I have heard it said many times that Jesus could not have been crucified on a Friday particularly if He was resurrected on the following Sunday. The following scripture is often quoted in support of this claim.
Matthew 12:40 (KJV) For as Jonas 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.
The logic is that if we count three full 24 hour day/night cycles, and given that He rose on a Sunday morning, He would have to have had died on the Thursday morning prior. Remember the Jewish counting of a 24-hour day starts at sundown and ends at the following sundown. That means that a Friday (the Preparation Day for the weekly Sabbath) starts at sundown Thursday and ends at sundown Friday when the Sabbath begins.
However we do know from the meaning of words that ‘three days and three nights’ does not necessarily mean a full 72 hour period. In English we also use language that is not always so unambiguous. To say I’ll see you in 3 days could just as easily mean on the 3rd day which is not 72 hours later.
Another argument in some ways related to this is around those who argue for a certain day of the week that Christians should worship God. That is, the proponents claim that Sunday worship was introduced by the Roman Catholic Church and that it is Saturday (the weekly Sabbath) when men ought to worship God. I don’t agree with that because we are not under the law. The early Church apparently did worship on either day, the Saturday Sabbath or the Sunday. However, here I am not discussing that issue. So let’s not get sidetracked.
I would like to discuss the Jewish Sabbaths and when they fall because the scriptures give us some information on that. We read that after Jesus had died Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus to bury it before the Sabbath started (at sundown).
Luke 23:53–24:3 (KJ3)
23:53 And taking it down, he wrapped it in linen, and placed it in a tomb hewn in stone, where no one was ever yet laid.
54 And it was Preparation Day, and a sabbath was coming on.
55 And having followed, also the women who were accompanying Him out of Galilee, watched the tomb, and how His body was placed.
56 And returning, they prepared spices and ointments. And indeed they rested on the sabbath, according to the commandment.
24:1 And the first of the sabbaths, at early dawn, they came on the tomb, carrying spices which they prepared; and some were with them.
2 And they found the stone having been rolled away from the tomb.
3 And going in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
Notice in the passage, the Preparation Day which precedes the weekly Sabbath. It was needed because no work can be done on the Sabbath. On the Preparation Day the women prepared spices for Jesus’ embalming according to Jewish customs. His body was placed in the tomb on that day. Verse 56 there tells us the women then rested on the Sabbath day.
Now we read in many translations of Luke 24:1 ‘on the first day of the week’ the women (two Marys) came to the tomb and found it open because He had risen. We find verses similar to Luke 24:1 in Matthew 28:1 and Mark 16:2. But looking at a more literal translation of the Greek text we get ‘the first of the sabbaths’ as in the KJ3 text reproduced above. What does that mean?
You have to look back into the Old Testament in relation to the Passover. This Sabbath was the Passover Sabbath, which happens once each year. Jesus was crucified as the Lamb of God, whose blood washed us clean, just like the shed blood of the lamb protected the Israelites from the death angel in Egypt as it passed over their houses.
Exodus 12:13-17 (KJ3)
13 And the blood shall be a sign to you, on the houses where you are. And I will see the blood, and I will pass over you. And the plague shall not be on you to destroy, when I strike in the land of Egypt.
14 And the day shall be a memorial for you. And you shall celebrate it as a feast to Jehovah, for your generations. You shall celebrate it as a law forever.
15 You shall eat unleavened bread seven days. Indeed, on the first day you shall cause leaven to cease from your houses. For anyone eating any leaven, that soul shall be cut off from Israel, from the first day until the seventh day.
16 And on the first day shall bea holy gathering, and in the seventh day a holy gathering shall be to you. Not any work may be done on them. Only what must be eaten by your soul, that alone may be done by you.
17 And you shall observe the unleavened bread, for on this very day I brought out your armies from the land of Egypt. And you shall observe this day for your generations, a statute forever. [emphases added]
Here we read that God commanded the Israelites to observe a week of the feast of the unleavened bread as a remembrance of what God has done. This week follows the annual Passover celebration. It starts on the day after Passover and last for 7 days, the feast of the unleavened bread. On the first day and the seventh day no work may be done. That implies a holy week of Sabbaths, 7 Sabbaths in a row.
Jesus was taken dead from the Cross and placed in the tomb. He is the Lamb of God whose blood was shed. He was in the grave awaiting resurrection on the Passover day. This parallels the period when the death angel was doing his work in Egypt. The blood on the door posts protected those inside the houses from death. Prior to this day each Israelite family kept a lamb or a goat in their home making sure it was not hurt in anyway. It would be sacrificed for the blood put on the door posts and lintel, and its meat eaten. Note in the following the animal used must be male and perfect without blemish, just as Jesus was sinless and fully man, and of course male.
Exodus 12:5-8 (KJ3)
5 A flock animal, a male without blemish, a son of a year, shall be to you. You shall take from the sheep or from the goats.
6 And it shall be for you to keep until the fourteenth day of this month. And all the assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it between the evenings.
7 And they shall take from the blood, and put it on the two side doorposts and on the lintel, on the houses in which they eat it.
8 And they shall eat the flesh in this night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it
They are commanded to eat the lamb/goat meat in the night. This day is the Passover, which began at sundown.
Exodus 12:11,12 (KJ3)
11…. It is the Passover to Jehovah.
12 And I will pass through in the land of Egypt in this night. And I will strike every first-born in the land of Egypt, from man even to livestock. And I will execute judgments on all the gods of Egypt. I am Jehovah!
God sent the death angel to execute His judgments on the unbelievers. The Passover started at sundown after the day now called the Preparation Day. That Passover day (starting the previous evening) is the weekly Sabbath (Saturday) that Jesus waited for God to finish His work of defeating Satan. In Egypt God used the death angel to bring death to those not protected by the blood. In the same way those not protected by Christ’s shed blood also die, and ultimately are cast into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20).
Understanding this then makes sense of these New Testament verses which use the plural form in the word ‘Sabbaths’ during the week long feast of the unleavened bread.
So then the two Marys came early on the morning following the Sabbath (Saturday), because they could not come on the weekly Sabbath. Jews are limited in traveling and doing any work on that day. Luke 23:56 states ‘according to the commandment’. That is, the fourth commandment given Moses.
Exodus 20:8-10 (KJ3)
8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy;
9 six days you shall labor and do all your work;
10 and the seventh day is a sabbath to Jehovah your God; you shall not do any work
So the ladies had to wait until that Sabbath was over, and besides it was Passover, when they must remain in their houses. They came early the next morning.
Mark 16:2 (KJ3) And very early on the first of the sabbaths, the sun having risen, they came upon the tomb.
This day is described as the first of the Sabbaths. This is the day after the Sabbath on which the Passover fell that year. From this is would seem that the case is indeed strong that Jesus resurrected on the Sunday morning. No other day fits the clear pattern here.
Jesus was crucified on a Friday, the Preparation Day, was taken down from the cross before sundown, which started the weekly Sabbath and Passover day, rested in the tomb on the Saturday and rose early Sunday morning to the week-long celebration of the feast of the unleavened bread, 7 days of Sabbaths, holy days. This is also the reason that many translations substitute ‘the first day of the week’ when describing the day He rose. The week is the week of the 7 Sabbaths but it is also the beginning day of the week in the calendar. Sunday is the day of the week God started His work of creation and it is also the day Jesus rose victorious from the grave working in the hearts of those He saved.
It is also worth noting that Jesus ate bread and drank wine at the last Supper He instituted with the Church. The bread and wine were to symbolise His body broken and His blood shed for the remission of our sin (Matthew 26:26-28). This celebration He said signified the New Covenant which started with His death on the Cross. Jesus said “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus was signifying to the Jews that the annual sacrifices of lambs and temple worship offerings for sins was finished because He finished forever all sacrifices for sin with His own death on the Cross. See Daniel 9:27.
He held His last Supper on the night before He was crucified which we have established must have been on the Thursday evening. After sundown that would have placed it on the Preparation Day. He was preparing that day for His sacrifice and atonement for our sin. Since He was dead on the Passover Day (from sundown Friday) He was not celebrating the Passover meal. He in fact was the lamb whose blood was shed for the salvation of all those who believe.