This past Sunday as we were discussing the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, we had a brief exchange on the possibility of a Wednesday crucifixion rather than a Friday crucifixion.
I had mentioned that by the common literacy usage of the day, Jewish conversations would use an inclusive reckoning of time. Meaning that any part of a day could be counted as a whole day. This isn’t much different than what we do today, we say I have been gone all day. It doesn’t mean I have been gone 24 hours.
If you ask me how long it takes for me to get to Ohio when I drive up, I would say 2 days. It doesn’t mean 48 hours. It means I break the trip up in two days and the better part of those two days are traveling to get to Ohio.
Let me share some other reasons why I believe in a Friday crucifixion and not a Wednesday crucifixion.
The Jewish Encyclopedia comments on inclusive reckoning of time when it comes to circumcision: “A short time in the morning of the seventh day is counted as the seventh day; circumcision takes place on the eighth day, even though, of the first day only a few minutes after the birth of the child, these being counted as one day.” Vol. 4, p. 475.
When it comes to scheduling a babies circumcision, you do not wait for the 168 hours included in 7 days, you count the portion of a day as the day. If the child was born in the last hour of a day, that is still the first day of the counting.
When Jesus said “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 ESV), He wasn’t saying that Jonah was in the fish for 72 hours or that He would be in the tomb 72 hours. He was saying that both He and Jonah will share in their experiences for the better part of 3 days.
We see this same usage of inclusive reckoning of time with Esther when she said to Mordecai “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king…” (Esther 4:16). Esther didn’t literally mean 72 hours because in Esther 5:1 we read “On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace” meaning sometime on that third day.
John 19:31-32 records “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. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead” (ESV).
When we come to Luke we get a quick view of the three days of which Jesus spoke, “It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb…” (Luke 23:54-24:2 ESV).
After preparing the spices on the Preparation Day (day of the crucifixion), and resting over the Sabbath (which that year was also a High Festival Sabbath), they came to the tomb with the spices they had prepared on the first day of the week (Sunday) to do their work of anointing. Three days from a Friday crucifixion to Sabbath to Sunday.
It is also important to remember that by Bible definition, a day begins at sunset and ends at sunset. So the start of the day is recognized as when the sun is set. It is a pattern that was set forth in creation week when God said, “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day” (Genesis 1:5 ESV).
A day, in Bible reckoning and actually not much different than today, in that it has two parts: nighttime and daytime. This is why in John 11:9 Jesus said, “Are there not twelve hours in the day?” He was referring to the daylight, although it was perfectly understood as a day.
Another interesting fact to consider when looking for evidence that Jesus rose on the first day is the story of Jesus joining up with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Luke says of this account of the road to Emmaus that it happened “that same day” as the resurrection (Luke 24:13) and one of them bemoaned that “today is the third day” that Messiah said He would be raised (Luke 24:21).
Finally, let me address a piece of the puzzle that is also associated with the Wednesday crucifixion theory. A Sabbath resurrection. If you count a literal 72 hours in order to satisfied an insistence on a literal 3 days, then one would believe the resurrection to happen Sabbath afternoon. It’s hard to accept a Sabbath resurrection because the Sabbath is the seventh-day and the gospel writers clearly point to the first day of the week.
We could say that Jesus kept the Sabbath rest in the tomb. After all, through the resurrection he became the Sabbath rest for all humanity. The only thing that happen at the tomb on that Sabbath was the Roman soldiers came to guard it and seal the stone to prevent Jesus from being resurrected.
Matthew 27:62-66 shares this account, “Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation…” which means on the seventh-day Sabbath “the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.”
If Jesus would have been resurrected on the seventh-day Sabbath, we would have just celebrated Resurrection Sabbath, not Resurrection Sunday, and we wouldn’t have a Good Friday would we?
As a general rule of thumb, it is a good practice to take the text of Scripture literally, unless their is clear evidence in the context or corresponding insights and passages supported in Scripture to take it spiritually or otherwise. And in the case of the Wednesday crucifixion and 3 days and 3 nights, it is prudent to take it otherwise.
A year ago I put together a timeline of the events for a brief Pastoral Notes email tited “Easter Events Timeline” and you can look at that at: https://www.crosshopechapel.org/easter-events-timeline/.