Good Wednesday NOT Good Friday
I've posted this essay before but I think it's important to post it again because it shows that church tradition is not always correct when it does not jibe with Biblical teaching.
Was Jesus Really Three Days and Three Nights in the Heart of the Earth?
By R.A. Torrey (1856-1928)
In the twelfth chapter of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is reported as saying, “As Jonah 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” (Matt. 12:40). According to the commonly accepted tradition of the church, Jesus was crucified on Friday, dying at 3 PM, or somewhere between 3 PM and sundown, and was raised from the dead very early in the morning of the following Sunday. Many readers of the Bible are puzzled to know how the interval between late Friday afternoon and early Sunday morning can be figured out to be three days and three nights. It seems rather to be two nights, one day, and a very small portion of another day.
The solution proposed by many commentators to this apparent difficulty, is that “a day and a night” is simply another way of saying, “a day,” and the ancient Jews reckoned a fraction of a day as a whole day. So they say there was a part (a very small part) of Friday (or a day and a night), all of Saturday, another day (or a day and a night); and part of Sunday (a very small part), another day (or a day and a night). There are many persons whom this solution does not altogether satisfy, and I confess it does not satisfy me at all. It seems to me to be a makeshift, and a very weak makeshift. Is there any solution that is altogether satisfactory? There is.
The first fact to be noticed in the proper solution is that the Bible nowhere says or implies that Jesus was crucified and died on Friday. It is said that Jesus was crucified on “the day before the Sabbath” (Mark 15:42). As the Jewish weekly Sabbath came on Saturday (beginning at sunset the day before), the conclusion is naturally drawn that, since Jesus was crucified the day before the Sabbath, He must have been crucified on Friday.
However, it is a well-known fact, to which the Bible bears abundant testimony, that the Jews had other Sabbaths besides the weekly Sabbath that fell on Saturday. The first day of the Passover week, no matter upon what day of the week it came, was always a Sabbath (Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23:7; Numbers 28:16-18). The question therefore arises whether the Sabbath that followed Christ’s crucifixion was the weekly Sabbath (Saturday) or the Passover Sabbath, falling on the fifteenth day of Nisan, which came that year on Thursday.
Now, the Bible does not leave us to speculate which Sabbath is meant in this instance; for John tells us in so many words, in John 19:14, the day on which Jesus was tried and crucified was “the preparation of the Passover” (italics added). In other words, it was not the day before the weekly Sabbath (that is, Saturday), but it was the day before the Passover Sabbath, which came that year on Thursday- that is to say, the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified was a Wednesday. John makes this as clear as day.
The gospel of John was written later than the other Gospels, and scholars have for a long time noticed that in various places there was an evident intention to correct false impressions that one might get from reading the other Gospels. One of these false impressions was that Jesus ate the Passover with His disciples at the regular time of the Passover. To correct this false impression, John clearly states that He ate it the evening before, and that He Himself died on the cross at the very moment the Passover lambs were being slain “between the two evenings” on the fourteenth day of Nisan. (See Exodus 12:6 in the Hebrew, and the Revised Version margin.)
God’s real Paschal Lamb, Jesus, of whom all other paschal lambs offered through the centuries were only types, was therefore slain at the very time appointed by God. Everything about the Passover Lamb was fulfilled in Jesus. First, He was a Lamb without blemish and without spot (Exodus 12:5). Second, He was chosen on the tenth day of Nisan (Exodus 12:3); for it was on the tenth day of the month, the preceding Saturday, that the triumphal entry into Jerusalem was made.
We know this because He came from Jericho to Bethany six days before the Passover (John 12:1). That would be six days before Thursday, which would be Friday. Furthermore, it was on the next day that the entry into Jerusalem was made (John 12:12 and following), that is, on Saturday., the tenth day of Nisan. It was also on this same day that Judas went to the chief priests and offered to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:6-16 and Mark 14:3-11). As it was after the supper in the house of Simon the leper, and as the supper occurred late on Friday or early on Saturday, after sunset, after the supper would necessarily be on the tenth of Nisan. This being the price set on Him by the chief priests, it was, of course, the buying or taking to them of a lamb, which according to law must occur on the tenth day of Nisan. Furthermore, they put the exact value on the Lamb that Old Testament prophecy predicted (Zechariah 11:12 and Matthew 26:15).
Third, not a bone of Him was broken when he was killed (John 19:36; Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; Psalm 34:20). And fourth, He was killed on the fourteenth of Nisan, between the evenings, just before the beginning of the fifteenth day, at sundown (Exodus 12:6). If we take just exactly what the Bible says, that Jesus was slain before the Passover Sabbath, the type is marvelously fulfilled in every detail; but if we accept the traditional theory that Jesus was crucified on Friday, the type fails at many points.
Furthermore, if we accept the traditional view that Jesus was crucified on Friday and ate the Passover on the regular day of Passover, then the journey from Jericho to Bethany, which occurred six days before the Passover (John 12:1), would fall on a Saturday- that is the Jewish Sabbath. Such a journey on the Jewish Sabbath would be contrary to Jewish law.
Of course, it was impossible for Jesus to take such a journey on the Jewish Sabbath, because His triumphal entry into Jerusalem was on the Jewish Sabbath, Saturday. This was altogether possible, for the Bible elsewhere tells us that Bethany was a Sabbath’s day journey from Jerusalem (Acts 1:12 and Luke 24:50).
It has also been figured out by the astronomers that in the year A.D. 30, which is the commonly accepted year for the crucifixion of our Lord, the Passover was observed on Thursday, April 6, the moon being full that day.