Friday, April 22, 2011

Was the Messiah crucified on a Friday?

Here is a question that really challenged my traditional way of thinking.  I came across this scripture:  Matthew 12:40 - "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."  These are the words of Jesus. 

But Friday late in the day to Sunday morning doesn't come close to this.  I was perplexed.  One explanation I read was that the Hebrews believed that even a part of a day could be construed as a day and a night.  But that just didn't make any sense to me. 

Each of the four gospel accounts holds a clue to this puzzle.

Scripture says that the disciples wanted to remove the body of Jesus from the cross prior to the Sabbath.  The weekly Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday, so hence a Friday crucifixion seems to make sense, right?  The gospel of John helps to shed some light on this issue.  John 19:31 speaks of this being a high, or special Sabbath.  Verse 42 brings more clarification:  it was the Preparation Day.  The first day of Unleavened Bread (the day following the Passover) was a special Sabbath according to Leviticus 23:7.

But was it also a Friday?  Bear with me as we let scripture interpret scripture.  The key is in the women who brought spices to the tomb early on the first day of the week according to Luke 24:1.  

Where and when did they get these spices?  Luke 23:56 tells us that they prepared spices and THEN rested on the Sabbath.  Mark 16:1 tells us that they bought spices AFTER the Sabbath.  They would never have purchases spices ON a Sabbath day.  The answer is that there were two Sabbaths!  The high Sabbath of Unleavened Bread, a day in between, and the regular weekly Sabbath.  This causes all the scriptures to fit together beautifully!

This means that Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday, and was removed from the cross before the high Sabbath began at sundown.  Following the high Sabbath (the first day of Unleavened Bread, which was on Thursday), the women purchased and prepared their spices on Friday, before sundown.  Then they rested on the regular weekly Sabbath - Saturday - and went to the tomb Sunday morning.  But of course, Jesus had already risen... which I believe happened as the sun set after the weekly Sabbath, when the first day of the week was beginning. 

This gives Him three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, just as He said in Matthew 12:40.  And it matches the time that Jonah spent in the belly of the fish according to Jonah 1:17

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