Understanding the days of Christ Crucifixion
This is a updated article to “The Day Christ Was Crucified” published 3/17/2020
Here is why this is so important to me, and I hope it is important to you. I am not a simple man when it comes to believing things. I need to be showed sensible evidence that something is true. I want my faith to be built upon a good understanding of the Bible. So I admit I have had a faith crisis at times. All of what I believe to be true about God and Heaven is contained in the Bible. If the Bible is found to be in error, my faith is built upon a faulty testimony. I realize that there are details that we may not quite understand; however, there are other things that are essential to the integrity of the story. This is one of those fundamental narratives that need to be answered. Here is the answer God has given me. God has turned great doubt into great faith!
If you are not familiar with the Passover please read Exodus twelve.
There is debate about how the Jews kept their calendar. What we do know for sure is that the Barley harvest always regulated it. What makes sense to me is that the spring equinox is always the same time on a fixed season. The barley ripens based on its season. The feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread was to be the month of Abib.
And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten. This day came ye out in the month Abib.Exodus 13:3-4
What does Abib mean and why is this month named this? The name of the month comes from the name “for the state of the barley crop.”
And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was [in the ear], and the flax was bolled.Exodus 9:31
The Hebrew word Abib means, “In the ear”. God destroyed the Egyptians barley crop when it was about ready to be harvested. That also is noted in the feast of the FirstFruits. This feast was to be the day after the Sabbath of the Passover. It is the barley that was in the ear which was to be the first fruits. The flax was just only in bud. Notice that the chart below does not have named days such as Monday, Tuesday, etc. That is because they have nothing to do with this schedule. Even on our modern calendar.
Here is the first question
And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.Exodus 12:6
How can we understand this verse? A biblical day starts with the evening. However, at least in our modern writings, meaning the last thousands or so years, this evening has come to mean the end of the fourteenth-day.
And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you. 17 And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.Exodus 12:16-18
One huge mistake that people make when figuring out the events of Christ’s death is to tie it to Easter. The Passover is not Easter. Easter is the first Sunday after the spring equinox. The Passover is the fourteenth day after the beginning of the month of Abib. Looking at a calendar that has Passover on it, you will see it hardly ever aligns with Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
It is my opinion when reading a commentary, and the author ties the events to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, they are working off a faulty concept. There is no way of telling what day of the week the Passover fell on the year Jesus was crucified. We are not even sure what year He was crucified. A good exercise is to look only at the numbers of the calendar, not the name of the days. Count day one as a New Moon feast and then see the 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th as the Sabbaths.
Problems with the Accounts
The eve of the fifteenth which starts a 6:00pm in the evening. If Jesus ate the Passover meal then He would have been crucified on the Sabbath.
On the fourteenth day, they were to kill the Passover lamb to eat it that evening (2 Chronicles 30:15). The leaven was to be put out of the house on this day. All the food that was to be made for the Passover on the fourteenth must not have any leaven. So if they were to put away the leaven on the fourteenth in preparation for the Passover, this could be called the first day of Unleavened Bread. Officially the seven days of Unleavened Bread started the beginning of the 15th. Matthew and Mark both agree that the first day of Unleavened Bread was the preparation for the Passover.
Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?Matthew 26:17
And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?Mark 14:12
The last supper had to be eaten before the actual Passover because the fifteenth was a Sabbath. It was both a naturally occurring Sabbath and a high Sabbath because it was also a feast day. If Jesus had eaten the meal at the beginning of the fifteenth as normal, then He would have been captured and crucified on the Sabbath. We know that the council wanted to get Jesus before the feast.
And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. 5 But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.Matthew 26:4-5
After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.Mark 14:1-2
Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.John 18:28
We are told that Jesus had to be taken off the cross so He would not be on it during the fifteenth day—the Sabbath which is called the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.Mark 15:42-43
And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. 40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.John 19:38-40
All of this leads to no doubt that Jesus ate the last supper with the disciples at the eve or the beginning of the fourteenth day. John seems to give evidence for this.
Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him;John 13:1-2
Notice this means the meal took place before the feast of the Passover. They might have eaten that night in the room that the disciples had secured to prepare for the Passover the following night. Now that this problem has been resolved, at least in my mind, the rest of the story flows quite well. We can now understand Jesus was the sacrificial Lamb that was killed on the Passover. That is late on the fourteenth day. He is in the grave for the 15th Sabbath Feast of Unleavened Bread and then rose early the 16th the first day of the week and was the FirstFruits of the dead.
The Next Problem
But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40 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.Matthew 12:39-40
Jesus said he would be in the heart of the earth three days and nights. We just concluded that Jesus was killed and place in the grave late on the fourteenth and rose on the sixteenth. How would that equal three days and nights? Some are satisfied with the end of the fourteenth as being day one. The fifteenth as a night and a day. The sixteenth as night two and the morning of the sixteenth as day three. The problem with that is there are only two nights.
Jesus understood things as a Jew. In the Old Testament, the grave or Sheol was both a physical burial place and a place for the soul. The word for grave is often understood also to be hell.
Let death seize upon them,Psalms 55:15
and let them go down quick into hell:
for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.
Let us go way back to Genesis and the words of warning that God gave to Adam.
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.Genesis 2:17
Look at the words of Jesus. “..so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” This is a figure of speech. Jesus does not say He will be in the grave but in the heart of the earth. The heart means the center, and this means Jesus could very well be thinking of hell (Numbers 16:30-33, Ephesian 4:9).
The day the first Adam ate of the tree, he died. He was not in the grave, but he was very much dead. That was because sin had separated him from God—from the eternal life that was in the tree of life. Now we have Jesus the second Adam, the Son of Man, in a garden.
When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.John 18:1
Notice Jesus had to cross over the brook which was in the Valley Cedron to get to the garden. The Psalmist said it well.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,Psalms 23:4
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.Mark 14:34-36
And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.Luke 22:40-43
When Jesus spoke, “not my will, but thine, be done” He had committed Himself to death. It was as if He had already died, because, at this point, He became sin for us, even though He was innocent. I propose that this very night, the night of the fourteenth, the beginning of that day, Jesus was already in Sheol. I mean, He committed Himself to die for us. Now the day of the fourteenth came, and from here, they led Him to be tried and beaten. He was taking our punishment.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,Isaiah 53:5
he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
and with his stripes we are healed.
They hung Him on the tree, which, in the figure, was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was that tree and man’s choice that brought death to the world, and it was our Savior who was taking the punishment for it.
Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.1 Peter 2:24
As the evening drew near, Jesus cried out with His last words of what He had endured for us. I don’t think it was just at this point that Jesus felt forsaken. He had already experienced so much suffering for us. I believe the words “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” was the sum of what He had just endured.
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?Matthew 27:46
Now comes the night of the fifteenth, and they placed Jesus in the grave. At this time, leaven was to be put away, and that leaven was a picture of sin. Sinned needs to be hidden from God. It needs to be put as far as the east is from the west. As the Jews sat in their homes that night eating the Passover, how many did not realize that the blood for the door post had been given?
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:1 Peter 1:18-19
As the morning of the fifteenth dawned, men rested on the Sabbath. Jehovah gave the Sabbath command in a group of four commands. These commandments related to our relationship with Him. The Sabbath was to make men realize no matter how hard they worked; it was our Heavenly Father that provided us with all that we needed. There is and will be no more significant Sabbath then that day of unleavened bread. Today we are to rest in this same Sabbath and wait for the fulfillment of it all.
For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.Hebrews 4:3
The night of the sixteenth passed, and as the sun was about to rise, the most glorious thing the world will ever know was about to take place. That little seed, that small grain that fell into the ground, was about to spring forth into the most beautiful sheath of grain. That grain would be lifted up to God as the FirstFruits of life. Jesus was the heave offering of thanks for the LORD’s goodness.
But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings…Malachi 4:2
So there we have it. The three days and nights was the time Jesus spent in Hell for us. Jesus spent not just hours in a tomb, but days and nights taking our sins upon Himself. I wonder who could deny such a story so long in the making. As Moses penned those words of the couple in the garden, choosing death, how could he have known how the story would play out? In a garden, thousands of years later, a Perfect Man would once again face temptation, but this time with victory. Who would not marvel at the feast days given to young Israel would be an outline for salvation? How could one deny God Himself had created the events needed to fulfill such a story? Only those who are bent on eating from their tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is not too late for you to reach out and eat from the Tree of Life. That is to ask Jesus to forgive you and be your LORD. Tell Him as He told the Father, not my Will, but thy Will be done.