All across America, and in many parts of the world, people set aside last Friday to remember the death of Jesus Christ. Schools were closed, government offices were closed, and stores had BIG sales on Easter clothes and candy. It was “Good Friday”.
Isn’t it interesting that it’s called “Good Friday”? The day is supposed to be the day that Jesus was crucified. Why would a day remembering someone’s death be called “good”? It is NOT because Jesus Christ was a horrible person and people rejoice in the day He died. Rather, it is because of what was accomplished when He died.
His death was good because it paid the price for our salvation; it satisfied the payment demanded by a holy God; it accomplished His plan of redemption.
In the most recent issue of a good Baptist magazine, there is a very detailed chronology of the days leading up to the day Christ was crucified. It is very interesting, but it poses a problem for me. The conclusion is the Jesus Christ died on Friday, the day we now celebrate as “Good Friday”.
Let’s look at the Scripture, and see how this commonly-accepted day fits. Our text is found in Mathew 12:40; here is what Jesus said;
“40 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 said, “three days and three nights”.
Even with some kind of “new math”, it is difficult to come up with “three days and three nights” when I begin counting on Friday. Even if I count Friday and Sunday to make three days, I can’t come up with three nights. In another passage of Scripture; Matthew 27:62-63, we learn what the enemies of Jesus thought He had said.
“62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,
63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.” They had understood Jesus to say, “After three days I will rise again.”
When Jesus told His disciples about His coming death and resurrection, He said the same thing. Mark 8:31
“31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
Some people are confused when they read other Scripture references about this, e.g., Mark 9:31, 34:
“31 For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.”
“34 And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.”
Is this a contradiction? No, because Jesus had explained exactly what He meant when He said, “Three days and three nights”. Whatever we might think this means, Jesus was referring to three days and three nights. Also, in John 2:19 Jesus makes a prophecy.
“19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
Paul explains the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4;
“3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures…”
But much of the confusion rests, rests with the sabaths. In John 19:31, the Jews did not want His body to hang on the cross on the Sabbath Day, so as soon as they knew He was dead, they wanted to get His body down from the cross.
“31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.”
At first glance, most readers would say, “Well, this must have been a Friday because the next day was the Sabbath. That’s why they were in a hurry to get His body removed from the cross.” BUT, that is only PARTLY RIGHT. But, in Exodus 12 we learn that the first and the last days of the Passover were to be observed as Sabbaths.
“14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
15 Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.
16 And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.”
These days were observed as “high days” or “special” Sabbaths. Leviticus 23:4-8 makes this even clearer.
“4 These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.
5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’s passover.”
Now, if the Passover was to begin on the fourteenth day of the first month…every year. It would be similar to the way we celebrate Christmas; it is on the twenty-fifth day of the last month. By being on the same date, sometimes Christmas is on a Monday, or a Tuesday, or (at times) every day of the week. It is the same with the Passover. It was to be celebrated on “the fourteenth day of the first month” every year, no matter what day it landed on.
“6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.
7 In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. 8 But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.”
So, perhaps Jesus died on the day of the Preparation (for the special Sabbath Day, the “high day”). They hurriedly removed Him from the cross so that His body would not be there on that Sabbath Day. Then, His body was placed in the tomb which was nearby. It was nearly 6 PM by this time and, this was the time a new day began for the Jews. Instead of considering the next day beginning at Midnight, as we do today, they considered a new day as beginning at 6 PM. Days were often referred to as “the evening and the morning”, since the day began at 6 PM.
Next, considering the specific things that had to be done between the time of His death and His resurrection three days later, there are as many as twenty things that had to happen during this time. Here are a few from Dr. Luke’s account, though some of these things are mentioned in the other gospels.
- First, someone had to go to Pilate and get permission to take the body (Luke 23)
“52 This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.”
- Next, the soldiers had to be sure He was really dead.
- The linen cloth had to be purchased and taken to Golgotha.
- The dead body of Jesus had to be taken down and wrapped for burial.
“53 And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen…
- The body had to be taken to the tomb.
and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.”
“54 And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.” This means that it was almost 6 PM and the special Sabbath, the “high day”, was about to begin.
55 And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid.”
- Next, the spices had to be purchased (?) and prepared.
“56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments;”
It is possible that the women had these spices at home but, if not, they had to have time to go to the market and purchase them. They would all rest on the Sabbath Day or Days. “and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.” It is hard to believe that some time, such as the day following the special Sabbath, was not needed for some of this to take place. Otherwise, it would seem that the women would be doing this on the Sabbath Day, and work was forbidden on that day.
The traditional view of the day Jesus died would have us to believe all of this happened on Friday afternoon, before 6 PM. It seems very hard to believe that it would even be possible.
- The Traditional View.
9 AM Friday – Jesus was crucified; nailed to the cross on Mount Calvary.
Noon Friday – The great darkness covered the earth until…
3 PM Friday – when Jesus gave up His spirit and died. After this, His body was taken down from the cross and taken to the nearby tomb.
6 PM Friday – The weekly Sabbath (Saturday) began. All of the details for His preparation and the preparation of the spices by the women had been completed, so they could observe the Sabbath day.
Saturday – The Jews rested, observing the Sabbath. Pilate posts his guards at the tomb.
6 PM Saturday – The first day of the week began.
6 AM Sunday – Christ has risen and the women go to the tomb, and find it empty. Christ has been in the grave two nights (Friday and Saturday) and one day (Saturday). Or, if we count this by our method of time; Friday evening, Saturday morning and evening, and Sunday early morning. It’s simply impossible to get three days and three nights, which is what Jesus said would happen.
- The Non-Traditional View.
9 AM Wednesday – Jesus was crucified, nailed to the cross on Mount Calvary.
Noon Wednesday – The great darkness covered the earth, the earth quaked, and the veil was torn in half from the top to the bottom.
3 PM Wednesday – Jesus said, “It is finished” and dismissed His spirit.
6 PM Friday – By this time, Jesus body had been taken down from the cross, wrapped in linen cloth, and quickly carried to the nearby tomb, and laid to rest. The stone, like a large wheel, was rolled into place at the opening of the tomb. AND, the special Sabbath, the “high day”, began.
Thursday – All day was a day of rest, and no work was done, as they observed this special Sabbath.
6 PM Thursday – The next day, Friday, began. Probably much of the preparation was done during the daylight hours of that day, after 6 AM Friday morning.
6 PM Friday – The weekly Sabbath began, and work ceased for this day.
Saturday – The regular Sabbath was observed.
6 PM Saturday – This would be the beginning of the first day of the week, Sunday. Christ AROSE. His body had now been in the grave three days and three nights, as He had prophesied.
6 AM Sunday – The women arrive at the tomb to find the stone rolled away, and the tomb empty, except for the material with which Jesus’ body had been wrapped. So, as I see it, this view makes more sense. Actually, some believe Jesus died on Thursday. Even this theory makes it difficult to find three days and three nights in the grave. So, what is…
Some don’t think it makes any difference when He died; it is just important to know that He died, and when He died, He provided the payment for our sins. However, this information is significant because it reminds us that…
- We can trust the Word of God. Because it is the Word of God, and not the word of man, it is completely trustworthy. When there are things we don’t understand, we can still trust it until we are able to understand it. We need to Study the Word of God, as Paul told the young preacher in 2 Timothy 2:15.
- Studying takes time and it takes effort. Get a few basic Bible study helps and you can learn a great deal! A concordance will help you find other places a word is used. If it has a Greek and Hebrew dictionary, you can see what the original word meant. If you get ahold of an old dictionary, you can see what the English words meant when they were translated several hundred years ago.
- We must be careful about the sources of Bible knowledge. Don’t rely songs or traditions. Rely solely on the Word of God.
- Be thankful that Jesus conquered death and receive Him before it’s too late (Hebrews 9:27). He paid for our sins and He has shown us that we can one day have victory over death! Death is not the end; it is only the beginning of “eternity”!
Jesus prophesied that He’d be in the grave three days and three nights. He was, but He arose, and now lives in Heaven where He is making intercession for us!!! Hallelujah!