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The Case for Thursday

The real meaning of Good Friday

March 29, 2024

Most Christians take for granted that Christ was crucified on Friday, buried that afternoon before dusk, and remained in the tomb until early Sunday morning when he was discovered to be missing by His followers. This is only partially correct.

There are two problems with this timeline:

  • First, the week of Jesus' crucifixion, the "passion" week, was the completion of picture of Israel's delivery from Egypt in Exodus. He was the perfect sacrifice. So, when God planned the sacrificial system in Exodus, He had in mind the sacrifice of His son. The passover week was to be the prototype for the Passion week. As such, the events had to line up perfectly - and they did!
  • Second, Jesus Himself in Matthew 12:40 said, "Just as Jonas (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". Now, you can make a weak case for three days: Friday as He was being buried; all day Saturday; and then Sunday just before His resurrection, and that's how you can just barely eek 3 days out of that. But, there is no way to account for three nights. You have Friday night and Saturday night, and that's it!

So, if that's not possible, just what was the timeline?

Working backwards, we read in the Gospels that the day after the Sabbath, on the morning of first day of the week - Sunday - just after dawn, the two Marys went to the tomb to complete the burial rituals, since there was not enough time on the day of His crucifixion. So, from these facts we know two things:

  • The first is that immediately after the Crucifixion, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethia had to rush to get Jesus' body wrapped because they were forbidden by the Law to do so on the Sabbath.
  • The second is that Christ was discovered on that Sunday morning (the first day of the week - the day after the Saturday Sabbath) to be missing from His tomb. He was risen!!!

The day after His death was a Sabbath, and the day of His resurrection was Sunday.

So, He was crucified on Friday, right? Nope.

Going back to Exodus Chapter 12 we discover the institution of two things: The Hebrew calendar, and the Passover. The first thing God told Moses was that He was establishing a new calendar for the Hebrews, and the first month of the year would be called Abib, Aviv, or Nisan (depending on the language and spelling - Aviv/Abib would have been the Hebrew name, and Nisan the Assyrian name). In either event, this was the first month of the Hebrew year.

On the 10th day of Abib/Nisan, the Hebrews were to choose an unblemished lamb or goat to be used as a sacrifice. That sacrifice would live with the family until the 14th day of Abib/Nisan when it would be killed, roasted, and eaten before sundown that day. On Palm Sunday, the city was crowded because people were there to begin the Passover celebration. They were there choosing their lambs and goats. Turns out, they were also selecting Christ! Palm Sunday was the 10th day of Abib/Nisan.

The day following this passover meal would be the beginning of the seven days of unleavened bread, and the first of these days, the 15th of Abib/Nisan, would be "an holy convocation", or a holy day (Exodus 12:16, Numbers 28:18, Leviticus 23:5). In other words, that day would be a Sabbath!

Now, most people, when they think of the term Sabbath, they think Saturday, because God had instructed Moses to command the Hebrews to rest on the 7th day of every week and set it aside as a holy day - a Sabbath. But, the term Sabbath is not specific to Saturday! There are other days that can be a Sabbath, or holy day, and the 15th of Abib/Nisan would be one of those days, regardless of what day of the week it fell on.

For example, if the 10th of Abib/Nisan fell on a Sunday, then the 15th of that week would fall on Friday, in which case that day would be a Sabbath, and the following day, Saturday, would also be a Sabbath. This is exactly how the Holy week occurred.

So the first problem we have to face is was the day following Christ's crucifixion also the Saturday Sabbath, or was it an additional Sabbath because it fell on another day of the week? The answer lies in the definition of the word 'Day'!

When Jesus told the Disciples to prepare for the Passover, he instructed them to find a man in the city who would prepare them a room. Matthew 26:18-19a says, "Now when the even was come, He sat down with the twelve and they did eat...". Here's the most important part of this verse: "When the even (evening) came". Remember, the Hebrew day started at dusk on what would be our previous day. So, Thursday actually began at around 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday evening. Thursday evening at 6:00 p.m. would have been the start of Friday the 15th of Abib/Nisan. The passover meal would have been mostly prepared Wednesday before 6:00 (the 13th), then at 6:00 p.m. that evening, Thursday the 14th began, and the lamb was killed and prepared, and since the rest of food had just been prepared, they would sit down to eat the passover meal.

Afterwards, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, and that's where he would have been arrested.

So Wednesday they prepare the meal. Wednesday evening (our Wednesday - Their Thursday!) they eat the passover meal and go to the Garden to pray. Later that evening and early into Thursday morning Jesus is arrested, tried, condemned, and on Thursday afternoon around 3:00, He yields His spirit and dies. Nicodemus and Joseph of Aramathia have but 3 hours to prepare His body and place it in the tomb before 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, because that would have been the beginning of the first Sabbath for that week, the 15th, and they could not do this on a Sabbath.

Jesus ate with His disciples on our Wednesday evening, which would actually have been the beginning of the Hebrews' Thursday.

He was crucified on Thursday, and buried before sundown that evening.

Friday was a Sabbath, the 15th of Abib/Nisan, and the beginning of 7 days of unleavened bread.

Saturday was the regular Sabbath, so there were two Sabbaths that week - Friday and Saturday.

Sunday morning, the first day of the week, the Marys and the the Disciples discover the empty tomb, and the rest, as they say, is history!

So, here's the Timeline:

Sundown Saturday through Sundown Sunday:

  • Palm Sunday
  • 10th of Abib/Nisan
  • Christ presents Himself as the Lamb of God

Sundown Sunday through Sundown Monday:

  • 11th of Abib/Nisan
  • Jesus clears the Temple
  • Jesus spends the night in Bethany

Sundown Monday through Sundown Tuesday:

  • 12th of Abib/Nisan
  • Jesus and the Disciples travel to the Mount of Olives
  • The Olivet discourse is recorded in all 4 Gospels

Sundown Tuesday through Sundown Wednesday:

  • 13th of Abib/Nisan
  • The Disciples are instructed to reserve the Upper Room where the passover meal will be.
  • The room and the passover meal is prepared

Sundown Wednesday through Sundown Thursday:

  • 14th of Abib/Nisan
  • After Sundown Wednesday, Christ and the Disciples meet in the upper room
  • They eat the passover meal (By now, it is the 14th of Abib/Nisan)
  • Later that night, after the meal, they go to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus is arrested
  • During the night, Christ is tried, found guilty, and beaten
  • In the early hours of the morning, Barabbas is chosen over Christ
  • Jesus is condemned and carries His cross most of the way to Golgotha.
  • Between 9:00 a.m., and 3:00 p.m. Jesus hangs on the Cross
  • 3:00 p.m., Jesus dies
  • Nicodemus and Joseph of Arithamea bury Jesus just before sundown

Sundown Thursday through Sundown Friday:

  • 15th of Abib/Nisan
  • The first day of the feast of unleavened bread
  • The Sabbath after the passover meal
  • Christ's first night in the grave

Sundown Friday through Sundown Saturday

  • The regular weekly Sabbath
  • Christ's second night in the grave

Sundown Saturday through Sunday around dawn:

  • Christ's third night in the grave
  • Early in the morning, as the sun is coming up, the two Marys find Jesus' grave empty
  • Christ is risen!

Good Friday is Good Friday not because Christ was crucified, but because that is the first day of our complete atonement for sin!!!


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