out the money changers shortly after this. He then taught daily
in the Temple until the Passover (Luke 19:45-48, Mark 11:15-17).
His entry into Jerusalem on the 10th day of Nisan also corresponds with
Exodus 12:3-6, in which a lamb was separated from the flock and put on display
as the lamb destined to be sacrificed on Passover. On this day, Jesus was put on
display as he proceeded from Bethany down the Mount of Olives toward Jerusalem.
While the People welcomed Jesus as the Messiah, the King, his primary purpose at
that time was to die, as he explains in John 12:23-33.
DAY THREE - SUNDAY (sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday) -
The 11th of
During this time, the "Lamb of God" was on public display in and around
Jerusalem, teaching the people many things. Some of Jesus' most well-known
parables and prophecies were made during these next several days.
DAY FOUR - MONDAY (sundown Sunday to sundown Monday) -
The 12th of
A quiet day at Bethany - Matt 26:2-6 (spent in the house of Simon the Leper).
DAY FIVE - TUESDAY (sundown Monday to sundown Tuesday) -
The 13th of
DAY SIX - WEDNESDAY (sundown Tuesday to sundown Wednesday) -
- The Last Supper took place at the Passover meal (Luke 22:15-20, John
13-17). Jesus offered his disciples the broken bread and the wine as
representing his own body and blood. He washed their feet and taught them many
last things before his death.
- He was arrested in the Garden after Judas' betrayal.
- After several trials, he was beaten and finally crucified on Wednesday
- The preparations for burial were made before sundown (Mark 15:42-43).
THE THREE DAYS IN THE TOMB
DAY ONE - THURSDAY (sundown Wednesday to sundown Thursday) -
15th of Nisan
Leviticus 23:5 designates the 14th of Nisan to be the day for observing
Passover. Jesus was placed in the tomb just prior to sundown on Wednesday and
spent his first full night and day in the tomb beginning on the 15th of Nisan,
the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Unleavened bread was pure bread. Jesus was pure
and undefiled and without sin. During the Jewish observance of this feast, some
of the unleavened bread was to be hidden away by the father for a time, only to
be brought out and eaten later.
DAY TWO - FRIDAY (sundown Thursday to sundown Friday) -
16th of Nisan
DAY THREE - SATURDAY (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) -
17th of Nisan
Jesus' body lay in the grave for the third night after his crucifixion.
Sometime after sundown Saturday evening (the start of Sunday), Jesus rose from
the dead. Thus, he had been in the grave three days and three nights as
prophesied. [Some argue from Luke 24:20-21 that Jesus must have been crucified
on Thursday, which would have had him in the grave Thursday night and Friday,
Friday night and Saturday, Saturday night and Sunday morning.]
On Sunday morning, when the women went to the tomb with burial spices, they
found the tomb empty. Sunday, as the "morrow after the Sabbath" after Passover
was the Feast of Firstfruits (Lev 23:10-11; 1 Cor 15:20-23). In rising from the
dead, Jesus became the first-fruits of all those who die and yet will be
resurrected to live forever.