Crucifixion -- on which day?
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Goal
The goal of this essay is to determine whether or not Jesus made a mistake concerning how long He would remain in the grave.

Overview

  • This page Biblebell Study: On which DAY of the week was Jesus crucified?
  • Page 2 Visitor Alan P's research: In which YEAR was Jesus crucified?
  • Page 2 Visitor Barry S's study: On which DAY of the week was Jesus crucified?
  • Page 2 "Biblebell addendum" -- answers to follow-up questions posed by readers of these pages.
  • Page 3 -- Details concerning the Lord's death at 3 PM on Passover day.

The Lord's prophecy

In the days before His crucifixion, Lord Jesus was confronted and questioned by a group of scribes and Pharisees, as described in Matthew chapter 12.

Eventually the scribes and Pharisees demanded that Jesus give them a miraculous sign to prove He was the Messiah. The Lord's reply to their demand is quoted in Matthew 12.40.

  • Namely, Jesus prophesied that He would be buried for three days and three nights.

Some days later, in Matthew 16.21, Jesus repeated this prophecy to His disciples. Namely, He told them He would be killed, and then be resurrected after three days in the tomb. 

  Jesus answered and said to them (the scribes and Pharisees), "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Mt 12.39-40

From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Mt 16.21

Good Friday?

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath.

Because the Jews did not want the bodies (of Jesus and the thieves) left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. John 19.31
 

Many Christians believe that Jesus was crucified on Friday, then resurrected on Sunday at dawn.

  • They believe Jesus was crucified on Friday because of the statement in John 19.31.
  • Namely, the Jews demanded that Jesus be buried BEFORE the Sabbath.
  • Since every Saturday was a Sabbath, these folks figure that Jesus was crucified on the day previous to Saturday, namely Friday.

It is for this reason that the day of the Lord's crucifixion is memorialized each year on "Good Friday."

Sunday at dawn?

The basis for believing that Jesus was resurrected on Sunday at dawn is given in Matthew 28.1 and 28.5-6.

Specifically, it was at dawn on a Sunday that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the Lord's tomb and heard the angel say, "He is risen."

Accordingly, many churches celebrate the Lord's resurrection by holding services at dawn on Easter Sunday.
  Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb...

But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay." Mt 28.1, 28.5-6

(God said:)
When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord,
If the thing does not happen or come to pass,
That is the thing which the Lord has not spoken;
The prophet has spoken it presumptuously;
You shall not be afraid of him.
Deu 18.22

A presumptuous prophet?

Now then... what about the Lord's prophecy that He would remain in the tomb for three days and nights?

  • Those who put forth the notion that Jesus was crucified on Friday say that any part of a day should be counted as a FULL day. According to this way of reasoning, Jesus was in the tomb part of Friday, all of Saturday, and part of Sunday -- three days.
  • Whether or not you buy that rationale, what about the three NIGHTS? There is no way that three nights can be squeezed in between Friday and Sunday. Count them: Friday night, Saturday night -- TWO nights, not three.

If Jesus was crucified on Friday, then He made a MISTAKE by saying He would be in the grave three days and nights. If He made a mistake, Jesus was a presumptuous Prophet. No way around it.

Facts about Passover

Did Jesus make a mistake about the duration of His burial?
To answer this question, we first need to establish some Biblical facts about the date and timing of Passover Day. Why? Because Passover was the day of the Lord's crucifixion...
as you shall see in just a moment.

God established the feast of Passover so that the Jews would remember that He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt. For details, read Exodus chapter 12.

Per Leviticus 23.4-5, God ordained that Passover would be celebrated on the 14th day of the first month.
  These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times.

On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord's Passover. Lev 23.4-5
Per Exodus 12.2 and Esther 3.7, the first month on the Biblical lunar calendar is Nisan, also called Abib.

Nisan roughly corresponds to the beginning of Spring, which occurs in the month of April on our calendars.

Accordingly, Passover Day is celebrated on Nisan 14th of each year.
  (God told the Jews:) This month (Nisan) shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Exod 12.2

In the first month, which is the month of Nisan... Esther 3.7a
By Jewish reckoning, each day begins at evening (twilight).

This concept is founded on Genesis Chapter One, wherein each day is recorded as "the evening and the morning."

Thus, "twilight" is the first instant of a new day.

Consequently, Passover Day (the 14th of Nisan) begins at twilight on the 13th of Nisan.
  ...So the evening and the morning were the first day. Gen 1.5b

The Last Supper

And His (Christ's) disciples went out, and came into the city, and found it just as He had said to them; and they prepared the Passover. In the evening He came with the twelve (and they ate). Mk 14.16-17

As memorialized by the famous painting called "The Last Supper," Jesus and His disciples ate a final meal together on the night before He was crucified.

  • That supper was not just any old meal. Rather, it was a God-ordained memorial feast called the Passover Seder.
  • Mark 14.16-17 records that Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover meal in the evening.
  • Thus we can be certain that the "Last Supper" took place after twilight, in the beginning hours of Passover day.

Crucified on Passover Day

Jesus was taken prisoner that same night (Nisan 14th), given an illegal trial, and crucified the next day at 9 A.M.   Now it was the third hour (9 AM), and they crucified Him. Mk 15.25
From noon until 3 PM the entire land was shrouded in darkness.

At approximately 3 PM on Passover Day, Jesus commanded His spirit to leave His body, and died.

Without question, Jesus Christ was crucified on Passover day, Nisan 14th, for indeed --
 

Jesus on the cross...

  • Now from the sixth hour (noon) until the ninth hour (3 PM) there was darkness over all the land.
  • And about the ninth hour (3 PM) Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?'' that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?''
  • ...Jesus, when He had cried out again with a loud voice, yielded up His spirit. Mt 27.35a, 27.45-46, 27.50

Christ IS our Passover!!!
Halleluyah!

  ...For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 1 Cor 5.7b

Special means Special

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath.

Because the Jews did not want the bodies (of Jesus and the thieves) left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. John 19.31
 

Every Saturday was a Sabbath, a day when no customary work could be done.

  • Accordingly, many people have ASSUMED Jesus was crucified on Friday because John 19.31 says the next day was a Sabbath.
  • And it is an ASSUMPTION because the Bible simply does NOT specify the day of the week whereon Jesus was crucified.

These people need to read their Bibles more carefully.

  • John 19.31 says the next day was "a special Sabbath."
  • Not just any old Sabbath. A SPECIAL Sabbath.

As you shall see, every Saturday was a Sabbath, but not every Sabbath was a Saturday.

Several Sabbaths

The Hebrew word translated "Sabbath" means "rest or cessation." "Sabbath" is NOT a Hebrew word for "Saturday" or "seven."

God ordained several "Sabbaths" for Israel, including but not limited to...

  • The weekly 7th day Sabbath (Exod 20.8-11)
  • The Feast of Trumpets (Lev 23.24)
  • The Day of Atonement (Lev 16.29)
  • The 7th year Sabbath (Lev 25.1-4)
  But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God
Exod 20.10a

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a Sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. Lev 23.24

And this shall be a statute forever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all... Lev 16.29a

But in the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of rest unto the land, a Sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. Lev 25.4

The Special Sabbath

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath... John 19.31a

And on the fifteenth day of the same month (Nisan) is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it. Lev 23.6-7

Previous paragraphs have shown that Jesus was crucified on Passover day, Nisan 14th.

Per John 19.31, the next day (Nisan 15th) was a special Sabbath.

  • What is the special Sabbath that follows Passover Day?
  • Leviticus 23.6-7 gives the answer. Nisan 15th is the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
  • Leviticus 23.7 defines the first day of that feast as a holy convocation, a day when no customary work could be done -- in other words, a special Sabbath.

Per the Bible, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is a Sabbath NO MATTER WHICH day of the week it falls on.

Resurrection Day

The Bible doesn't tell us the specific day whereon Jesus was crucified, but it DOES tell us the day of His resurrection. Namely...

Jesus was resurrected at some time before dawn on Sunday, the first day of the week.

The Bible does NOT say Jesus was resurrected at dawn on Sunday. All it says is that the Lord's tomb ALREADY was empty at dawn.
  Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb...

But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Mt 28.1, 28.5-6

What we do NOT know

First, let's make a list of what we do not know.

  • We do not know the exact year of the Lord's crucifixion.
  • We do not know the day of the week whereon the Passover (Nisan 14th) was celebrated that year. Neither could we trace it back by analyzing the Jewish calendar. The ancient Jewish calendar is Lunar based and of imperfect accuracy and consistency.
  • Thus, we do not know the day of the week whereon Jesus was crucified. God did not choose to record that information in His Bible.
  • Finally, we do not know the exact time of day when Jesus was resurrected.

What we DO know

Now, let's see what we DO know.

God DID choose to tell us that Sunday was the day of the Lord's resurrection.

In God's eyes, Resurrection Day is THE IMPORTANT DAY...

  • not crucifixion day, for that is death,
  • but Resurrection Day, for that is LIFE.

Praise God, we serve a living Savior. He is risen, and He is alive forevermore. Halleluyah! Halleluyah! Halleluyah!

  (Jesus said:) I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen... Rev 1.18a

Wherefore He (Jesus) is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them. Heb 7.25

Faith is forced upon us

Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, "Yea, hath God said...?" Gen 3.1a
Here's the bottom line. Lots of folks say Jesus was crucified on Friday. The Bible is totally silent on the matter. In short, there is no "scientific" proof one way or the other.

Even now Satan may be whispering in your ear --
"Yea, hath Jesus said He would be raised after three days and nights?"

Guess what. You only have two choices --
Either you believe Jesus or you don't!

If you choose to believe the Lord, determining the day of His crucifixion becomes so simple that I have taught it to young children. Follow along...

Facts and faith

Fact: Jesus was crucified at 9 AM on Passover Day   ...For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 1 Cor 5.7b
FACT: Jesus prophesied that He would be in the tomb for 3 days and 3 nights.   (Jesus said:) For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Mt 12.40
FACT: Jesus was entombed in the evening of Passover Day.   Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. Mt 27.57-58
FACT: Jesus was ALREADY out of the tomb (resurrected) sometime BEFORE dawn on the first day of the week (Sunday).   Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb... But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Mt 28.1, 28.5-6

FAITH!

Jesus was crucified on Wednesday, Passover Day, Nisan 14th.

He was entombed Wednesday evening. He was in the heart of the earth...

  • Wednesday night (Night 1)
  • Thursday (Day 1- a special Sabbath)
  • Thursday night (Night 2)
  • Friday (Day 2)
  • Friday night (Night 3)
  • Saturday (Day 3 - the weekly Sabbath).

The Lord Jesus Christ was resurrected at twilight on Saturday...
at the instant Saturday died,
and the instant Sunday was born.

Remembering the Lord's crucifixion day

The Lord Jesus did not ask us to honor His crucifixion on "Good Friday." Neither did He tell us NOT to do so.   One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. Rom 14.5

Instead, Jesus asked us to remember His death on many days, by partaking of the bread and the cup at His table.

Not just one day a year. OFTEN.

And there you have it. If a person believes the Bible and Jesus, it's so simple that even children can and DO understand.

And all God's people said...
Amen!

  When He (Jesus) had given thanks, He broke it (the loaf of bread) and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.'' In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.''
For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes.
1 Cor 11.24-26

NOTICE- You have just finished reading page 1 of a 3 page Bible Study. The other 2 pages are...

  • Page 2 -- (1) Related studies by guest writers, and (2) Biblebell's addendum, prepared in response to comments from various other visitors to these pages.
  • Page 3 -- Details concerning the Lord's death at 3 PM on Passover day.

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