On which day was Jesus crucified? Was it Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday? Most professing Christians observe the Crucifixion on Friday, but why? Today AMBrewster begins a two part study into the biblical data concerning the crucifixion.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a family resource from Truth.Love.Parent., a ministry dedicated to rooting families in God and maturing families for God so they can harvest blessings from God.
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“TLP 46: How to Be Jesus to Your Kids”
“TLP 248: Easter, Part 1: The Significance of the Resurrection”
“TLP 249: Easter, Part 2: The Significance of the Resurrection”
“TLP 252: Easter, Part 5: Make the Resurrection Important in Your Home”
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I’ve been looking forward to the next two episodes ever since we started The Year Long Celebration of God!
I remember as a small boy asking my parents all the hard Easter questions, “Why is it on a different days every year?” I asked them why there were so many different days in the celebration, and I asked them why we observe Jesus’ death on the Friday when — I was certain — that couldn’t have been the day He died.
And I received some good answers to most of my questions, but I never received a solid, biblical answer to the final one.
Well, that’s not completely fair. I don’t remember who or when, but I think I remember two different men at two different times giving me a solid answer, but then every other year of my life it was undone by everyone else.
Anyway, it wasn’t until about five years ago that I biblically affirmed certain realities about the events of the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
But before we dive in, if you like to use social media, I’d like to invite you to join me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MeWe, and/or Gab. Unless it’s Instagram, you can find me by searching AMBrewster, and on Instagram it’s “The Brewster Home.”
I do my best to post Christ-honoring content that I believe will help you be a better disciple of Christ.
I’d love to interact with you there.
Okay, so why is it so important to me to talk about which day Christ was crucified? I’ll get to that shortly.
There are actually three things I want to discuss today. Two of them I will talk about in brief, and the third will be carried over into our next episode.
The first is this . . .
1. Some people don’t like celebrating Easter because it’s been so tainted and adulterated by the culture.
As we’ve already acknowledged on previous episodes, many Christians share the exact same sentiments concerning Thanksgiving and Christmas.
So, here are a few biblical and logical considerations for us:
A. It is true there are certain celebrations that are completely acceptable for one person to hold and others to ignore.
B. However, regardless of whether you celebrate or not, it must be wholly and completely so that the Lord be honored and glorified. There’s no room for selfishness here.
This is a good time to remind us of Romans 14:5-6. “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.”
In the end, your opinions about the celebration of the Resurrection must be because you believe that God is abundantly pleased with your participation or abstinence in that celebration.
But, there is another consideration.
C. As we learned in our introductory episodes, God is a God of celebrations, memorials, and holy days.
In this conversation, we can’t afford to ignore the reality that from the Seventh Day of Creation Week through the New Heaven and New Earth, God has purposely and definitively created and commanded the observation of festivals, feast days, celebrations, and memorials. And, though the Jewish people were given the majority of those, the New Testament church has a fair share just for them as well.
And a few of the more significant revolve directly around the Passion Week of Christ.
Christians are commanded to observe the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Him. The early church also stopped corporately worshipping God on Saturday in favor of Sunday due specifically to the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead on Sunday.
And the future Marriage Supper of the Lamb is a celebration of Christ’s victory over sin and death that allows us to enter into an eternal relationship with Him.
So, to argue against holy celebrations is to stand against a divinely purposed and extremely valuable experience.
So, you may not want to participate in the diluted cultural experience of Easter, and I don’t blame you, but I believe there’s more than enough evidence to suggest that the church desperately needs to understand the significance of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection in such a way that we are compelled to celebrate it as often as possible.
2. Some people don’t like to celebrate Easter because they don’t believe that it is, like Christmas, celebrated during the correct time of year.
We’ll talk more about this later. However, for now, let me say that I don’t believe we can know for certain what day of the year Jesus was born, but I do believe we can know with great certainty the day, time, and year of His death. Therefore, it wouldn’t be difficult to declare with certainty the actual date that Jesus was raised from the dead.
But more on that in our next episode.
Now, there are plenty of other issues we could discuss concerning the crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. But, we’re not going to deal with the heretical positions people take like whether or not He actually died. Those arguments are invalid and pointless given the clear biblical data.
But there is a disagreement over the crucifixion that I believe is answered biblically, and yet it still pervades our protestant thinking.
Now, to be fair, I don’t believe that anyone should separate from people who observe the crucifixion on a different day than someone else. I don’t believe it keeps someone from being saved or anything like that. But I do believe it’s very important because God took so much time and provided us with so much detail in order for us to understand it. So, I have to ask, if it’s clearly presented in Scripture, then why would we continue purposefully observing the wrong days?
So, with that gauntlet-like challenged flung at our feet . . . let’s begin
3. Some people don’t like to celebrate Good Friday because they don’t believe Christ was crucified on Friday.
Now, before grappling with this struggle, we have to acknowledge our own blindspots.
So, here we go. I, Aaron Michael Brewster and the Celebration of God staff do not believe that Jesus was crucified on Friday.
“What’s the big deal? Why is it worth challenging the status quo?” you ask.
Honestly, I’m sharing this because I believe we should all desire to be as accurate with our handling of the Scriptures as possible regardless of the topic.
Let’s start by trying to determine why people for so long have observed the Crucifixion on Friday.
The main argument for the Friday crucifixion comes from Mark 15:42, “And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath.” And then the passage goes on to describe Jesus being taken from the cross. This means that Jesus was crucified the day before the Sabbath, and everyone knows the Jewish Sabbath is on Saturday. That’s why the majority of Christians observe the crucifixion on Friday.
As we work through this, allow me to remind you of some important points concerning the Jewish reckoning of time which we discussed in Episode 10. It’s vital for us to remember that the Jewish day began at nightfall and lasted until right before nightfall of — what we would consider to be — the next day. Of course, for them it was the same day.
Our days start in the dark and end in the dark, their days started in the dark and ended in the light. They base this off the Creation Week when God said that “the evening and the morning were the day.”
Generally speaking, the Jew’s weekend Sabbath began at nightfall on the day we would call Friday.
Now, we also need to remember that every weekly Sabbath had a day of preparation that went before it. It was the day to prepare for the Sabbath by doing the last minute things that needed to be accomplished but would be unlawful to do on the Sabbath.
Mark 15:42 says that Jesus was crucified on the day of preparation. Now, with that evidence alone, it would be easy to assume that Jesus was crucified during the day on Friday, the day of Preparation before the weekend Sabbath.
But, there are a number of issues with that, and it’s those issues that will be the focus of the remainder of this episode and the next.
1. The Jews often had more than one Sabbath a week.
Depending on the year, there were the 50 to 54 weekly Sabbaths, but there were also 2 sabbaths in the feast of Unleavened Bread, there’s the sabbath of Pentecost, 1 Feast of Trumpets, 1 Day of Atonement, and 2 sabbaths during the Feast of Tabernacles. That’s over 60 Sabbaths in one year!
If we assume that the Mark 15:42 Sabbath is Saturday, then a Friday Crucifixion makes partial sense. But what if there were another Sabbath that week that landed before Saturday?
The seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread is preceded by the Feast of the Passover, which was celebrated in remembrance of the Israelites being delivered from Egypt. This Passover falls on the 14th of Nissan and the Feast of Unleavened Bread officially started on the 15th. You can read more about these two events starting in Leviticus 23:5.
Nisan 15 can fall on multiple days just like December 25th can fall on any day of the week. But regardless of on what day it falls, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is considered a High Sabbath, called simply a High Day. As a High Sabbath, it too is preceded by its own day of preparation which would have been the 14th, also the Passover.
John 19:31 reads, “Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.”
Jesus was crucified on the Preparation Day before the High Sabbath Day. That would mean that Jesus died on Passover — what we would call the 14th of Nissan.
Now, since the feast is set on a date, not a day, then we have to ask on what day was the Feast of the Passover that year?
Now, believe it or not, there are generally three days that people think could have been the day on which Christ was killed: Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
I’m going to share the biblical reasons that I believe clearly show that Christ was crucified on Thursday.
Again, this topic is not intended to be divisive. It’s merely an opportunity for us to understand what the Bible says about Easter so we can better know, love, and serve God as we help those in our lives to do the same. Why would we want to propagate traditional views that don’t align with Scripture?
But, please understand . . . if you intend to continue celebrating the crucifixion on Friday to the glory of God . . . we can still be friends!
Okay, here we go!
So, 1. The Jews often had more than one Sabbath a week.
2. Jesus gave us the timeline of 3 days and 3 nights.
In Matthew 12:40 we read, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly [Jonah 1:17]; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” This is known as Christ’s Sign of Jonah.
Jesus made it very clear that he would be “in the heart of the earth” for three days and three nights. And I know it may be weird to say, but it’s completely appropriate to take Christ literally.
We know for certain that Jesus was raised from the dead on Sunday, the first day of the week. In order to have been in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights, Jesus would have to have been buried during the day on Thursday.
I know it’s easier to see this, but try to imagine it with me. We’re going to refer to the days with our English titles, but we’re going to count the days as the Jews would. By the way, I’ve created a very handy image and included it on the Easter page at CelebrationOfGod.com. Looking at that will probably be easier to follow.
Anyway, the Passover on Nisan 14 started in the evening of our Wednesday night. Jesus was crucified later in the day on the Passover at 3:00 pm — our Thursday afternoon — and was buried before nightfall on Thursday. That was his first day in the earth.
The beginning of the Jewish Friday (our Thursday night) would have been Christ’s first evening in the grave.
The morning time of Friday would have been the second day in the earth. Then Saturday evening (our Friday evening) would have been His second night in the grave. Saturday morning would have been His third day in the grave. That’s the daytime hours on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. He only has one night left. That was the beginning of Sunday (that’s our Saturday evening). And then we’re told that Jesus rose before sunrise on Sunday morning.
Matthew and John were very precise that Jesus raised before the daytime hours on Sunday. Had He risen after the sunrise, He would have been in the heart of the earth for four days and three nights.
Three days and three nights — in that order. His first day in the grave started it and His last night in the grave ended it.
Remember, He didn’t say “Three nights and three days in the grave.”
So, Jesus was crucified on Thursday, the 14th of Nisan, the Passover and the Preparation day before the High Holy Day on Friday and the regular weekly Sabbath on Saturday.
The 15th of Nisan, Friday, was the High Holy Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
And then Saturday, the 16th of Nissan would have been the normal weekly Sabbath.
But there’s another consideration that points to Thursday being the day of the Crucifixion.
3. Jesus also gave us the timeline of three total days.
Consider John 2:19-21, “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ 20 The Jews then said, It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”
Some of you may have noticed that Jesus was not in the grave the entire day on Thursday nor every minute of the third night.
Technically, Jesus was in the grave all day on Friday and Saturday. That’s two full days. But He was only in the grave half the day on Thursday and half the evening on Sunday (that would be our Saturday night).
Those two half days equal the third day.
This is consistent with the fact that Jesus said He would raise up His temple in three days.
Now consider Mark 8:31, “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
This counting method counts each daytime period as one day, with the resurrection taking place “after three days.” The day was not over when Jesus died in the afternoon, so this begins with the day of the crucifixion.
Therefore, a Thursday crucifixion also fits with Jesus being raised up “after three days.”
Now, there are many more arguments I’d like to make from the Scriptures, but I’ll do that next time so as not to run too long today.
I also want to make some application for our disciplees from all of this.
Between now and then, though, I encourage you to do your own research and study. There are many who disagree for many reasons.
But, my main concern is that the Bible clearly says that Jesus rose before the morning hours on Sunday. And Jesus said that he would be in the earth for three days and nights. The math is clear, the Jewish “Thursday” would have to be the day. There are not enough days or nights if Christ were crucified on Friday.
But people still bring up objections. So, who is right? Can we even know? Well, hopefully we can glean even more clarity next time.
Please share this episode with your friends so they can get in on the conversation. I’d love for you to comment on our blog post or any social media accounts if you too have been confused over how Jesus could have been crucified on Friday.
I’ll see you then for part 2 next week.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.