Earlier this week some of my Facebook friends were celebrating “Good Friday” as the day that Christ died. Then today my sister stated that Jesus rose on Monday because if He died on Friday, Monday is three days later.
What exactly was the timing of the passion and subsequent resurrection? Let’s look at the facts :
1. Jesus rose from the grave on Sunday. Matthew 28:1 says that the women came to the tomb “as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week.” Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, and John 20:1 say the same thing. Mark 16:9 is even more clear, “Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week…” We know that the first day of the week is Sunday, because Saturday is the sabbath, which is day seven of creation (Exodus 20:11).
2. Jesus died after 3:00 PM but before sunset. We know from the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) that Christ was alive at 3pm because He said “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” at “the ninth hour” which is 3pm (Jews counted 6am as the first hour, noon as the sixth hour, etc). We also know that He was dead before sunset, because John 19:31 says that the soldiers were to break the legs of the crucified so the executions would be complete before “the sabbath.”
3. Jesus rose “on the third day.” There are 8 separate instances in the gospels where Jesus predicts that this will happen. Granted, some of them are repeats, since the gospels have some events in common. This prophecy was so well known that even the chief priests had heard it (Matthew 27:63).
We know that Jesus died between 3pm and sunset, and we know that on the third day (which we can pinpoint as “Sunday”), He rose from the grave. The big question is: on what day did He die? I confess that on this point I cannot be dogmatic. Personally I believe that most of Christendom is wrong in stating he died on “Good Friday.” My belief is that Christ died on Thursday. Here is my thinking:
1. The Jews count any part of a day as a complete whole. Some use this to say that this allows for him to die on Friday and rise on Sunday (since He was dead part of the 24 hour period known as Friday, the same for Saturday and Sunday). I guess this is plausible, but it fails to meet my test of common sense.
2. Jesus was clear (Matthew 12:40) that He would be dead for “three days and three nights.” No matter how you slice it, even if you count those three days as I did in the last paragraph, there is no way to shoehorn in “three nights” from Friday night and Saturday night.
3. If we count each part of a day as a whole day, and each part of a night as a whole night, here is how the timing works out:
Day 1: Thursday: Jesus died before sunset, so this counts as day 1.
Night 1: Thursday night
Day 2: Friday (the “high sabbath” mentioned in John 19:31, perhaps the first day of the Feast of First Fruits)
Night 2: Friday night
Day 3: Saturday (the normal sabbath)
Night 3: Saturday night.
We know He rose before sunrise (see paragraph 1 of this post) on Sunday, so we don’t count “Sunday day,” otherwise we would have 4 days and 3 nights by this reckoning. So that’s what I believe: He died Thursday, spent all day Friday and Saturday in the tomb, and then rose from the grave on Sunday morning.
Do I think it really matters what day He died? Not really. The fact is that He died for our sins, and that on the third day He was resurrected, so that He is no longer dead, but alive, and will someday return for us. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!