Have you ever read the biblical account of the death and resurrection of Jesus and wondered how the Friday night to Sunday morning tradition makes sense? Jesus did say three days and three nights…

“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

So why do we celebrate the events as being Friday night to Sunday morning? That is only two nights and one day!

Starting with some of the easier information we can gather from scripture, we can pinpoint with reasonable certainty some of the events that have to be lined up to define the crucifixion day.

  • Jesus tells us it will be three days and three nights (as we read above, Matthew 12:40)
  • Jesus gives up his spirit and dies at the ninth hour on the day of his crucifixion (Mark 15:33)
  • Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb early on the first day of the week (Sunday) and finds Jesus alive from the dead (Mark 16:9)

Feasts of the LORD to take note of:

The Sabbath – The seventh day of the week (Saturday) Leviticus 23:3

14th Nisan – Passover, at twilight (Leviticus 23:5)
15th Nisan – The feast of Unleavened Bread (7 days, 15th-21st but the 1st and 7th day are proclaimed as holy convocations)
16th Nisan – Feast of Firstfruits

Nisan is the name of the first month of the year on the Jewish calendar, the Gregorian equivalent‎ to ‎March–April. God commanded in Leviticus 23 that the feast of Unleavened Bread was to be proclaimed as “holy convocations” making it one of three major feasts on which all males of Israel were required to travel to the temple in Jerusalem (Exodus 23:14-19). Very similar to a weekly Sabbath where no ordinary work was to be done, just with the added travel and a specific commemoration of a historical event. Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread celebrate how God took the people of Israel out of Egypt. These feast days can be referred to as High Sabbaths and that is the wording I have used on the chart below.

Three days and three nights

Why is Friday considered to be the day Jesus was crucified? I do not know, it is hard work piecing the Wednesday viewpoint together. However, there are good scholars on both sides. I just go back to what Jesus said in Matthew 12:40 – Three days and three nights.

My purpose in discussing this topic is to encourage all of us to think about the traditions we hold. More often than not traditions are not always accurate as to what scripture says. It is our responsibility to read it and discover God’s word for ourselves.

On Friday, my family and I will enjoy the day off work and remember the sacrifice that Jesus made in dying on the cross for us. The matter of whether it was Wednesday or Friday is not the focus as much as that he did it! He died that I might live, he paid the price so I do not have to!

And the best bit is that He has risen and the tomb is empty.