Today is Wednesday. On a Wednesday nearly two thousand years ago, the disciples of Jesus were preparing for Passover, not knowing that Jesus, "Lamb of God," was about to become the true Passover Lamb.
Twenty-some years ago, someone rocked my preconceptions about Good Friday, asserting that Jesus actually died on Thursday. Today is your turn to be challenged. (If you wish to bypass the relevant details of the Jewish calendar, skip down to the red letters.)
" 'The Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on the fifteenth day of the same month. You will eat bread made without yeast for seven days. On the first day of this feast you will have a holy meeting, and you must not do any work. For seven days you will bring an offering made by fire to the Lord. There will be a holy meeting on the seventh day, and on that day you must not do any regular work.' "
~ Leviticus 23:6-8 (NCV)
Although our society changes the calendar date at midnight, the Jewish day begins a few hours earlier at sundown. Our month is aligned with the sun, according to the Gregorian calendar. The Jewish month is aligned with the moon, beginning on the day when the new moon is visible at dusk. (A lunar month is 29.6 days long, so the Jewish calendar month is either 29 or 30 days long, and a "leap month" is added when necessary.) The first month of the year, Abib (Exodus 12:2 & 13:4; also called Nisan, Esther 3:7), began with the first new moon of spring. Important to note is that the New Moon is among numerous biblical feast days celebrated as a Sabbath, in addition to the regular Sabbath on the seventh day of the week.
During the week of Jesus' last days, the tenth of the Abib was on a Sunday, when each Passover Lamb was selected and brought to the household, in accordance with Exodus 12:3-5. (Sunday was also the day when Jesus was brought to Jerusalem.)
The fourteenth of the month—Passover—was on a Thursday, which began at dusk at the end of the day on Wednesday. The fifteenth of the month was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6, above), which occurred on a Friday and was an additional Sabbath. Saturday was also the regular Sabbath. As commonly occurred, that Passover included back-to-back Sabbaths, so no work could be done for two days straight.
Why does any of this matter?
But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 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."
~ Matthew 12:39-40 (NKJV)
Our traditions observe the Last Supper at the end of the day on Thursday and our Lord's crucifixion on (Good) Friday. But all four Gospels attest that the resurrection occurred on the first day of the week, Sunday. No matter how you count the days and nights, Jesus could only fulfill His own prophecy by being killed on Thursday—His tomb undisturbed for three nights (not two) because of a "double" Sabbath.
Thus Wednesday was the day of Jesus and His disciples preparing for Passover, and Scripture describes only that activity on this day.
When this was first explained to me, I resisted the notion that Good Friday could be any other day of the week. It seemed blasphemy. Christian tradition held me tight. Then Jesus—the Word of God—started challenging just about every area of my life, including things held dear. And I learned to let God's Word and Spirit trump my preconceptions.
One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.
~ Romans 14:5-6 (NKJV)
I still observe Jesus' death on Good Friday with fellow Christians. I love celebrating a Maundy Thursday meal when I get the opportunity. I believe with all my heart that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead. The day is honestly no big deal. What's important to me is the life of my Lord Jesus, not the day of the week.
More important yet is that I have hope because I have faith in Jesus. Because there is no hope at all in this world apart from believing that Jesus means what He says, and trusting Him to fulfill His every Word.
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Copyright 2013, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved. Dependence on God, Hope, Word of God
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- Jesus' Last Days VI – Preparing for Passover
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- Jesus' Last Days IV – King Jesus
- Jesus' Last Days III – Acclaim
- Jesus' Last Days II – Fragrance of Love
- Jesus' Last Days I – Son of David
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