Did Jesus Christ die on Good Friday or not?

The night after the 12th Prophetic Conference, the Cebu Christian Council of Prophetic Conference (CCCPC) Committee held a discussion to answer the issue whether Jesus Christ died on Good Friday or not.

This post is to support what they have discussed that night.

Did Jesus Christ die on Good Friday or not?

The Traditional View

The traditional date of Jesus’ death and resurrection is: He died and buried Friday afternoon and rose Sunday early morning. This view stems from the fact that Jesus died and buried a day before the Sabbath and his tomb was empty the first day of the week.

John 19:31

31Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would 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.

John 20:1

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

We know that Sabbath is rest day and for the Jews it was Saturday. The first day of the week is Sunday. With this, the traditional view concluded that Jesus died and buried Friday afternoon and resurrected Sunday morning.

What about the three days and three nights?

This raises the issue about what Jesus said in Matthew 12:38 that the “Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” The traditional view would not fit this. It only allows a day and a half for Jesus in the tomb.

Did Jesus Christ really die and buried Friday afternoon and resurrected on Sunday before sunrise?

Here’s the traditional answer.

Three days and three nights is not literal 72 hours

Some argued that “three days and three nights” is not a literal 72 hours. They reasoned that any part of a day can be considered a whole day.

In Jewish time reckoning, a day begins and ends at sunset. So according to the traditional view, this is how three days should be counted:

Friday few minutes before sunset — Jesus was buried = 1st day

Saturday = 2nd day

Sunday few minutes after sunrise = 3rd day

Friday night = 1st night

Saturday night = 2nd night

But this is where the issue begins. Where is the third night? Even though few minutes on Friday and few minutes on Sunday are considered days, the three nights that Jesus is talking about cannot be completed. So, either Jesus is lying or the traditional view is wrong.

Let us examine the Bible again to prove whether the traditional view is right or wrong.

Jesus died during the Feast of Passover

Originally, the Feast of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are two separate feasts. Passover is on nightfall of the 14th day of the month of Nisan and the Feast of Unleavened Bread followed on the 15th. This feast lasts seven days (Leviticus 23:4-8). In Jesus’ time, Jews celebrated these two feasts as one feast and called the whole eight-day celebration as the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

We can see this in the way Matthew and Mark called the Day of Passover as the first day of Unleavened Bread.

Mark 14:12, Matthew 26:17

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”

On the other hand, John called this day the Day of Preparation because it is a preparation for the 15thof Nisan – the original and official beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

John 19:31

31Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day)….

According to the traditional view, this day is Friday because the next day is a Sabbath. But is it so?

The day after the Feast of Passover is a Sabbath but not Saturday

John 19:31

Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would 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.

Since the Bible calls this day Sabbath, many assumed that this day is Saturday – the weekly Sabbath of the Jews. But is it really Saturday?

Note that John emphasized, “that Sabbath was a high day.” The New International Version translated it “special Sabbath.” Many commentators, without examining the historical background of the Feast of Unleavened Bread concluded that “special Sabbath” means the first day of Unleavened Bread falls on Saturday. But that is not what the calendar is telling us.

On AD 30, the year Jesus died, 14th of Nisan is not Saturday but Wednesday. And the 15th of Nisan, the original First Day of Unleavened Bread is Thursday. So, if the Gregorian calendar is right, Jesus did not die on Friday but on Wednesday.

Calendar Conversion from http://www.hebcal.com/

Question: then what is this Sabbath that John is talking about?

Answer: Leviticus 23:5-8

5In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the LORD’s Passover. 6And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. 7On the first day [of the Feast of Unleavened Bread] you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work8But you shall present a food offering to the LORD for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.”

The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is a special Holiday (holy day = Sabbath). It is a yearly Sabbath that falls on 15th day of Nisan. So, the Sabbath which is a high day that John is referring to is not Saturday as those who hold the traditional view claim but Wednesday of Nisan 15, AD30 according to the Gregorian calendar.

There are sufficient evidences of this in the Bible. And the day of Jesus’ death can be calculated without a calendar.

Luke 23:54-56

54It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning, 55The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Here two Sabbaths were mentioned.

Verse 54:

Day of Preparation = Wednesday

Sabbath that was beginning = special yearly Sabbath, Thursday

Verse 56:

They returned and prepared spices and ointments = could be done on Friday because Jews are not allowed to work on special Sabbath

The Sabbath which they rested according to the commandment = Saturday the weekly Sabbath

Mark 16:1-2

1When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.

Note verse 1:

The women who returned from the grave just as the “Sabbath was beginning” in Luke 23:54 was able to buy spices only after “the Sabbath was past.” In other words, the Sabbath that Mark was referring to is not the Saturday-Sabbath but the special Thursday-Sabbath.  They prepared it on Friday, and then they rested again on Saturday. And very early on the first day of the week [Sunday], they went to the tomb.

The tomb was already empty before sunrise of Sunday

The Bible says the tomb of Jesus was already empty when Mary Magdalene came into the tomb on Sunday morning, “while it was still dark.”

John 20:1-2

Now on the first day of the week [Sunday] Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

So from this passage, we can say that in reality, no part of Sunday could be counted as a day, because Jesus was already resurrected before the break of dawn. The traditional view then would be reduced to two days and two nights alone.

So when did Jesus rise from the dead?

In Matthew: 12:38-40 Jesus answered the scribes and Pharisees,  “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

In Jonah 1:17, the fish swallowed Jonah for three literal days and three literal nights and this was understood by Jesus literally. We have no basis for thinking that Jesus was using a figure of speech here.

Therefore if we consider the details in all four Gospel accounts, Jesus was crucified and buried late on Wednesday afternoon, just before the high-day Sabbath began at sunset. Counting three days and three nights from that time he must have risen Saturday at sunset. But his resurrection was not known until Sunday morning when the women visited the tomb.

The real timeline

The real time line would be:

Wednesday: day of Preparation

Wednesday near sunset: Jesus was buried

Thursday: Special Sabbath, High day, first day of unleavened bread

Friday: the women bought and prepared spices and ointments

Saturday: weekly Sabbath

Saturday near sunset: Jesus was resurrected

Sunday early morning: The women discovered that the tomb was empty

This time line perfectly fits the three full nights (Wednesday night, Thursday night and Friday night) and three full daylights (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) which Jesus prophesied.

Conclusion

Therefore we are sure that Jesus fulfilled his prophecy that the Son of man will be “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” and the traditional view of Good Friday and Easter Sunday is wrong.

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