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What Day Did Jesus Die?
Publish date: Jun 8, 2009
Summary: Follow this study of Mark to the truth about what day Jesus died.
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There is controversy among some Christians about the true day of Jesus’ death. Most people believe that Jesus died on a Friday, but some (Wednesday Crucifixionists) believe that Jesus actually died on a Wednesday. Part of the reason for this belief is that Jesus mentions that, "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" (Matt 12:40 NKJV). This could mean that Jesus would have died on Wednesday, in order to be entombed for three literal days and three literal nights (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday), and rise on Sunday. Other variations of this belief also exist.
The Hebrews and other ancient peoples used "inclusive reckoning," meaning that part of the day is counted as a "day." And the Bible lists several periods of "three days" that ended during, not after, the third day, and thus covered less than three full 24-hour days (Gen 42:17-19, for one example). So for Jesus to keep His own time reckoning, He Himself would have "rested" on the seventh-day holy Sabbath, and arisen quite early on the first day of the week. We cannot rightly interpret the Bible if we do not take into account the meaning of words in Biblical days, nor their methods of accounting or speaking of time.
But can we discern from the Scriptures on which day Jesus really died? To do so, we take a look at the book of Mark.
In Mark 10:32-34, Jesus is on His way up to Jerusalem. He tells His disciples, "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: and they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again."
On the same day, He talks to James and John about sitting on His right hand and left hand, and then restores Bartimaeus' sight. In Mark 11:1, He is approaching Jerusalem "unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives."
Let us call this Day #1. We don't know which day it is yet, but we shall count it as the first day of our count. Mark 11:2-11 describes what Jesus does for the rest of that day. He rides on the colt into Jerusalem and goes into the temple. In verse 11, it was evening, the end of this day, and He goes to Bethany to stay with the twelve disciples perhaps at Martha and Mary’s house.
In verse 12 of Mark 11, we see that it is the next day "on the morrow," and Jesus is hungry for breakfast as they are coming from Bethany. As they pass a barren fig tree, Jesus curses the tree, and goes down to Jerusalem, where He cleanses the temple for the second time in His ministry, and teaches the people. This was Day #2. Verse 19 states that "when even was come, he went out of the city" and stayed somewhere for the night.
Mark 11:20 tells us that, "in the morning,” meaning the beginning of Day #3, Jesus goes again to the city of Jerusalem, and the day is a busy one. First the disciples notice that the fig tree Jesus had cursed has shrivelled. The priests, scribes, and elders question Him about what authority He uses to do His miracles. He tells a parable, the Pharisees try "to catch him in his words" (Mark 12:13) using various questions and arguments.
Then Jesus goes to the treasury and watches people cast in their money and He comments on the widow's mite. He then gives the disciples a list of signs to watch for that will transpire before His Second Coming. All the things He discusses with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes is found in Mark chapter 12. In Mark 13, He goes to the Mount of Olives after the altercation with the Pharisees, probably to rest and get away from the harassment. There he talks to Peter, James, John, and Andrew privately about the signs of His Second Coming. The rest of the chapter records what He said.
Mark 14:1 is the next day (Day #4), and the Bible tells us that the Passover is two days away. On this day, Mary anoints Jesus with her "alabaster box of ointment of spikenard" (Mark 14:3) at a special dinner made in Jesus’ honor, and Judas Iscariot makes a pact with the chief priests to betray Jesus.
In verse 12 of Mark 14, we find Day #5, which is the first day of unleavened bread when the Jews kill the Passover lamb. On this day, the disciples rent an upper room, and there they hold the last supper Jesus has with His disciples before His death. On that same night, Jesus goes to Gethsemane and spends agonizing hours in prayer while His disciples sleep. Then Judas comes with a "great multitude with swords and staves" (Mark 14:43), and kisses Him. The mob then arrests Jesus, and His disciples all forsake Him (verse 50). Then follows Jesus' night trial before the chief priests at which they condemn Him to death. It is during this trial that Peter denies Jesus three times. Jesus is then lowered into the pit for the night.
Day 6 begins in Mark 15:1. “Straightway in the morning" Jesus is taken to Pilate, then to Herod, then to Pilate again until finally Pilate agrees to sign the death sentence, and orders that Jesus be crucified. At the sixth hour darkness covers the whole land until the ninth hour, and at the ninth hour, Jesus cries "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?"
Shortly thereafter, Jesus dies (verses 33-37). Mark says in verse 42 “Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath". The word used in Mark 15:42 for "the preparation day" is the word used only for the day before the seventh-day Sabbath (or Saturday). The preparation day therefore is Friday—therefore, the day that Jesus died. On that same day, according to Mark, Jesus is taken down and quickly wrapped and placed in Joseph of Arimathaea's new tomb, so that He does not hang on the cross over the Sabbath.
The day in between Mark 15:47 and Mark 16:1 is the seventh-day Sabbath. Nothing is written about this day, but Mark 16:1-2 tells us that, "when the Sabbath was past... very early in the morning the first day of the week...at the rising of the sun," three women go back to the tomb to anoint Jesus with spices (because they hadn’t been able to finish that work when He died on Friday since the Sabbath was approaching, and they wanted to keep the Sabbath holy). This is Day #7 in our count.
Mark 16:1 says: "Now when the Sabbath was past,..."" which makes it the first day of the week. The first day of the week, which would have been a Sunday, we label as Day #8, the day that Jesus rose from the grave.
If we calculate backwards then, Day #8 was the Sunday of the resurrection, the day after the Sabbath, the first day of the week. Day #7 was the Sabbath of which nothing was written because Jesus was resting, and His disciples were sorrowing. Day #6 would have been Friday, the Preparation Day, the day on which Jesus breathed His last. Day #5 would have been Thursday, the day of the last supper and Gethsemane. Day #4 was clearly Wednesday in our progression. Day #3 Tuesday. Day #2 Monday, and Day #1 - the day we started our count with was the previous Sunday, the day on which Jesus entered triumphantly into Jerusalem. This entire week was Passover and Jesus, the Passover Lamb, died as per the Jewish customs and to fulfill prophecy.
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