Traditionally, people have believed Jesus died on a Friday–it’s been called Good Friday, and that He was buried late Friday afternoon. By Sunday morning, 36 hours later, the tomb was empty. There are several difficulties with this scenario, and with a closer examination of scripture, it appears unlikely that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Let’s answer the question:
Did Jesus die on Good Friday or Good Wednesday?
Here are several facts to consider:
(1) The Bible never says Jesus was crucified on Friday– only on a day before the Sabbath. Since Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, an assumption was made that the crucifixion appeared on a Friday. The idea of Holy Week including Good Friday is part of the Roman Catholic Church calendar that has been around for many centuries–it includes the dates for Ash Wednesday and a Lenten season as well. The terms “Ash Wednesday” “Lenten” or “Good Friday” never appear in the Bible. Since Ash Wednesday begins Lent, Fat Tuesday and the Mardi Gras excess is all connected to this church calendar as well.
We often follow tradition without stopping to consider what the Bible really says. You may be wondering, “If Jesus was crucified on a day before the Sabbath, what other option than Friday is there?”
(2) During Passover week there is a “high Sabbath” that occurs on the day of the month (14,15 Nissan–Leviticus 23:4-8) NOT necessarily on Saturday. Saturday was the regular Sabbath, but during Passover there was a special Sabbath. Passover started on a day of the month–14 Nissan–not a day of the week. The first full day of Passover was to be a special Sabbath in which no work was to be done. So during Passover this special “Sabbath” could fall on any day of the week–not just Saturday. Some of our American holidays fall on the same day of the week every year–Labor Day and Thanksgiving are two examples. But many holidays like July 4 and Christmas occur on dates on the calendar so they can fall on any day of the week. Prior to A.D. 325, Easter was celebrated on different days of the week to coincide with the Jewish Passover, therefore there was not a “Good Friday” before that time. In A.D. 325 Constantine the Great, the first Roman emperor to be converted to Christianity convened the Council of Nicaea that issued the Easter Rule, which stated that Easter shall be celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox.
John states Jesus was crucified before this special Sabbath, not the day before the regular weekly Sabbath. “Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.” (John 19:31)
In Matthew 28:1, the Greek text says the women arrived at the tomb “after the Sabbaths.”
But the main reason it is unlikely Jesus was crucified on Friday is because:
(3) Jesus spoke of being in the grave for three days and three nights.
Jesus predicted that after three days, He would be resurrected. Jesus predicted: “For as Jonah 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.” (Matthew 12:40) Now, either Jesus told a lie, was mistaken, or He was correct in predicting He would be buried for three full days and three nights.
The problem with Good Friday is that it doesn’t allow for this scripture to be fulfilled. You cannot squeeze three days and three nights between a Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection. People who defend the Good Friday tradition claim He was in the tomb “parts” of three days. Figure it out for yourself. If He was crucified on Friday afternoon and gone by Sunday morning that’s only 36 hours. Three days and three nights equal 72 hours. No matter how you try to explain it, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t get three days and three nights between a Friday crucifixion and a Sunday resurrection.
The Jews counted days from sunset to sunset: It gets a little confusing to us because our days begin at midnight, but when the sun set, the Jews started a new day. For instance, today in Jerusalem when Friday night rolls around, it’s already the Sabbath. But by sunset on Saturday night, the Sabbath is over and Sunday has already begun. So based on all these factors, it seems likely Jesus was crucified on Wednesday.
Here’s what the time line would be:
On Wednesday, Jesus was hung on the cross at 9 a.m. and died at about 3 p.m. He was killed at the same day and time as the Old Testament Passover Lamb presented in the book of Exodus. The Jews took the bodies down before the sun set because Thursday (15 Nissan) was the special Passover Sabbath (the Feast of Unleavened Bread (see Lev.23). So Thursday was night one and day one in the tomb; Friday was night two and day two; Saturday (the weekly Sabbath) was night three and day three in the Tomb. When the women arrived before dawn on Sunday, Jesus was already gone. They were informed by the Angel of God, “He is Risen, He is not here!”
What’s the point? Am I going to start an anti-Good Friday society? No. But I believe in being true to the Word of God, especially when we have any tradition that is not based on the Word. It is important to know all scripture is fulfilled to the letter, and Jesus did spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
What do you think Good Friday or Good Wednesday?
As you think about it, pause and thank God Jesus suffered and died for us, was buried and rose again for our justification.