Two days before Easter we observe Good Friday as the day on which Jesus was crucified. For anyone who is familiar with Jesus’ predictions about his death and resurrection this raises a problem. He said that just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights he would be in the earth three days and three nights. But how could this be if he was crucified on Friday and resurrected on Sunday? Friday, Saturday, and Sunday make up three days but there are only two nights.
The Bible says that the women who discovered that his tomb was empty came early on the first day of the week, which in the Jewish calendar was Sunday, so there is no doubt about which day the resurrection took place.
But was the crucifixion really on Friday? The Bible says it took place on the day before the Sabbath, and since Saturday is the Sabbath it would seem that it must have been on a Friday. But John 19:31 says,
That Sabbath was a high day.
Does this mean that it wasn’t the regular weekly Sabbath?
The Sabbath was a day in which work was prohibited. Leviticus 23 shows that there was more than one kind of Sabbath. Verse three says that the seventh day of every week was a Sabbath.
Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwelling places.
But the rest of the chapter describes annual feasts that the Israelites were to observe and they included days in which work was forbidden. These Sabbaths were to be observed on a specific day of the month so they could fall on any day of the week.
Jesus was crucified on Passover, which was the 14th day of the first month. Leviticus 23:5-7 shows that Passover was followed immediately by the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread and the first day of this feast, which was the day after Passover, was day in which work was forbidden.
In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the LORD’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.
Since this day was on the 15th day of the month it could fall on any day of the week.
On what day of the week must Jesus have been crucified if he was to stay buried for three days and three nights? He was taken down from the cross and buried just before sunset, which the Jews considered the start of the new day. If the crucifixion was on a Wednesday then he would have been buried all of Thursday, the Sabbath which was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread; Friday, which was a regular work day; and Saturday, the regular weekly Sabbath. His resurrection occurred just after sunset on Saturday, when the first day of the week began, and the women came to the tomb the next morning and found it empty. It is commonly believed that Jesus rose on Sunday morning but actually that is when the women discovered that his tomb was empty.
Luke 23:54-56 shows clearly that this was what happened.
It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and say the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointment. On the Sabbath day they rested according to the commandment.
The women saw Jesus buried as the Sabbath was beginning, prepared spices and ointment to anoint his body, and then rested on the Sabbath. These must have been two different Sabbath, because they wouldn’t have had time to prepare the spices on the same day as the burial. On Friday they prepared the spices but couldn’t put them on Jesus’ body that day because the tomb was being guarded by Roman soldiers.
The practice of observing Good Friday arose because the belief arose that the Sabbath after the crucifixion and the Sabbath before the resurrection were the same day. If people understood the Bible better we would probably observe Good Wednesday instead.
Posted on November 22, 2011, in Bible study and tagged burial, crucifixion, Easter, Feast of unleavened bread, Friday, Good Friday, Passover, resurrection, sabbath, Wednesday. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.