Tomorrow starts a week that is sometimes known as “Holy Week” in the larger world of Christendom, because it is the week before the anniversary of the resurrection of Jesus. There are many dates that we’d like to know in the Bible with more precision, like the date of Christ’s birth, etc. But the day of His resurrection is one that we do know for sure, it is the Sunday after Passover, a date we can know for sure every year. This is not to say that what we call Easter should be made a high holy day, because we celebrate Christ’s resurrection every first day of the week as Christians have done from the beginning of the church. But I thought perhaps it might be an interesting topic for this blog to follow Jesus along through the Gospels on the last few days of His physical life on earth. At the end of each day we’ll try to draw some important observations for ourselves.
Before I begin with the Sunday before His death, I’ll start with a point of interest, that I believe that Jesus was put to death and buried on a Thursday rather than Friday. This is not the traditional view, but neither is it a radical one. The first hint that it was actually on a Thursday is that a death and burial on a Thursday fits Jesus’ own prophecy that He would be in the tomb three days and three nights. Jesus said,“for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40).” If Jesus was buried on Friday, and if He arose on Sunday before dawn (as all the Gospels affirm), He would only have been in the tomb 2 days and 2 nights — if you count as the Jews did, Jesus would have been in the tomb…
|Day (6AM to 6PM)||Night (6PM to 6AM)|
|Friday day (one hour of the day)||Saturday evening (6PM to 6AM)|
|Saturday day (6AM to 6PM)||and Sunday (6PM to His resurrection)|
Burial on Thursday, however, gives Him 3 days and 3 nights…
|Day (6AM to 6PM)||Night (6PM to 6AM)|
|Thursday Thursday day (one hour of the day)||Friday evening (6PM to 6AM)|
|Friday day (6AM to 6PM)||Saturday evening (6PM to 6AM)|
|Saturday day (6AM to 6PM)||Sunday evening (6PM to His resurrection)|
But what about the day after the crucifixion being the Sabbath day? John 19:31, 32 tells us, “Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him;” The answer is not obvious to the non-Jew, but every high holy day (and Passover was a “high day”) was considered a Sabbath (see Leviticus 23:4-8, Numbers 28:16-18). Passover was given to be a specific date in a specific month, so just like our Fourth of July, it was on a different day of the week every year, not just a Saturday. On the weeks in which there was a holy day like Passover, 6 out of 7 times there would be two Sabbaths celebrated that week — one for the holy day and one for the 7th day. In this case, it would appear that these two Sabbaths were be back to back, a Friday Passover Sabbath followed immediately by a Saturday Sabbath. When we understand that there could be, and likely were, two Sabbaths back to back that week, the three days and three nights prophecy lines up perfectly with a Sunday resurrection, the Sabbath objection disappears, and Jesus’ crucifixion on Thursday rather than Friday makes sense.
All this, for the most part, doesn’t matter a whole ton — the crucifixion of Jesus happened, the resurrection on the first day of the week happened. However, fixing the date of Passover to a Friday, along with other historical markers in the Bible (the story of the wise men, the rule of the governor Quirinius, and the rule of Pilate) does help us to set this world-changing event more firmly in history. The Friday Passover that fits best with all the other historical marker is April 11, AD 27 making the date of Christ’s death and burial April 10, AD 27 and the date of His resurrection, Sunday, April 13, AD 27. The ability to place this date into an historical context is just one more evidence (among many others) that the crucifixion really happened, the resurrection was real, we are really saved from sins, and we have a real hope (confident expectation) of eternal life.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.