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Two More Reasons a Thursday Crucifixion Fits with What the Bible Teaches
If you have not read Reason #1 that gives an answer to the question, “Was Jesus crucified on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday? please do so. I gave my number one reason for believing it was a Thursday crucifixion, by focusing on Jesus’ words in Matthew regarding the time that elapsed from the hour of His death to His resurrection.
Matthew 12:40 For 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.
The early church has historically set the day of crucifixion on Friday, and we commonly refer to the crucifixion as having taken place on Good Friday. Reason #1 suggests a Thursday crucifixion. Now, let’s look at two more reasons why Thursday fits with what Scripture reveals, but Wednesday and Friday do not.
Why a Thursday Crucifixion?
Reason #2: Fulfillment of the Feasts of the Lord
I base my second reason on information recorded in John chapter 12. Six days prior to the Passover, Jesus went to the home of Lazarus in Bethany and had a meal there.
We know that Passover began on Nisan 14 with the day of preparation. Six days prior would be Nisan 8. With a Thursday crucifixion this means that Jesus “came to Bethany” during the daytime hours of Friday, Nisan 8, and prior to sundown, which began the weekly Sabbath.
John 12:2 There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.
It’s clear there was a dinner prepared and served at the home of Lazarus. While Scripture is not totally clear on this, it is likely that this meal was not on the night of Nisan 9 because it was the beginning of the weekly Sabbath, but after the end of the weekly Sabbath at sundown on Nisan 10, for it says, “they made Him a supper and Martha served” (John 12:2) and Mary “anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair” (John 12:3). On the Sabbath, they would have rested from all of their work.
Return to Jerusalem
Considering this meal to have taken place on Nisan 10 after sundown, means Jesus and His disciples could have traveled back to Jerusalem during nighttime hours of Nisan 10 or, more likely, during the early morning hours of Nisan 10 (remember, the Jewish day is evening then morning). When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, during the daytime hours of Nisan 10, He presented Himself to the people by riding into Jerusalem on the foal of an ass (Matthew 21:7). As He entered, the people hailed Jesus as King. This is the day that the church calls Palm Sunday. With a Thursday crucifixion, it took place on the first day of the week, Sunday Nisan 10.
John 12:12 On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,
John 12:13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.
This presentation of Himself, which we often call the Triumphal Entry, and which Jesus told the Jews was the “day of your visitation” (Luke 19:44), was in fulfillment of the requirements for the Feast of the Passover. The lambs that were sacrificed on Nisan 14 were selected on Nisan 10 (Exodus 12:3) and presented for inspection that day. Jesus did just that in presenting Himself when He rode into Jerusalem on the foal of an ass. The lambs selected for the sacrifice were then taken home and inspected over the next four days to be certain they were pure and spotless. Jesus was also questioned and tested (inspected) by the Jewish leaders.
On Nisan 14 the Passover lambs were killed and their blood was spilled. The blood was then placed over the doorposts in remembrance of the first Passover and of God’s deliverance of His people from Egyptian bondage. With Nisan 10 on a Sunday, the day of crucifixion, four days later, would have been Thursday, Nisan 14.
Problems with a Wednesday Crucifixion
Placing Nisan 14 on Wednesday and counting back six days puts Jesus’ journey to Bethany on Thursday Nisan 8. This places the 10th of Nisan, the day for presenting the Lamb, on Saturday—the weekly Sabbath. If this had taken place on a Sabbath there would have been violations of the Sabbath laws—cutting and waving palm branches, making a donkey carry a burden and the activities in the Temple on that day.
Consider that Jesus stayed at Lazarus’ house until after the Sabbath and traveled to Jerusalem after sundown Saturday, during the evening or early morning hours of Sunday. That would place His Triumphal Entry on Sunday. The problem becomes the date of Jesus presenting Himself as the Lamb would be Nisan 11, not Nisan 10. Add the required four days and the crucifixion is placed on Nisan 15, the Feast day, which was a High Sabbath day of rest.
Exodus 12:3, 6 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb. . .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.
Problems with a Friday Crucifixion
With a Friday, Nisan 14 crucifixion, Jesus would have traveled to Bethany six days prior (John 12:1) making his journey on Saturday, Nisan 8. Traveling that distance would have broken Sabbath laws of rest and the meal that Mary and Martha prepared and served would also have broken Sabbath laws.
Another problem arises. If Jesus had been at Lazarus’ house on Saturday Nisan 8, He could have traveled back in the early morning hours of Sunday and presented Himself, however, it would have been Nisan 9, not Nisan 10 the day for selecting the Passover lambs. Jesus could have waited until Monday Nisan 10 to enter Jerusalem, but then we do not have a Palm Sunday.
Why a Thursday crucifixion?
This is reason #3 and the last one I will present. Remember to do your own study on this matter and come to your own reasoning, based on what the Holy Spirit reveals to you through Holy Scripture. Remember also, this is not a core doctrinal issue. While I believe that the reasoning for a Thursday crucifixion is biblically supported, there are others who reason that Wednesday or Friday was the day on which Christ was crucified. Never allow reasoning on non-core doctrines to become divisive.
This final reasoning is based on events that took place on Sunday. It focuses on the arrival of the women at the tomb, Jesus’ fulfillment of the Feast of Firstfruits and an interesting fact about Noah’s Ark.
The Women at the Tomb
It’s clearly told in Scripture that the women came to the tomb on the first day of the week, Sunday, with the purpose of anointing the body.
Matthew 28:1 In the end of the sabbath [the Sabbath rest—after both the High Holy Day Sabbath and the weekly Sabbath], as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week [Sunday] came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
With a Wednesday crucifixion (it still had to be Nisan 14), the Feast of Unleavened Bread would have begun at sundown, Thursday Nisan 15. The High Sabbath Day would have ended at sundown the following afternoon, which would then be the nighttime hours of Friday (Nisan 16). When the sun rose following the nighttime hours, the women could have gone to the tomb during the daytime hours of Friday Nisan 16 to anoint the Lord’s body. The weekly Sabbath would not have started until the next sundown, which would be Saturday Nisan17. This raises the question, why didn’t the women go to the tomb during the daylight hours of Friday Nisan 16?
Why Did the Women Wait Until Sunday Morning?
Some say they delayed until Sunday because the work of gathering the spices to prepare the body took all day. However, Scripture tells us that it was Nicodemus who prepared the spices (a mixture of myrrh and aloes) and, along with Joseph of Arimathea, prepared the body for burial on Nisan 14 before sundown.
John 19:39-40 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they [Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea] took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.
Why Did the Women Go to the Tomb?
The women went to the tomb to “anoint” the body, not to prepare the body:
Mark 16:1 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.
If there had been a Wednesday crucifixion, this anointing would have needed to take place during the daylight hours of Friday, not Sunday. Had they waited until Sunday, the body would have already begun to decompose and Scriptures tells us that could not have happened:
Acts 2:27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
God promised the resurrection would take place before decomposition. How do we know when decomposition would set in? We know from the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. John 11:39 tells us that Jesus arrived at the tomb of Lazarus on the fourth day after his death, and when He told them to remove the stone covering the tomb. . .Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. (John 11:39)
Note that by the fourth day decomposition had already set in—Lazarus already “stinketh.”
Wednesday? Thursday? Friday?
With a Wednesday crucifixion, the women could have gone to the tomb during the daylight hours of Friday rather than waiting until Sunday, the fourth day.
With a Thursday crucifixion, the women couldn’t go to the tomb on Friday, because it was the High Day Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. They also could not go on Saturday because it was the regular weekly Sabbath. The earliest day they could go there was on Sunday and that would have been the third day since death. Therefore decomposition of the body had not yet begun.
A Friday crucifixion is not a problem with the reasoning about the timing of anointing. The main problem that rules out Friday is the literal understanding of Jesus’ words, “so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40)
Feast of Firstfruits: Sunday at the Tomb—Nisan 16, 17 or 18?
Remember, we know from Scripture that the women came to the tomb on Sunday, the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1).
With a Thursday crucifixion, counting forward three days from Nisan 14, Sunday would have been on Nisan 17.
With a Wednesday crucifixion, it would have been on Nisan 18.
With a Friday crucifixion, it would have been on Nisan 16.
Sunday was the day of the Feast of Firstfruits—a Feast of the Lord in recognition of the first harvest of the barley crop. The Feast of Firstfruits was commemorated by waving a sheaf of grain before the Lord and was a reminder to Israel that the firstfruits of everything should be given to God.
Leviticus 23:10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he [the priest] shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.
Fulfillment of the Feast of Firstfruits
Just as Jesus fulfilled the sacrifice of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, He also fulfilled the Feast of Firstfruits when He rose from the grave and ascended to His Father. His ascension was a type of wave offering, and just as the firstfruits of the harvest were waved as an offering to the Lord, Jesus ascended to the Father as the firstfruits of the resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
In addition to the wave offering at the Feast of Firstfruits a meat and drink offering was also required.
Leviticus 23:12-13 And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD. And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.
Jesus was the “he lamb” of the meat offering and His blood was the wine of the drink offering. With His ascension to the Father on Sunday morning, the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled the Feast of Firstfruits. With the selection of the lamb on the 10th day of Nisan and the wave, meat and drink offerings of the Feast of Firstfruits, Jesus was the fulfillment of the Passover.
Hallelujah, what a Saviour!
Two More Considerations
1. The Ascension and The Ark
It’s interesting to note that with a Thursday crucifixion Jesus ascended as the “firstfruits of them that slept” on the same day (Nisan 17) that the ark came to rest after the flood.
Genesis 8:4 And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.
Remember that the sequence of months was re-ordered by God when the Passover was instituted (Exodus 12:1-36). In Genesis the seventh month was Abib, but the name of this month was changed to Nisan after the Babylonian captivity. With the re-ordering of the months, Abib/Nisan became the first month, so both the ark’s rest and Jesus’ resurrection took place in the same month on the 17th day, but only if it was a Thursday crucifixion.
The point not to miss is that when the ark came to rest on Nisan /Abib 17, it was after God’s judgment on the wicked people of Noah’s time. It was a picture, in type, of salvation for all those (Noah and his family) who trusted in God and went through the door onto the ark and were preserved through the flood (God’s judgment).
Jesus’ death on the cross was also a “flood” of God’s judgment. It was God’s wrath poured out in judgment of the wickedness of man, just as in the Great Flood. This time it was not poured out on wicked people but on Jesus Christ the only truly innocent man.
Jesus’ death was God’s judgment of man’s sin and His resurrection and ascension is a picture, in type, of our salvation and rest in Him. That salvation is offered to anyone who walks through the Door, which is Jesus (John 10:9). Just as the ark saved Noah and his family from God’s judgment, Jesus saved us. And just as the ark came to rest on Nisan 17, we find our rest in Jesus who rose from the dead and opened the way to eternal life in Him.
2. The Disciples on the Road to Emmaus
When the resurrected Lord joined two disciples on the road to Emmaus, it’s recorded that they said:
Luke 24:21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done.
This was on Sunday, during the daylight hours, and their reference to “since these things were done” was to the crucifixion (Luke 24:20). Let’s count: With a Thursday crucifixion, the first day since Jesus’ crucifixion was on Friday, the second on Saturday and the “third day since these things” was on Sunday. If it had taken place on Wednesday, Sunday would have been the fourth day; and if on Friday, Sunday would have been the second day “since these things.”
Remember that the actual day of the week is not what is important. Many will come to different opinions on this and no one knows for certain on which day of the week the crucifixion took place.
What is truly important is to remember that Jesus, in total obedience to His Father’s will, gave His life to pay for our sins. We know that He was our Paschal Lamb, slain on the 14th of Nisan and that He rose victoriously from the grave three days later. While we are told to remember His crucifixion, we are also to rejoice in His resurrection. We worship the Risen Lord, who reigns as King in our hearts!
Be a Berean (Acts 17:11), study for yourself, and come to your own conclusion. And, always, in all things, give thanks to the One who died for you.
Read Reason #1 for a Thursday Crucifixion: Jesus’ words in the article Was Jesus crucified on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday?
Man of Sorrows, what a name,
For the Son of God who came,
Ruined sinners to reclaim!
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood,
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Man of Sorrows, What a Name
Philip Bliss (1838-1876)
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