What day of the week did Jesus actually die? What day of the week was He actually crucified? If our Messiah died on Friday and rose on Sunday, how is that three days? This is a mystery that will be cleared up and solved by our ultimate source of truth, the Bible. Let’s discuss.
Jesus Christ (or His real name, Yahshua the Messiah) is the most popular person in history — the central figure in Christianity. Every year, millions observe Holy Week — Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday — to honor His suffering, death, and resurrection.
Unfortunately, there is much confusion, ignorance, and outright deception on the actual day of the week He died and the exact moment He rose from the dead. Most professing Christians believe He died on Good Friday and was resurrected on Easter Sunday. But other pastors, Bible scholars, and Christians say He was actually crucified on a Thursday or a Wednesday. Still, there are those who say, “Who cares? It doesn’t matter one way or the other!”
But what does the Bible say? Is it possible to know the exact day of the week Christ died, and when He rose from the grave? And perhaps the most important question is: Does it matter?
Here are five biblical reasons why the popular Good Friday-Easter Sunday tradition is false:
Christ gave only one sign that He was the Messiah — the sign of the prophet Jonah.
Matthew 12:38-40 — Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
The sign of the prophet Jonah is the length of time He would be in the grave. Good Friday to Easter Sunday will never make “three days and three nights” but only two nights and one day.
Here is what biblical scholar E.W. Bullinger wrote regarding this expression in Matthew 12:40, “Three Days and Three Nights” (The Companion Bible, Appendix 144):
“The fact that "three days" is used by Hebrew idiom for any part of three days and three nights is not disputed; because that was the common way of reckoning, just as it was when used of years. Three or any number of years was used inclusively of any part of those years, as may be seen in the reckoning of the reigns of any of the kings of Israel and Judah.
But, when the number of "nights" is stated as well as the number of "days", then the expression ceases to be an idiom, and becomes a literal statement of fact.”
Now how did Christ Himself define a day and a night? Notice!
John 11:9-10 — Jesus [Yahshua] answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him."
John 9:4 — I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.
According to Christ, a “day” is 12 hours and a “night” is also 12 hours. Therefore “three days and three nights” is equivalent to exactly 72 hours.
[3 days x 12 hours (36 hours of days) + 3 nights x 12 hours (36 hours of night]
So if Yahshua (Jesus) was in the grave for a full 72 hours, but His tomb was already empty very early on Sunday morning, when did His crucifixion actually take place?
Jews and biblical Christians observe the seventh day Sabbath (Saturday). The day before this weekly Sabbath (Friday) is called the preparation day. But what most people don’t know is that there are seven other annual Sabbaths (high days) listed in Leviticus 23, which could fall on any day of the week. The first of these seven annual holy days was the first day of Unleavened Bread (the 15th day of Abib/Nisan (the first month of the Hebrew calendar). During Christ’s final week before His death, that day fell on a Thursday. The day before that was a Wednesday — the Preparation Day for that Sabbath. That day of preparation was also the Passover, the 14th day of Abib/Nisan (the first month of the Hebrew calendar).
John 19:31 — Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
Notice! That Sabbath was not an ordinary weekly Sabbath, but a “high day” annual Sabbath.
Exodus 12:16 — On the first day [of Unleavened Bread] there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you.
Leviticus 23:6-7 — And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.
Many people — not knowing the seven annual holy days of Israel — automatically assume that this “Preparation Day” in which Christ was crucified and killed was a Friday. It was not!
Mark 16:1 — Now when the [first] Sabbath [an annual Sabbath that fell on Thursday] was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.
The women bought the spices after the annual Sabbath on Thursday was over (Jewish days begin and end at sunset). This happened between Thursday sunset to Friday sunset.
Luke 23:56 — Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the [second] Sabbath [the Saturday weekly Sabbath] according to the commandment.
Exodus 20:8 — Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…
The women prepared the spices and fragrant oils they purchased, but they didn’t have the time to bring the spices to the tomb to anoint Christ’s body, because they were overtaken by the weekly Sabbath on Saturday, which began Friday at sunset (until Saturday at sunset).
Matthew 28:1 — Now after the Sabbath [“Sabbaths,” this word is in the plural in Greek (G4521 sabbaton), meaning after both Sabbaths on Thursday and Saturday], as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.
The Ferrar Fenton Bible translation renders this Bible verse correctly.
Luke 24:1 — Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.
If Christ was crucified on a Friday, and there was only one Sabbath that week, how could the woman purchase spices after the Sabbath (Mark 16:1), and at the same time, prepare the spices and rest before that same Sabbath (Luke 23:56)?
The idea of a Friday crucifixion and a Sunday morning resurrection was not the original belief of the early apostolic church and is not the teaching of the Bible. In fact, astounding proof exists of these attempts to change the day of the resurrection and of the crucifixion.
James A. Walther, in an article entitled “The Chronology of the Passion Week,” in the June 1958 Journal of Biblical Literature, mentions that numerous Catholic writers for centuries maintained that Jesus ate the Passover Tuesday night — that early Wednesday morning He was taken by the Jewish mob. He declares: “References in the Didascalia, in Epiphanius, in Victorinus of Pettau… support the Tuesday [night] Passover dating and the subsequent arrest of Jesus in the morning hours of Wednesday.”
What does the Bible say about the day of the week the Messiah will be cut off?
Daniel 9:27 — Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.
What is the middle of the week? Wednesday. This is a prophecy that tells us on what day of the week the Messiah will die and bring an end to sacrifice and offering when He offered up Himself once for all (Hebrews 7:27, 9:12, 10:10). Christ died on Passover, on a Wednesday.
In conclusion, our Savior did not die on Good Friday. He died around the ninth hour (3 pm) and was buried shortly before sunset on Passover day, which was a Wednesday. (The most credible Bible scholars believe Christ’s crucifixion happened either on April 5, A.D. 30 or on April 25, A.D. 31. Both years had Wednesday Passovers.)
This also means that the resurrection was not on Easter Sunday. When the women went to the tomb carrying the spices very early on Sunday morning — while it was still dark — they did not find the body. The tomb was already empty! The Father resurrected His Son 72 hours after His burial, before sunset on Saturday — exactly as Christ predicted in Matthew 12:40.
Let us rejoice that we have a Savior whose authenticity as the Messiah had been vindicated!
We hope this episode has been enlightening to you. If you found it helpful, please share this video with your family and friends. Until next time, this is Daniel Macaraeg of BiblicalTruths.TV reminding you to always be growing, to always be giving, and to always be grateful.