It’s Friday, April 22nd, 2011 and it is the traditional annual celebration of the day Jesus died (often called Good Friday). You might be surprised to know, Jesus didn’t actually die on a Friday (we’ll see why shortly).
But, today I don’t want to discuss bunnies, eggs or pagan influences. Instead I wanna look at what we can determine about that fateful week when Jesus gave up everything for us. Let’s look at what happened and when. It is surprising to see just how much detail we can derive from what we know about this world-changing event.
The method for determining the date of the traditional Easter Sunday is kinda complex. It is based on the Lunisolar calendar and is ultimately almost never the accurate resurrection anniversary. However, we can actually know, believe it or not, exactly when Jesus died and when He was resurrected. This topic is often debated but if we use scripture, Jewish cultural, math, and logic, we can determine not only the days of the week, but as a result the exact year it occurred. The key is relying on the following facts and not compromising any of them:
- Jesus was betrayed in the evening following the Passover meal. – Luke 22:15 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-25
- The Passover meal falls on the 14th of Nisan each year (Jewish Calendar). – Exodus 12:18
- Days on the Jewish Calendar begin and end at 6:00pm each evening (roughly). – Genesis 1:5
- Jesus was taken off the cross early because of the “Day of Preparation”. – John 19:31, John 19:42
- Jesus was in the tomb 3 days and 3 nights. – Matthew 12:40
- Jesus was resurrected before dawn on the first day of the week (Sunday). – (Matthew 28:1)
First off it doesn’t take long for us to determine there can’t be 3 days and 3 nights between Friday and Sunday. So why do we think Friday was the day of the crucifixion? The Bible never says Jesus died on Friday. The idea comes from John 19:31 where it 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 text clearly says the next day was the Sabbath Day, which we think of as being every Saturday. Therefore He must’ve been crucified on Friday, Right? Well… not quite.
Notice the parenthetical in the text above. This is a clarifier: “for that sabbath day was an high day“. The term “high day” is referring to the first day of Passover. The Passover meal is always on the 14th of Nisan, then Passover week begins on the 15th. Passover lasts for 7 days. The first and the seventh day of Passover are considered Sabbath Days and no work can be done on these days no matter what day of the week they land on (Exodus 12:16). So the 15th of Nisan is a “high day” and a Sabbath. Jesus was killed during the day of the 14th, so the Jews wanted him off the cross before sunset which started the first day of Passover.
To determine what day of the week this actually was then, we just start with the only weekday mentioned in scripture: Sunday. We know Jesus was resurrected before dawn on the first day of the week. All we have to do is backfill the 3 days and nights to determine what day of the week the 14th and 15th of Nisan fell on that year. By doing this we can create the following calendar:
So this is what we’ve been able to determine based on the facts we listed earlier. First we know Jesus was celebrating the Passover Seder when He instituted the Lord’s Supper. This always happens on the 14th of Nisan. Because the days begin at nightfall every evening, the 14th began on Tuesday evening. It would be perfectly reasonable to have the Passover Seder as the evening meal on this day. After the meal, Jesus and His disciples went to Gethsemane where He was ultimately betrayed by Judas. His initial trial took place in the middle of the night at the house of the High Priest. He spent the rest of the night in the dungeon there.
When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
– Matthew 27:1-2
This was still on the 14th. After being bounced to Herod and back, He is condemned and sentenced to die. The Bible makes reference in hours at this point:
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.
– Matthew 27:45
In this culture, hours of daylight are measured beginning at about 6:00am (dawn). The 6th hour here is referring to the 6th hour of daylight. So darkness came over the land as Jesus hung on the cross from Noon until 3:00pm on the 14th. Then at about 3:00pm on the 14th, Jesus cries out and dies:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
– Matthew 27:46-50
Now this gave the Jews a mere 3 hours to get the bodies off the cross and buried before the first day of Passover (15th), a Sabbath Day falling on Wednesday that year. Jesus was then taken off the cross and buried. This began the prophesied 3 days and 3 nights of Jesus being in the Earth. The first day of the week that week began at 6:00pm on 18th of Nisan.
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
– Matthew 18:1
So at about 6:00am on Sunday the 18th, the two Marys came to visit the tomb to see the stone get rolled away by angels and Jesus’ body gone.
He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
– Matthew 28:6
And there we have a detailed timeline of that week. Notice the calendar puts this in 30AD. This is determined by now knowing the days of the week in reference to the dates. Every year these dates fall on different days of the week. So if we follow the calendar back to the timeframe of Jesus, 30AD is the only year close enough where the 18th falls on Sunday.
This is 2011 which makes Jesus’ death exactly 1981 years ago… but not to the day. This year, the 14th of Nisan (the day of Jesus’ death) fell on April 18th making this past Monday the anniversary of His death. The 18th of Nisan (the day of His resurrection) falls on April 22nd this year… which is today.
So I guess, in a way it is a good Friday after all since my savior conquered death 1981 years ago today.
He is not here: for He is risen… Why? So that one day, I can be too.
Thank you, Jesus, my Lord and Savior. I love you.