Many don’t realize there are more sabbaths described in the Old Testament than simply every 7th day of the week. In addition, it is helpful to understand that the Hebrew days were counted from sunset to sunset rather than midnight to midnight as they are in modern times. Putting these things together may serve to clear up some obvious confusion regarding the day the Lord Jesus was crucified.
Hopefully, this chart will be an encouragement to read and study this topic. Not so you will simply be better informed about the timing of these events. I honestly don’t believe it is all that consequential whether we believe His death was on “Thursday” or “Friday.” It is essential, however, to believe that the Lord Jesus died and then rose from the dead “according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4). And it is my belief that when one sees the beauty and precision of the Scriptures, he is built up in his/her faith.
It has confused countless people over the centuries to say that Friday to Sunday is 3 days. It’s not. No matter how you count it, it’s not 3 days. Is the Scripture wrong? Was the Lord Jesus wrong in his prophesy in Mat 12:40? Or is, maybe, the centuries old tradition wrong?
Who could say how any tradition really starts? And who cares. It is undeniably wise for us to study the Scriptures for ourselves and to question any traditions that seem to contradict the written Word of God. Through prayerful and patient study of God’s Word you will either confirm the tradition is correct, or you will discover the tradition is wrong. Either way, you will be built up in your knowledge of God’s Word — and hopefully, as a result, be drawn closer to the Savior (all Scripture is really about Him!). And isn’t this really His desire? (see The Meaning of Life)
By way of example, studying the “Feasts of Jehovah” from Leviticus 23 is what lead me to a better understanding of the timing of the crucifixion. But more than that, in the process, I learned tons of other things. Some of them are discussed on this web site: see The Last Trump, The Rapture (and for some more on the Sabbaths, What’s this Sabbath all about?)
Here is an explanation of some relevant verses:
John 19:14 — “And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!” Preparation “of“ the passover, not “for“ the passover. In addition to the passover meal and all that would happen on that specific feast day, the day of passover was considered a day of preparation for the 1st day of the feast of unleavened bread (the following day). It’s when the people would have gone through every nook and cranny of their houses to get rid of all traces of leaven.
Mark 14:12 — “And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?” and also Luke 22:7 — “Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed.” Note the wording: “the day of unleavened bread”. It doesn’t say “feast day” or the first day of the feast or anything like that. These verses actually help clarify their language use for us. As the preparation day for the feast the passover became known as the “day of unleavened bread” as that was a very big part of what went on during the passover day.
Luke 22:1 — “Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover.” Luke is using some common language of the day. Just like many people today refer to December as “Christmas time” people back then referred to that 7 day feast as simply “passover” as in the “passover season” (which I’ve heard modern Jewish people use in modern days). Also note Luke’s phrase, “called passover” as though he’s simply referring to the feast time in the way the people then commonly did. It’s called passover, not that it is passover.
Mat 26:17 — “Now the first [day] of the [feast of] unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?” Removing words added by the KJV translators which are set off in brackets above (see also some other english translations such as the Darby translation) and considering the definition of the Greek word for “first” (protos) which can mean “to go before” we have full consistency with the other Scriptures.
Finally I would like to reference a book by sir Robert Anderson called, “The Coming Prince.” This book is not about this topic. The author shows that the timing related to the prophesy of the coming Messiah in Daniel 9:25 works out exactly to the day when the Lord Jesus entered Jerusalem as recorded in Matthew 21. In the process the author, in passing, indicates that passover that year fell on what we would call Wednesday night to Thursday. See chapter 10.