Death and Resurrection of Jesus

The death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah is the most important historical event to ever happen.  For without it, there would be no means of salvation from our sins.  But there is a lot of confusion among Christians about when Jesus died and rose again.  We will be using only the Bible to determine the proper timing of both the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the exact amount of time that he spent in the grave.  This will require an understanding of God's Law as everything that Jesus did was in accordance with the Law.

Refuting Friday-Saturday-Sunday

According to tradition, Jesus was crucified on Friday and was buried before sundown, which would start the Sabbath.  The law requires the bodies of those who are hung to be buried before sundown [Deuteronomy 21:22-23].  This is counted as Jesus' first day in the grave.  The passages used to support this claim are (ironically) Matthew 12:40 and John 19:31.

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. [Matthew 12:40; NIV]

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath.  Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. [John 19:31; NIV]

Take note of what I have emphasized, as it will become important later on.  According to tradition, Jesus spent all day and all night on Saturday (the Sabbath) in the grave.  This is counted as the second day.  And finally, it is claimed that Jesus spent most of Sunday night in the grave (days start the night before), rising just before sunrise on that day.  And this is counted as the third day by tradition.  But let's take a look at how this compares to what Jesus said about being in the grave three days and three nights.

Friday Saturday Sunday
Night Day Night Day Night Day
Last Supper Crucifixion 1 Night 1 Day 2 Nights Resurrection and
Preparation Day Sabbath  

As you can see from the table above, if Jesus died on Friday and was buried just before sunset, and then rose on Sunday just before sunrise, he would only be in the grave one day and two nights.  There are two whole daylight periods and one period of darkness missing from his time in the grave.  This tradition is clearly not in line with what Jesus said.  We will prove from Scripture that Jesus died on Wednesday, and rose from the dead when the sun set to end the Sabbath.

Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread

Jesus' last supper was the Passover meal.  Jesus ate the Passover meal with his Disciples during the evening, and then was crucified the next morning with all of the other Passover lambs.  According to the Law, the day after Passover is to be the first of seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  And the first and seventh days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread are special Sabbaths [Leviticus 23:4-8].  Evidence from the Gospels and the book of Acts indicates that Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were treated as synonymous.

As shown in John 19:31 (quoted above), the day that Jesus died was a preparation day for a special Sabbath.  This is different from the weekly Sabbath that Christians usually think about when discussing the death of Jesus.  This special Sabbath is exactly what we would expect to find if Jesus died on Passover.  It also means that Jesus could have been crucified anywhere between Sunday and Friday if no other passages are taken into account.

Feast of First Fruits

According to the Law, the first day of the week that follows Passover is the Feast of Unleavened Bread [Leviticus 23:10-11].  And Jesus was the first fruits of those who have "fallen asleep" [1 Corinthians 15:20].  Because of this, Jesus would rise on the first day of the week (just as the sun went down to end the Sabbath), after spending a total of three days and three nights in the grave.  The Feast of First Fruits will always follow the weekly Sabbath that follows Passover.  Now we have all the pieces we need to determine when Jesus really died and when he really rose from the dead.

True Timing of Jesus' Death and Resurrection

Since we know that Jesus was buried just before sundown on a Special Sabbath, in order to spend three days and three nights in the grave, he must also have risen at sundown.  The day that he was buried on would not count as a day in the grave.

Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Night Day Night Day Night Day Night Day Night Day
and Burial
1 Night 1 Day 2 Nights 2 Days 3 Nights 3 Days Resurrection Discovery of
Passover and
Preparation Day
Unleavened 1
Special Sabbath
Unleavened 2 Unleavened 3
Weekly Sabbath
Unleavened 4
Feast of First Fruits

As we can see from the above table, Jesus dying on Wednesday, being buried before sunset, and then rising from the dead at sunset at the end of the weekly Sabbath is the only way to fulfill everything that Jesus was and everything that Jesus said he would do.  We can also see that the tradition of "Friday-Saturday-Sunday" is refuted by the very passages used to support that tradition.  The above table is the result of using only Scripture to determine the timing of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.