Did Jesus die on Good Friday?
By Tom Brown
is not necessary to know the exact day Jesus died in order to be saved; you
just need to believe that He died for your sins. Knowing the day of His
death is important, but not essential. There have been a few people who have
doubted the veracity of the Bible because they assume it teaches that Jesus
died on Friday, yet they know the prophecy of Christ, “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” (Matt 12:40).
Therefore to say that Jesus arose on the
third day is not sufficient, because Jesus said he would be buried for three
days and nights. Skeptics take out their hand and start counting the
days and nights, and it does not add up correctly. So they throw out the
Bible and say it is inaccurate. However, the Bible does not say that Jesus
died on Friday, only that he arose on Sunday. Jesus rose early on the
first day of the week (Mark 16:9).
So where did the tradition of Good
Friday start? Well, for the first three centuries Christians did not
celebrate the death of Christ on Friday. In fact, they did not even
celebrate the resurrection on Sunday. They celebrated the day of the
resurrection based on the Jewish Passover, thus resurrection day would fall
on different days, depending on the day of the Passover. It wasn’t until the
Emperor Constantine fixed the day of Easter on Sunday after
the first full moon of spring, which corresponded
to the Jewish Passover. After setting Easter on Sunday, the church leaders
made an honest mistake by assuming the death of Christ was on Friday. They
came to that conclusion based on the fact that Jesus died before the Sabbath
(Saturday was the regular "Sabbath" for the Jews which means "Rest" or no
work). Mark 15:42 confirms that Jesus died the day prior to the Sabbath:
It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath).
this Sabbath was Saturday and thus they concluded the death of Christ was on
Friday. That seemed reasonable enough, since at first counting—Friday,
Saturday and Sunday—that makes three days. This assumption was considered
fact, and so the tradition of Good Friday began with hardly anyone
questioning it. Unfortunately, they forgot to take into account that the
Passover itself was also a Sabbath.
Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the
fifteenth day of that month the LORD's Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for
seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a
sacred assembly and do no regular work. (Lev 23:5-7, emphasis
added) As you can see, on Passover no one was allowed to do regular
work, which makes “Passover” a “Sabbath”.
specifically declared that he would be in the heart of the earth for three
days and nights, there is only one day that Jesus could have died to make
three days and nights, and it is Thursday, and as we shall see, the Bible
actually points to this day.
What about Wednesday?
article that disputes Friday as the day of Christ death, will then argue
that Jesus died on Wednesday. The reason they do so is in their view the
three days and nights must be at least 72 hours. However, there is no
prophecy of scripture that says after 72 hours Jesus would rise again. It
was common practice in those days, as well as today, to consider any “part”
of the day to be “a day”.
For example you
say you spent the day with someone. It does not mean you arrived before the
sun rose and left as the sun set. No! That is silly. To spend the day with
someone doesn’t imply you spent 12 hours with them. It just means you spent
“part” of the day, which you consider to be “a day”. This is how days and
nights were treated in the Bible. So long as Jesus spent part of the day or
part of the night in the tomb it is considered a day and night.
If Jesus died on Wednesday, he would have been in the tomb for four days
and four nights. This would contradict scripture, plus it would pose another
real problem for those who believe Jesus died on Wednesday. Here is the big
tell us that the women prepared spices to anoint Jesus’ body on Sunday.
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the
spices they had prepared and went to the tomb (Luke 24:1). They could
not do it earlier because they had to rest on the regular Saturday Sabbath.
If Jesus had died on Wednesday, the Passover would have been on Thursday,
however, the next day would be Friday, and there would have been no Sabbath
on this day. They could have anointed Jesus body on Friday. So if that was
the case, why did they wait until Sunday to do it, when Friday would have
been a much better day? Do you see the problem with this view?
Some in order to
justify this sloppy conclusion argue that it took the women a full day to
buy and prepare the spices, and by the time they were done, it was Saturday
again and thus the regular Sabbath began. This argument is really stretching
one’s rationality. There is no way it would take more than 24 hours to buy
and prepare the spices, for the Jews always buried their dead within one
day, so they were accustomed to preparing spices for the deceased within a
day. Besides that if they had waited 72 hours before coming to the tomb then
decomposition would have begun and according to scriptures this could not
have happened. Because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you
let your Holy One see decay (see Acts 2:27). God promised the
resurrection before decomposition. You might remember that Lazarus had
already been in the tomb for four days (John 11:17). Decomposition had
begun for Martha, his sister, said, “By this time there is a bad odor, for
he has been there four days.” (John 11:39)
In the end, I
see three major problems to the theory of Wednesday being the day of Jesus
1. If Jesus died
on Wednesday, then Jesus would have been in the tomb for four days and four
2. If Jesus died
on Wednesday, then the women would have gone to the tomb on Friday.
3. If Jesus died
on Wednesday, then more than 72 hours would have elapsed which would have
caused Jesus body to “see decay”.
Thursday is the Day
Thursday was the day of His death; let us clarify when a day ended and when
it began. According to the Jews the day was over when the sun had set. We
can see in Genesis that a day begins in the evening. And there was
evening, and there was morning — the first day (Gen 1:5). It is hard for
us to comprehend that evening comes before morning but in order to count
three days and nights, you have to begin a day with the evening, or
otherwise you will come up with 4 days and 3 nights.
It is clear this
is how the days were counted in biblical times, for remember, Jesus died
somewhere near 3 p.m. and His body needed to be taken down from the cross
and put in the tomb before the sun had set.
theologians have had on pinpointing the day of His death stems from not
taking into account the fact that the Passover was a “special” Sabbath, not
the ordinary one which always landed on Saturday. John in his gospel
mentions this point, “Now it was the day of Preparation, and the
next day was to be a special Sabbath” (John 19:31).
John calls this Sabbath a special
one. Since it was a “special Sabbath” not the ordinary one, there is no
requirement on our part to say that the Passover landed on a Saturday. The
“date” of the Passover was always fixed; it was the fourteenth day of their
first month (see Leviticus 23:5-6 and Exodus 12:6). Prior to Christ, the
Jewish calendar consisted of twelve months at 28 days for each month. So
this meant that the Passover would always land on the same day, however, the
Jews left that calendar and adopted a 29 to 30 day a month calendar. This
was the calendar used during Jesus era; therefore the Passover was a
“floating day”, which means it could land on any “day” of the week.
For example, Christmas is a floating day,
it is always on the 25th day of December, and so it can float and
land on any day of the week. This was the case of the Passover. It is my
belief that the Passover landed on a Friday the year Jesus died. This would
provide us the three days and three nights we need to fulfill scripture and
explain why the women had to wait until two Sabbaths had passed to anoint
So with that said, is there any other
biblical evidence we can unearth which could shed light on the death of
Christ taking place on Thursday? There is one other passage which proves the
Passover landed on Friday of that year: Six days before the Passover,
Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from
the dead (John 12:1). Jesus arrived at the home of Mary on the ordinary
Sabbath and it was there that Mary poured perfume on Jesus feet. A few
scriptures later, the Bible says, “The next day the great crowd that had
come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took
palm branches…” (John 12:12-13). Historically and traditionally this is
Palm Sunday. Notice carefully the previous day when Mary poured perfume on
Jesus feet the gospel writer says that this day was Six days before the
Passover. Did you get it? Count six days from Saturday, and there you
have it! Passover landed on a Friday.
The death of Christ was on Thursday
afternoon and His resurrection was on Sunday before the sun had risen.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene
went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance
(John 20:1). This passage clearly shows that Jesus rose on Sunday while
it was still dark. This is significant because to get an even 3 days and
3 nights, Jesus had to die before the sunset and resurrect before sunrise.
The following is a chart to help you count
the days and nights. It shows Jesus was in the tomb for three days and
|Ninth hour (3 p.m.) Jesus
died and was buried before the sun had set
I am not advocating to depose Good Friday
as a remembrance of the death of Christ, just like I’m not advocating
getting rid of the our calendar because it is off by 3 or 4 years from the
birth of Christ. People make mistakes on counting days and years, and I
believe the church leaders made a mistake on the day of His death. However I
am satisfied at keeping Friday as the holiday, even if I do know the death
of Christ was on a Thursday.
Our church has a great miracle service on
Good Friday, and I’m just glad we have a day to celebrate the atonement of
Christ through His death. It is not overly important that we get the day
right, so long as we remember His death.
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