UPDATE: After reading in John 18-19 these last couple days during my devotions, this post and study has been on my heart again so I wanted to repost it. At the end, I’ve included some additional things I’ve since learned that adds to this study.
Did Christ Die on Good Friday?
I’ve followed the tradition of honoring Good Friday, based on the understanding that Christ died on preparation day, which is widely understood to be the day before the Sabbath… so to understand the events leading up to the death of Christ on the cross, that’s where I started in my studies to discover whether Christ did in fact die on Good Friday. I looked in the scripture to understand the observances of the Sabbath (the day that follows the preparation day), the Passover (when Christ ate the last supper, prayed in the garden, was arrested and tried, and hung on the cross and died), and the Feast of Unleavened bread (the seven day feast that immediately follows Passover), so I’ll address that part of my study first.
In Leviticus 23:3, “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.”
In Leviticus 23:5-8, “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the Lord‘s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. But you shall present a food offering to the Lord for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.”
You can read more regarding the Passover in Exodus 12 and Numbers 28:16-25, but I am going to address these passages I’ve shared. We see in verse 3, that there is a weekly Sabbath that we are called to rest, and will be a holy convocation (assembly, reading, summoning). This Sabbath falls on the seventh day of every week, on Saturday. On the Sabbath, there is to be no work done.
We then see that in verse 5, that it states that the Passover will be what marks the first month, on 14 Nissan at twilight. So Passover begins at dark on 14 Nissan and ends at twilight on 15 Nissan. As Passover concludes, the beginning of The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Matzah) begins. The first day and last day of the next 7 days, have been declared by the Lord as High Sabbaths and thus no work must take place. These Sabbaths are what the Lord has proclaimed as a holy convocation and thus no work is to be done.
Now that we understand these details, we can better understand the events taking place surrounding Christ’s death and resurrection.
“And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.” Mark 14:16
In Mark 14:12-16 we see that the disciples went to prepare a place for them to partake of the Passover meal. This was on 13 Nissan, the hours leading up to sunset. Upon the arrival of sunset, 14 Nissan began. Reading on, we see in the scriptures that they ate the Passover meal, went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, and after praying, Jesus was arrested, tried, and on the cross by morning. (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:40-46)
“It was now the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread when the Passover lamb was sacrificed. Jesus’ followers [disciples] said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover meal?’ Jesus sent two of his followers [disciples] and said to them, ‘Go into the city and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. When he goes into a house, tell the owner of the house, “The Teacher says: ‘Where is my guest room in which I can eat the Passover meal with my followers [disciples]?'” The owner will show you a large room upstairs [T upper room] that is furnished and ready. Prepare the food [Make preparations] for us there.’ So the followers [disciples] left and went into the city. Everything happened as Jesus had said, so they prepared the Passover meal.“ Mark 14:12-16
“Early the next morning, all the ·leading [T chief] priests and elders of the people decided that Jesus should die [or met together to plan Jesus’ death]. They tied [bound] him, led him away, and turned him over to Pilate, the governor.“ Matthew 27:1-2
As I’ve observed over the years, traditional teaching says that Christ died on Friday, was in the tomb through the weekly Sabbath, and arose on Sunday morning. However, Christ Himself stated He would be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights, just as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish:
“For just 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.” Matthew 12:40
The importance of this passage is noted in the passages surrounding it where Christ states: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just 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 men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” Matthew 12:39-41 (emphasis mine)
So we see, the Lord told Jonah to go to Ninevah and call out against them. It was such a warning that led them to their repentance. Greater than Jonah, is the Christ that’s come to do the same for the whole world. If this was a great sign of the Lord, the only sign given, for the evil and adulterous generation seeking a sign, wouldn’t it thus be necessary to be accurate? Friday evening to Sunday morning is not three days and three nights!
Now that we understand the Sabbath, the Passover, and The Feast of Unleavened Bread, we see that the Passover and the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread are back to back and thus, Christ ate the last supper, prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, was arrested, tried, hung on the cross, and died on the Passover.
The evening of that day initiated The Feast of Unleavened Bread and thus was a High Sabbath. They removed Christ from the cross and placed Him in the tomb, only wrapped in linen soaked in a mixture myrrh and aloes, before the evening began because it was a holy convocation.
Let’s look in the scriptures to see the support for this:
“Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would 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.” John 19:31
“This man (Joseph of Arimathea) went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. Luke 23:52-54
“After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.” John 19:38-40
“So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.” John 19:42
Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus was laid and would thus return on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, and Jesus was already gone.
“And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw [took note of] the place where Jesus was laid.” Mark 15:47
“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” John 20:1
“When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.” Mark 16:1-6
So we see that early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Christ had risen. If we follow the timeline given, we see that the High Sabbath, which could happen on any day of the week, did not fall on the weekly Sabbath. Let’s break this down:
Saturday evening/Sunday morning, Christ rose
Friday evening/Saturday day, Christ lay in the tomb through the Sabbath (Third Night and Third Day)
Thursday evening/Friday day, Christ lay in the tomb through the preparation day (Second Night and Second Day)
Wednesday evening/Thursday day, Christ lay in the tomb through the High Sabbath (First Night and First Day)
Tuesday evening/Wednesday day, Christ at the Passover meal with His disciples, prayed in Gethsemane, was arrested, tried, put on the cross, and died.
This must be the order of events in order for the words of Christ to be true and to fulfill the only sign that was given. So we see that no, Christ did not die on Good Friday. He died on Wednesday, as the Passover lamb. The ultimate sacrifice for our sins so we could live eternally with the Father in Heaven.
I did this study, not to take issue with the traditions many still observe, but to find the truth. I have such a desire to understand the Word in its intended context and not simply in the context of my own understanding. I hope this is enlightening to anyone who reads it, and that while we should continue to renew our minds with the truth, we should be mindful to remember that it’s this very sacrifice in this post that brings us salvation and not whether we honor this sacrifice on a Friday or a Tuesday. We must be careful not to become legalistic over these matters and to live as we are called.
“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.” 1 Corinthians 7:17-24
August 16-17, 2017 UPDATE: Something new I saw while reading was in John 18:28, was that the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews didn’t enter the governor, Caiaphas’s quarters, so as to not defile themselves, but could eat the Passover. This further reveals that Christ was arrested and died on the cross on the Passover, which is the Preparation Day for the week long Feast of Unleavened Bread. On the first and last days of the feast, it is a High Sabbath. It was again stated in John 19:14-16 “Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.”
This further confirms that the following day, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was a High Sabbath, not the weekly Sabbath; further confirming also that Jesus did not and could not have died on Friday.