“The devil claimed a victory that afternoon, but only so Jesus could win victory forever.” ~ Dave Earley, The 21 Most Dangerous Questions of the Bible (2007)
Over the years I have read several different accounts of Christ’s Crucifixion. While most of the interpretations concerning how he died were correct, there are still questions concerning when he died and when he rose.
As I began looking into this for myself, I asked the Holy Spirit for guidance. After months of research and still ongoing study, this is what I find the bible says.
I understand that this may not be important to some of you. You might think Jesus died and rose again is all we need to know. While that may be true in the beginning of our walk with God, I believe He wants us to know the whole and real truth concerning everything He does.
It is not enough to settle for common knowledge. Just as common sense is not as common as we thought, common knowledge is not always as accurate we would like to think.
Prophecies concerning Christ’s Sacrifice
Genesis 3:15 ~
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
The Prophets spoke at length of the coming of our Savior and what he would do for humanity. Some center on his life while most focus on his work of redemption. The most moving depiction of Christ’s sacrifice is found in Isaiah 53:1-12.
Here is an interesting side note. How many stripes was Jesus given? Tradition teaches he was given thirty-nine (forty minus one). This was Roman custom and since Rome flogged him, this is the number of stripes he received. The number is not as important as what it represents. Still, you might be surprised to know that the exact number is not mentioned in scripture, but there may be a hint…
Let's look at the Law of Moses for a possible answer:
“If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked. 2 And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. 3Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee.”
Since the Jews wanted Jesus punished, they might have requested the maximum number according to their law. But this is just a thought…
Jesus speaks of his death
“Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”
All four Gospels have an account of Jesus’ mention of his own death. I will use one for the sake of brevity.
“For as Jonas 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.”
Jesus recalls the encounter of the prophet Jonah with the whale as a foreshadowing of his future. If you read the account, Jonah mentions being in hell, which in Hebrew is ‘sheol’ or the grave. So Jesus tells the disciples that like Jonah, he will spend three days and three nights in the grave. He also spoke of being killed and rising again after three days, using the temple as an illustration. His words were recalled.
“And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.”
Other mentions of Three days
“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”
Here is where some of the confusion comes in. We see where Jesus spoke of being in the earth three days and nights. So what does he mean when he says he will be raised again the third day? He mentions this more than once throughout the gospels. This has led many to believe that Jesus did not mean for us to take what he said in Matthew 12:40 literally.
If this is the case, why use Jonah as an example in the first place? If we are to interpret the words of Jesus accurately, we must use all of it to build context.
“Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;”
Here we see Peter recounting the resurrection by use the third-day phrase. In order to understand the verbiage, we must understand the reference. We will return to this in a moment.
Days leading to Jesus Crucifixion
“Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.”
Three days earlier, Jesus mentions Passover. The day he mentions this is the day his body is initially prepared for burial. As we read Matthew 26:1-12, we see a woman pouring expensive ointment on his head. While the disciples consider this as a waste of money, Jesus lets them know she did well for his coming burial. Why? As you will see later, they will not have time to thoroughly prepare his body.
The question here is, what day is this? If we examine it according to tradition, it must be Tuesday, since he was buried Friday afternoon. However, there is one vital piece of information that must be taken into account in order to begin to piece together an accurate account.
God’s Accounting of Days
“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”
From the beginning, God revealed earth's accounting of time. Day and night were measured by the light of the Sun and Moon.
“And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. 16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. 17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.”
This is how days and nights were counted throughout the early centuries of the earth. When God raised up the children of Israel, He gave them a calendar to help them His Feasts and Sabbath days. It began on the night of the first Passover in Exodus 12:1-28. The month was called Abib according to Exodus 13:4. Therefore, they counted the days from evening to evening or sunset to sunset, which was around 6 p.m. (the moon signaled the start of days, not the sun).
It wasn’t until Israel encountered Rome that we see the introduction of modern time accounting. Because they were sun worshipers, they observed the darkest hour of the night (around midnight or 12 am) to sunrise as the start of days.
That being said, we cannot use the current Roman or Gregorian calendar to accurately determine what happened that week. We must use the biblical accounting of time or evening to evening and three hundred sixty days (thirty days x twelve months) when interpreting bible timelines. We may have changed, but God remains the same!
So, was Jesus buried on Friday?
Using what is revealed in scripture concerning time, could Jesus have gone into the tomb late Friday afternoon and risen early Sunday morning? Can we count three days and three nights in that time span? It is impossible! We cannot account for the mentioning of rising after three days or on the third day from that scenario!
By biblical accounting, we get one full day and one evening. Not even close to what Jesus said would happen. By Roman accounting, we only get two nights and one day or two days if you want to count Sunday morning. We are still missing the third day.
What we have here is not the biblical accounting of the event but an account taken from tradition. This tradition comes from a misunderstanding of what Sabbath is mentioned during that week.
What Sabbath did they speak of?
“And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.”
Which Sabbath is this? Is this the weekly Sabbath or another? Remember, the Jews observed multiple Sabbaths throughout the year. They were preparing to celebrate a Sabbath, but not the weekly Sabbath. Since this was the month of Abib, they were preparing for the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread! Remember Matthew 26:2? Jesus mentioned the Passover was coming in a couple of days! And the Passover is considered a High Sabbath! This changes things greatly.
Timing is Everything
Now we will get into the meat of the matter. Before we do, I'll submit to you now that Jesus was crucified and buried Wednesday, not Friday. Why is this? Because the Passover AND the Feast of Unleavened Bread began Wednesday at sunset! As we walk through the scriptures, you will see why this makes sense.
- Sunday Evening/Monday Evening – The day Jesus is anointed for burial. Judas then sought to betray Jesus. It was over money. Can you believe that? (Matthew 26:6-12, 14-16)
- Monday Evening/Tuesday Evening – A place to keep the Passover was sought, but they held the Lord’s Supper instead because he knew he was to become this season's Passover Lamb. (Matthew 26:17-25)
Note that they found a place to prepare the Passover, but they did not actually observe it. Verse 17 might cause you to think this, but they mention preparing it only. By law, they could not prepare on Passover itself, as it is a Sabbath. It must take place prior. See Luke 22:14-18.
- Tuesday – This is the daylight hours before Passover. It is the time of preparation mentioned in Matthew 26:19-20. They supped together that same evening. Again, they did not officially observe the Passover. Jesus had a final meal with them and gave them one last lesson and observance before he was to be taken later that evening. They had a meal of remembrance. (Matthew 26:26-29)
- Tuesday Evening/Wednesday – This is the time Jesus came to this earth for. After the supper, they went to a garden in the Mount of Olives, where he often went to pray. He was in great agony in his flesh, knowing was coming (Luke 22:39-45). Late Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning he was betrayed, tried, tortured, and led away to be crucified. (Matthew 26:46-27:31)
- Wednesday – Wednesday morning they nailed Jesus to the cross. It was around 9 a.m. About noon, the sky began to darken. Around 3 p.m., Jesus spoke his final words before his death.
A Little Detail…
Jesus was crucified and buried on the day the Jews were preparing for the Passover. That is why they wanted him captured and his trial held quickly, ideally the same night. They did not want to wait until the after the feasts. They could not for this was God's timing! For centuries they have been rehearsing for this one culmination event. While the priests were preparing the substitute lamb to die in remembrance of their salvation from a night of death, these same priests, prompted by Satan, were unwittingly being preparing the true Lamb of God to die in order to usher in salvation for the world from eternal death!
Between noon and 3 p.m., as the sky darkened, Jesus had the sins of the world placed on him. Because of this, the Father could no longer look on him as he became sin. This caused Jesus to cry out “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani (My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?)? He spoke other words not recorded in Matthew’s account.
Shortly after 3 p.m., Jesus surrendered his life to pay for the sins of humanity. No greater love. The ultimate sacrifice. The Lamb of God was prepared and offered up for you and I. The heel of the seed of the woman had been bruised by the serpent! Also, note several other prophecies were fulfilled during this event. He allowed them to take him away. He did not defend himself during the trial. They tortured him with beatings, spitting, hair pulling, scourging, and a crown of thorns. Then after he was dead, they pierced his side.
But because he was dead, they did not break his legs as they did the thieves. Because of time of the Passover was close, they did not want them dying on crosses. The dead bodies could not remain displayed after sunset. And they could not defile themselves by taking them down.
So the legs of the two thieves were broken so they could no longer support themselves on their feet to take breaths. They quickly suffocated. Death by crucifixion is a long and painful death brought on by blood loss, shock, and asphyxiation. (Psalms 34:20, Isaiah 50:6, 53:5, 53:7, Zechariah 12:10)
Three Days and Three Nights
- Wednesday Evening – In the hours after Jesus’ death, Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate to request his body. He believed in the words of Jesus and wanted to make sure had a proper burial. Because he too wanted to celebrate the feasts, he had to hurry to get the body of Jesus, wrap it, and lay him to rest before sunset. Therefore, he simply wrapped Jesus in new cloths soaked in spices and he used a new sepulcher that was in the garden near the site of the crucifixion. By 6 p.m., Jesus was in the tomb. (John 19:38-42)
- Wednesday Evening/Thursday Evening – Jesus observed the Sabbath in the tomb. As God the Father rested on the Sabbath after His labor, so did Jesus.
- Thursday Evening/Friday Evening – Same as above.
- Friday Evening/Saturday Evening – Same as above.
Now you see the three days and three nights Jesus spoke of. But what about rising the third day? If you count using the Roman method, Jesus rose sometime Saturday evening, the third day! This would be the same as Sunday morning for the Jews as Saturday ended after sunset. See? It works out perfectly!
You can see a visual I created by clicking here.
Once the weekly Sabbath ended (Saturday Evening), Jesus rose sometime during that night. While Matthew’s account is written as though they witnessed the stone being rolled away, it was the soldiers who were stationed at the tomb that witnessed this. Jesus was risen before the angel descended! The seed of the woman had bruised the head of the serpent!
“And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: 4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.”
Jesus rose sometime between 6 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. Sunday. I am more convinced it was between 6 p.m. and midnight. After the Sabbath was passed, why wait? No one would see him rise anyway! By the time the Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome arrived to finish prepping the body of Jesus (Mark 16:1), the stone was rolled from the opening, the soldiers were gone, and the angel was waiting inside the tomb.
One account says two angels were inside, the others say one. The point is, the angel was sent as a messenger to the disciples to show and inform them that Jesus had risen as he said! The sun was also rising, giving credence to the fact that it was dawn when they arrived.
And here is a quick point about the cloths Jesus was wrapped in. Jesus did not get up and neatly fold the clothes and set them to the side. He simply rose and the clothes remained where they were. Luke 24:12 says the clothes were laid by themselves. This means laying without a body in them! Only the napkin used to cover his head was setting apart.
As I stated earlier, this much detail might not be important to some. However, I believe God wants us to know why He does what He does! He wants us to understand His doings and see how His plans fit together.
There are details not included in this article. It would become too long to read (if it’s not too long already. Sorry…). Yet it does show how tradition can produce error and detract from the essence, power, and value of God's Word. This is why we need to heed 2 Timothy 2:15.
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