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March 16, 2021, 12:00 PM

“Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.”
-John 19:31


For centuries Christ’s crucifixion has been memorialized as “Good Friday.” As compliant traditionalists, many have accepted it without question. Some have enlisted creative math and even more creative Bible interpretation to make it all fit.

The traditional timeline would mean Jesus spent two days and nights in Joseph’s tomb.

In Ancient Near Eastern culture, the Jewish “day” didn’t begin at Midnight as with modern time. Instead, the day began at daybreak and evening began at sundown. This is critical in understanding the context of Jesus’ words:

“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
-Matthew 12:40


The contemporary error is in our misunderstanding the fuller meaning of "Sabbath." Yes, the regular weekly Jewish Sabbath was certainly Saturday, but special religious days were also considered Sabbath days. In 30 A.D. (the year of Christ’s crucifixion) the Jewish Passover would have been celebrated on Friday, April 5th, thus making both Friday and Saturday Sabbath days, back-to-back.


The original Greek provides clarity here. We find the text read “Sabbaths” in Matthew 28:1


“And after the Sabbaths, it being dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.”


The reason for the plural is because there were two Sabbath days back-to-back:

  • Passover on Friday, April 5th

  • Standard Saturday Sabbath on April 6th

Rather than deal with the plural, most English translations simply ignore it and render it “Sabbath.”

It’s true, the Jewish leaders didn’t want to violate “the Sabbath,” but traditionally the mainstream reference to the Sabbath has been understood as the standard Saturday Sabbath. John 19:31 clearly states, “Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath…” i.e. Passover.


In this one verse we find much clarity. Jesus was not crucified on the special Sabbath (Passover), but rather on the Day of Preparation, i.e. Thursday, April 4th.


The correct timeline eliminates the need for creative math and wonky interpretation. “...the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” -Matthew 12:40

At the end of the day, whether we celebrate King Jesus’ willful and obedient sacrifice at the Cross on Thursday or Friday isn’t the point at all. The point, as the author of Hebrews wrote, is this:

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” -Hebrews 12:2

The point is that while we all were still hopelessly lost, wretched, depraved sinners... the King of Heaven, Jesus, the Eternal Son gave up His life as the spotless, perfect, Passover Lamb of God in order to bring us home.


Therefore, let us ALWAYS fix our eyes upon King Jesus, and worship Him in Spirit and truth.


-Kevin M. Kelley


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