Crucifixion. When?

Pennireef Papers

Crucifixion. When?

Matthew 27:45-56 (continued)

The only problem I’ve ever had with the events surrounding the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus is the legendary Friday crucifixion. Even as a small boy, years before I was saved, I couldn’t manage to get three days and three nights out of what has been tradition for centuries. Some will say, “The day of the week is not important. Christ died for our sins. That’s what matters.”

We would all agree to that. But if through searching the scriptures we could establish that Jesus was crucified on Wednesday, we’d be dishonest to stick with tradition rather than truth.

To insist on a Friday crucifixion creates a lot of problems. We must say Jesus was mistaken when He said, “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 Remember, this was a “sign” to the Pharisees. If it didn’t happen – if it was just 36 hours (Friday afternoon to Sunday morning) – we have a serious problem with Jesus’ unfulfilled prophecy.

As a young Christian I was taught that in Jewish culture any part of a day was considered a day; part of Friday, all day Saturday and Sunday morning would count as three days. Fine. But there is no way you can make three nights out of that. If Jesus had meant “Three days and two nights,” He would have said so.

We must remember there are eight feast days established by Old Testament Law and considered as Sabbaths (see Leviticus 23). The feast of Passover (a Sabbath) is followed the next day by the feast of Unleavened Bread, also a Sabbath. (Leviticus 23:5,6)

We call the time between Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and His crucifixion the Passion Week. For the Jews it was preparation for the Passover. That week, the Passover came on Thursday, followed by the feast of Unleavened Bread (Friday), which was
followed by the normal seventh day Sabbath on Saturday. It was a three-day weekend with three Sabbaths in a row.

According to the Jewish calendar the day began at sundown; “and the evening and the morning were the…day.” Genesis 1

(the “day of preparation” for the Passover) began at sundown on Tuesday. Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples in an upper room in the southwest corner of the city. Afterwards He went out into the Garden to pray. Judas knew the place and arranged for His arrest. He was tried twice during the night, found innocent but treated as guilty, and by nine o’clock Wednesday morning was on the cross. By 3 p.m. He was dead and buried before sunset. It was “the Day of Preparation,” which is not a term used for Friday preceding a regular seventh day Sabbath. Luke 23:54, John 19:14
Thursday night (which began after sunset on Wednesday) was His first night in the borrowed tomb. Friday night (which began after sunset on Thursday) was His second night in the grave and Saturday night (which began after sunset on Friday) was His third
night in “the heart of the earth.” Three nights – just like He said.

He was in the grave all day Thursday, Friday and Saturday – just as He said. (Matthew12:40)

Jesus Christ the Son of God arose from the dead, early on the first day of the week – Sunday – after spending three days and three nights “in the heart of the earth,” just exactly as He said He would.

Note: In preparation for this study, I remembered that long ago Dr. Hubert Verrill, the man who baptized me in Bisbee, Arizona, explained theWednesday crucifixion. Then, many years later, Dr. Charles Swindoll preached an Easter-week sermon on nationwide radio documenting aWednesday crucifixion. A very helpful 18-page pamphlet, “TheWednesday Crucifixion and Burial of Our Lord Jesus Christ” by Dale Crowley Jr. [The King’s Business, P.O. Box One,Washington, D.C. 20044], answered many questions for me and put the problem in perspective.

Bill Bathman — 27 March, 2010

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