Good Friday or Good Wednesday?
Growing up I always had a problem with the concept of Good Friday. It didn’t make sense to me as it didn’t fit chronologically. Firstly Jesus had specifically said in Matthew 12:40 that there would be 3 days and 3 nights between the crucifixion and the Resurrection. Some argue that part days count as days, which if that argument is granted would give us 3 days but what about nights. This is not possible. So either Jesus wasn’t crucified on Friday or he wasn’t resurrected on Sunday. Which is it? We can’t have both.
Secondly Jesus travelled from Jericho to Bethany 6 days before Passover (John 12:1). That would require more than a “Sabbath day’s journey” if Passover was on a Friday. This would have been against Levitical law and Jesus was never accused of breaking this law so we can take it that He didn’t break it.
Thirdly there were 2 Sabbaths between Passover and Sunday morning. In Matthew 28:1, the word in Greek for Sabbath is a plural noun signifying 2 Sabbaths. The feast of unleavened bread intervened. We read this in Lev. 23:48 which tells us that it lasts 7 days and that the first and last days are also considered to be Sabbaths as we see in Matthew 27:62.
Another issue we must also consider when dating events in the Bible is that in the Bible a day is judged to have begun after 6pm. For example we see that the Sabbath begins on Friday at Sundown usually around 6 and finishes at Sundown on Saturday.
After considering these points how does this fit into the traditional teaching? If we understand the Passover this will help us to understand the events surround Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection. In Exodus we find that God declared the month of Nisan (also referred to as Aviv) to be the first month of the year. On the 10th day of this month a lamb was to be selected without blemish for the Passover. It was on this day (10th) that Jesus presented Himself in the House of Lazarus for selection (John 12:1). After the Lamb was selected it was to be kept and inspected by people for 4 days, to make sure this was the one to be sacrificed. The next day (11th Nisan) Jesus entered Jerusalem Triumphantly.
On the Tuesday, thirteenth of Nisan the first month in the Jewish year, the disciples of Jesus came and asked him, “Where shall we prepare the Passover meal? Remember on Tuesday evening (around 6 p.m.) at the going down of the sun, would be the beginning of Wednesday the fourteenth, (the Jewish day begins at sundown). As you can see the disciples were entering the preparation day and the starting of the fourteenth day. During that time, Wednesday was the Day of Preparation for the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. When evening was come (the ending of the thirteenth and now the beginning of the fourteenth day), Jesus sat down with the twelve disciples to eat. This was not the first day of THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD which GOD commanded to be on the fifteenth day! After the meal, Jesus went out into the garden to pray. It is there that Judas came with the chief priest and elders with swords and clubs, and betrayed Jesus with a kiss. They carried him away to the high priest, and then when morning came they delivered him to Pilate. It is still Wednesday the fourteenth, the preparation day of the Passover Lamb. Now during the day light of Wednesday, still the fourteenth of Nisan, is when all of Israel would be completing their final stages when the Passover lamb must be killed on that evening around 3 to 5 p.m., which would be towards the ending of the fourteenth at the going down of the sun. This is the same time Jesus died on the cross which was at the ninth hour of the day equivalent to 3 p.m. When the sun was to go down thereafter it would start the beginning of the fifteenth day of the week (Thursday during that time) which was the start of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread Festival. At the third hour, 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Jesus was crucified on the cross. Darkness was over the whole land from the sixth hour (12 noon) until the ninth hour, 3p.m. About the ninth hour Jesus gave up the ghost; this time is equivalent to 3 p.m. on Wednesday which is the fourteenth day of the Nisan. Jesus died the exact same hour, on the same day, and in the same manner as the Passover Lamb presented in the book Exodus.
On Wednesday evening after Jesus is now dead on the cross, as the sun is going down, came Joseph of Aramethea to Pilate to claim the body of Jesus. Remember, according to biblical time, once the sun goes down on Wednesday it will now be Thursday the fifteenth which starts the first day of THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD, it was a “High day”, a Sabbath day in which no work was to be done, see Lev 23. Even though it was a Sabbath, Joseph and Nicodimus had to hurry to take the body down from the cross and prepare it for burial. They wrapped it in clean linen with about a hundred pounds of spices. They rested for the remainder of the High Sabbath, the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Wednesday was the day of preparation for the Feast of Unleavened Bread which is confused with Friday, the normal preparation day for the regular Seventh Day Sabbath.
Christ talks about himself being in the grave for 3 days and 3 nights, Matt 12:40.
It is true, that the grave was “already” empty before the Sun came up on Sunday morning. When the women arrived they were informed by the Angel of God, “He is Risen, He is not here! Jesus’ crucifixion was on a Wednesday, the fourteenth day of Nisan, and he was killed at the same time as the Old Testament Passover Lamb. He was placed in the grave by 6 pm.
6 pm Wednesday to 6 pm Thursday = one day
6 pm Thursday to 6 pm Friday = two days
6 pm Friday to 6 pm Saturday = three days and three nights (72 hours).
Therefore we now understand that He was raised before Sunday morning. More importantly than the time was the fact that he rose! Nonetheless, it is always important to have the knowledge of when. 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 325 A.D., Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea that issued the Easter Rule, which states that Easter shall be celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox. Two points were made by the council; (1) Easter should be celebrated on the same day by all, and (2) Jewish custom was not the criterion to be followed. Shortly after the council, Constantine wrote a letter to those bishops that were not present stating “Relative to the Sacred festival of Easter…it was declared to be particularity unworthy for this Holiest of all festivals to follow the customs of the Jews. According to Constantine, we ought not therefore, to have anything in common with the Jews.
While when we remember Jesus’ crucifixion and Resurrection is not as important as us actually remembering, I believe the symbolism is more acute if we follow they Biblical way rather than the churches way.