By: Dr. Hank Lindstrom
Have you ever wondered how Jesus Christ could be crucified on Friday and be resurrected on Sunday after being buried for three days? Well, that’s impossible! You cannot squeeze three days between Friday and Sunday. By no stretch of the imagination is it possible to stretch the period from Friday evening to Sunday morning into “three days and three nights”.
We believe that Jesus Christ died on a Wednesday. We do not believe that Jesus died on Friday. Let’s turn to Matthew 12:40, and notice Christ’s own prophecy pertaining to His death, burial, and resurrection. “For as Jonas 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 (Matthew 12:40).” “Three days and three nights” means seventy-two hours. Jesus defined the length of a day in John 11:9. Our Lord said, “Are there not twelve hours in a day?” Well, if there are twelve hours in a day, then there are twelve hours in a night. And therefore, three days and three nights would be 72 hours. Anything less than 72 hours would not fulfill the prophecy of Jonah or the words of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps you’re wondering why the vast majority of Christians accept the Friday-to-Sunday burial of Christ if it is wrong? The only answer that can be given is tradition. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ (Colossians 2:8).” This is a tradition not taught in the Bible. Ash Wednesday and Lent also are not in the Bible. Even the word Easter is pagan, and it is not found in the Bible. In the King James Version the word “Easter” does occur in Acts 12:4, but is a mistranslation. The word Easter comes from the word Ish-tar and is the same as Astaroth, a pagan deity. We celebrate the resurrection of Christ again from the dead.
In order to explain the Good Friday tradition, the proponents say that Christ was buried during parts of three days and nights. That is Christ was buried for part of Friday, part of Saturday, and a part of Sunday.
Sometimes people ask, “Didn’t the Jews count part of a day a whole day or part of a night as a whole night?” Whenever you have the expression “day and night” mentioned together in the Hebrew Scriptures, it always means a full day and a full night. For example, “And the evening and the morning were the first day (Genesis 1:8)”; “And the evening and morning were the second day (Genesis 1:13)”; “And the evening and morning were the third day (Genesis 1:13)”; and so on. Other examples are Esther 4:16; 5:1; II Samuel 30:12-13 and Jonah 1:17, where you will find the expression “three days and three nights,” and in every instance it means full days and full nights–not part of a day and part of a night.
Let’s see what the scriptures teach us as we look at an example in the life of Christ. The Scripture says, “And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered (Matthew 4:2).” Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights. If we say, as some do, that “three days and three nights” does not mean “three days and three nights”, then we must also say that “forty days and forty nights” does not mean “forty days and forty nights”. Where do we stop? Do we say that we really can’t be sure about anything? Of course not! We believe the Bible to be literal.
Part of the confusion has come from verses like John 19:31. This verse says, “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day (for that Sabbath day was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” The Sabbath in John 19:31 is not the regular Saturday Sabbath. It was the Passover Sabbath, which occurred on Thursday of the crucifixion week. Note that John 19:31 says, “For that Sabbath day was an high day.” If it were talking of the Saturday Sabbath, then Christ would have been crucified on Friday. All the feast days God gave to Israel were considered Sabbaths though they did not fall on Saturday. Jesus was crucified on the preparation (Wednesday) of the Sabbath (Passover Sabbath) which was Thursday.
Now at what time of the day did Jesus die? It was around three in the afternoon on Wednesday. “And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: And having said thus, he gave up the ghost (Luke 23:44-46).” When it says the ninth hour, it means the ninth hour since the break of day. In other words, it was three o’clock in the afternoon. Jesus was taken away from the cross and hurriedly buried the same afternoon before sundown or 6:00 P.M.
Now remember that the Jewish day always begins at sundown or at about 6:00 P.M. Our day begins at midnight, but the Jewish day began at sunset. In Leviticus 23:32, the Lord said, “From even unto even shall ye celebrate your sabbath.
If you count 72 hours from late Wednesday afternoon at around 6:00 P.M., then Jesus would have been in the tomb until late Saturday afternoon at around 6:00 P.M.
So, a Sunday morning resurrection is not what the Bible teaches. We believe that Jesus was resurrected on Saturday evening at about 6:00 P.M. Jesus was placed in the tomb at around 6:00 P.M. on Wednesday. Seventy-two hours later would be at around 6:00 P.M. on Saturday, exactly when the first day began (Sunday).
When the women arrived at the tomb early Sunday morning, Jesus was already gone. The Gospel is summed up in I Corinthians 15:3-4, “…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” Those who arrived early Sunday morning simply discovered an empty tomb. The angel said, “He is not here, for He is risen (Luke 24:6).”
One objection to a Wednesday crucifixion is found in Luke 24:21, which says, “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 conversation takes place on Sunday, the day of resurrection. The answer is found in the word “since.” Counting from this verse, Sunday is the third day, Saturday the second day, Friday is the first day SINCE the Passover. The Thursday Passover (Jewish reckoning) had its night on what we would call Wednesday night and twilight of that night, meaning between 3:00 P.M. and 6:00 P.M., is when Christ was crucified. The twilight of Thursday afternoon would have counted as the twilight of Friday night which began at 6:00 P.M. by Jewish reckoning. So we see there is no conflict.
The real issue is not really what day was Christ crucified on, but the need to be careful Bible students, lest we miss what the Bible teaches about how to be saved. We know that nothing could wash away our sins but the blood of Jesus Christ. If you have not trusted Jesus Christ and His shed blood as your only means of reaching heaven, then do so now.