The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ*
For 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
If you believe that Christ is the Messiah, then he had to fulfill all the prophecies concerning such. He had to fulfill them to the letter as that was criteria to establish the fact that He WAS and IS the Messiah.
Was the Last Supper and the Crucifixion
Mark says, "Now when the even [i.e., sunset was approaching] was come [after Christ had died], because it was the preparation [of the Passover lamb], that is, the day before the sabbath [the first day of the Feast of unleavened Bread, which began at sunset after the Passover lamb had been slain], Joseph of Arimathaea. . . went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus" (15:42,43). Luke agrees: "And that day was the preparation, and the [special] sabbath drew on" (23:53). John gives even more detail:
"Then led they [the rabbis] Jesus from Caiaphas unto the [Roman] hall of judgment. . . and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover [so it hadn't been eaten as yet]. And it was the preparation of the Passover. . . . The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day (for that sabbath day was an high day [i.e., the first day of unleavened bread]), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away" (John 18:28; 19:14,31)
So, the Passover lambs were indeed being slain at the very time that Christ, the Lamb of God who fulfilled all of the relevant Old Testament types and prophecies, died on the cross. How, then, could Christ have "taken the Passover" with His disciples the night before? He didn't. The Last Supper did indeed occur the night before the crucifixion, but it was not the Passover. This often overlooked fact is clear from John's account, which is a bit more precise.
While the other gospels refer to "the sabbath" drawing nigh, John alone explains that the sabbath which began at sunset the day Christ was crucified "was a high day". In other words, it was not the ordinary weekly sabbath which always began at sunset. It was, in fact, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (the fifteenth of Nisan), of which the first and last days were special sabbaths during which no work was to be done (Exodus 12:14-16).
John also clarifies the fact that the "last supper" was not the Passover: "Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come. . . supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot. . . to betray him." So the "last supper" actually took place the night before the Passover. How could it have taken place both "the first day of unleavened bread" and "before the feast of the Passover"?
Although technically the Feast of Unleavened Bread began with the fifteenth of Nisan after sunset of the fourteenth (the Passover lamb was slain just before sunset, roasted, and eaten that night), the days of unleavened bread were also counted from the fourteenth of Nisan because the eating of unleavened bread began "on the fourteenth day of the month at evening" (Exodus 12:18). Though they were two seperate feasts, the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread were treated as one inasmuch as they overlapped. The Passover lamb, though "prepared" (i.e., slain and the roasting process begun) just before sunset on the fourteenth, was not eaten until that night, which was then the fifteenth.
What day of the week was Nisan 14? While we refer to Nisan 10 as Sunday, it began on Saturday after sunset when the sabbath ended. Remember, the Jewish day begins at sunset. Thus Nisan 11 began at sunset Sunday, the twelfth Monday, the thirteenth Tuesday, and Nisan 14, the day of preparation, began Wednesday at sunset. The "last supper," then, took place Wednesday night, the beginning of Nisan 14, which was called the day of preparation. The following afternooon, in the "evening" of Nisan 14, the Passover lambs were slain shortly before sunset. Christ was on the cross and "gave up the ghost" at the same time that Thursday afternoon.
Thursday? Not "Good Friday"? Indeed not. A Friday crucifixion doesn't fit the facts. Not only the prophecies but the Old Testament types as well had to be fulfilled. One of those types was known as "the sign of the prophet Jonas [Jonah]." It required Jesus to in the grave "three days and three nights."
Three Days and Three Nights
Obviously, had Christ been crucified on Friday, He couldn't possibly have spent three days and three nights in the grave by Sunday morning. The verification of that fact is simple. What was left of Friday afternoon can be counted as day one. All day Saturday is day two. Friday and saturday nights until dawn Sunday total two nights. The period comes up short by one day and one night.
Even counting a few minutes of Sunday morning as the third day would not suffice. There would still be one night missing. Furthermore, no part of the day on Sunday may be counted because we are distinctly told that the angel rolled away the stone "as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week" (Matthew 28:1). The tomb was already empty at that point, so Christ must have risen from the dead sometime prior to dawn. How long before we are not told.
Christ was born "when the fullness of time was come [i.e., at the time God had foreordained]" (Galatians 4:4). His death and resurrection also took place at the exact time God decreed. In like manner, His Second Coming will take place at the precise time foreordained by God. We are all witnesses to Gods time table and let it be a testimony to the accuracy of His Word and the fulfillment of His promises...
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graphic by Michael J. Harris