He Must Suffer Many Things

This sermon outlines the intricately interwoven events of the Passion week in a way that helps us to stand in awe of God's providence, wisdom, grace, and power. In the process it also helps to settle a number of controversial issues related to the chronology of that week that atheists have claimed were contradictions.

Categories: Jesus Christ › Passion and Trial and Death Salvation › Cross

Back in 2011 I introduced you to the Thursday crucifixion theory (which is what I hold to). It is one of three evangelical theories of what the last ten days of Christ’s life looked like before His death. And you may not realize it, but for theologians, the last ten days of Christ’s life is one of the most difficult chronologies to wrap your head around. Now personally, I love those kinds of challenges. But usually I hesitate to involve you in any of the detailed work that goes into solving those puzzles. But I made an exception in 2011, and I’m going to make another stab at it today.

So, rather than starting my series on the book of Revelation this week and then immediately interrupting it for four weeks, I thought I would introduce the Passion Week this Sunday, then look at the victorious nature of Palm Sunday next week, and then look at how the resurrection of Jesus is beginning of the making of all things new. And then I will be taking off for my yearly two writing weeks. So logically, it made sense to start the Revelation series after all of that. So to those of you who are disappointed, there is a good reason for holding that series off.

Now, you are going to have to put on your thinking caps this morning. But I have tried to make it easier. I have duplicated a chart that I made five years ago that gives a scoreboard for each of the three theories to see if one of them meets every controverted detail presented to us in the Gospels. And it is my hope that you will walk away from this sermon with a new appreciation for the inerrancy of Scripture and the beautiful way that the Passion Week is woven together.

The passage we just read says that Jesus must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. We are going to look at some of those many things today that have perplexed scholars. And I start from the presupposition that there is a divine “must” to the precise ordering of every event in the next few days. If any one detail is missing, it messes up a bunch of other details.

Mark 14:2 says that the Pharisees didn’t actually want to kill Jesus till after the Festival was finished and after the crowds were all gone. And the reason given is that they didn’t want to start a riot. But Jesus had to go through every day of the Passion Week because it had been prophesied 1500 years earlier. Luke says that He went as it had been determined. Verse 27 of that same chapter spoke of the hour that He should be glorified and Mark 13:1 spoke of the hour that He should leave the world. Everything about that week was perfectly timed down to the hour. And on at least three of the events, down to the minute. It sends shivers up and down my spine when I see the amazing synchronization of events during Passion Week. And I hope by the end of this sermon that you stand in awe of God’s planned redemption. I certainly do.

But here’s the thing. Satan tries to spoil everything precious about Scripture. Satan relentlessly attacks everything that is important in the bible, starting with Genesis chapter 1. And the timing of the Passion Week has come under relentless attack from unbelievers. It has been the timing of the events that has caused many professing believers to question the inerrancy of Scripture. It has been the timing of the Passion Week that has caused pastors like Dan Barker to leave the faith and become atheists. Now I don’t for a moment buy the idea that these supposed contradictions made him leave the faith. There was a whole lot more going on within his evil bad heart than thinking problems. He had thinking problems, but that wasn’t the only issue. But it did bother me that he could say that none of his evangelical pastors were able to answer the apparent contradictions in the Passion Week. This is an important issue, and many evangelicals are wavering on it. Here is how one evangelical commentator, John Wenham, words it:

Now it so happens that the story of Jesus’ resurrection is told by five different writers, whose accounts differ from each other to an astonishing degree. [This is an evangelical talking here. He says that the “accounts differ from each other to an astonishing degree.”] So much so that distinguished scholars one after another have said categorically that the five accounts (Paul’s included) are irreconcilable. Going back to the last century, the great radical P.W. Schmiedel, said: “The Gospels ... exhibit contradictions of the most glaring kind. Reimarus ... enumerated ten contradictions; but in reality their number is much greater.” Even the doughty conservative, Henry Alford, wrote: “Of all harmonies, those of the incidents of these chapters are to me the most unsatisfactory ... they seem to me to weaken instead of strengthening the evidence ... I have abandoned all idea of harmonizing throughout.”1

I know that is not a very cheerful way to start a sermon. But I am very cheerful about the Passion Week chronology. I’ve read all the objections, and I can say with absolute confidence that they harmonize in a most glorious way on every detail.

Let’s start by mentioning the three theories of the day of Christ’s crucifixion. You can see these listed on page 3 of your bulletin inserts. The headings of the right hand column say Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. And those represent the three theories of which day Jesus died on. Did He die on Wednesday, on Thursday, or on Friday? If you only read one Gospel’s crucifixion account, the Friday theory makes sense. The text says that the next day was a Sabbath day. Since the Jewish weekly Sabbath was a Saturday, it was assumed that he was crucified on Friday, stayed in the grave on Saturday, and rose on Sunday. So what’s the controversy? It seems like it is pretty straightforward, doesn’t it?

Well, all down through history, theologians who have wrestled deeply with the text have torn their hair out trying to reconcile a Friday crucifixion with dozens of other facts that are laid out in the Gospels. If you hold to a Friday crucifixion, it messes up the number of days that the Gospels count down from Nisan 10 to the resurrection. It messes up Palm Sunday and makes it Palm Monday, unless you can insert a day into the record that the Gospels say nothing about, and that liberals have been quick to pounce upon as a desperate measure. If you hold to the version of the Friday theory that has Jesus crucified on the day that the lambs are slain, Nisan 14, then it messes up the year of his death, making it either impossibly early or impossibly late. If you believe that he was crucified in 30 AD, where most scholars believe He had to have died (I do too), then it completely messes up other parts of the week if you say He died on Friday. It messes up the prophetic significance of the time when the lambs are set apart, the presentation before the temple, and His anointing. But if he died a day later on Nisan 15 (as some newer scholars have claimed in order to try to reconcile certain passages with a Friday theory), then the specific Passover meal that He ate had lamb, something that the Gospels seem to deny and something that messes up the institution of the Lord’s Supper, which is a meatless meal. It also keeps Christ from fulfilling the Passover Calendar timing of dying when the lambs die.

Now, I will hasten to say that there are other timing issues that the Friday theory can get right. But as I painstakingly reevaluated all three theories that have historically been held by the church, I came to once again appreciate the incredible beauty and symmetry that happens when you adopt a Thursday crucifixion in the year 30 AD. A few years ago, Time Life magazine had an article that tried to show how impossible the chronology of the passion week is. Of course, they were assuming a Friday crucifixion. But every one of their so-called contradictions completely evaporate on the Thursday scenario. So there are going to be two points to this sermon. The first point answers the question of what day Jesus died on, and the second point gives an overview of the beautiful symmetry that results if you understand the proper answer to that first question.

Now if you think that Phil Kayser is doing a big sales job for why you need to listen to boring chronology, you are wrong. This is not just a sermon for egg-heads. This is a sermon that helps us to once again glory in the fact that Jesus went as it had been determined and that He must suffer every one of the things that happened in the next ten days. And when I say “many,” it was many. He perfectly fulfilled over 100 Old Testament prophecies, and did so in a way that would turn the world upside down. But if I don’t deal first with the issue of what day He was crucified on, you will miss a great deal of it. And you will not have the answers needed to deal with liberal critics, or the doubts of fellow Christians.

How a Thursday crucifixion answers the so-called “contradictions” that liberals insist are in the Passion Week accounts.

Let’s start by trying to describe one of the problems. The liberals have repeatedly objected that Matthew 27:63, Mark 8:31 and John 2:19 all say that Christ would be in the grave for three days, yet on the Friday theory Christ would have been dead an absolute maximum of 39 hours, and would have been in the grave much less time than that. From 3 p.m., the time of Christ’s death to 3 p.m. on Saturday is 24 hours. 3 p.m. Saturday to 6 am Sunday (the very latest that He could have been resurrected) would be another 15 hours. Liberals object that 39 hours is a tad bit shy of 72 hours, and they scoff. They say that the Bible is wrong. He wasn’t in the grave for three days.

Actually, this objection has been fairly easily answered by those who hold to the traditional Friday view. And I think sometimes the Wednesday and Thursday theory people have been unfair to them. In Jewish counting, days were usually numbered inclusively, counting the first day and the last day. So three days does not have to mean three 24 hour periods starting with when He was buried, as the Wednesday theory insists. It can mean any period of time that runs over those three calendar days. So part of Friday, all of Saturday and part of Sunday does count as three days. So that first objection is really not an issue. I wouldn’t even be preaching this sermon if that was the only objection.

But if you look at Matthew 12:40, there is one Scripture that the Friday theory simply cannot answer with regard to those three days. And if you turn to page 3, this is the first point on that chart. Now, I have looked at every imaginable defense of the Friday theory, and it simply will not work. In Matthew 12:40 Jesus said, “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.” That’s different than simply saying, “three days.” There has to be at least parts of three daylight periods and at least parts of three nighttime periods. Since John 20:1 says that Jesus rose while it was still dark on Sunday morning, that means that on the Friday theory, Jesus would only have been in the grave a small portion of Friday daylight and all of Saturday’s daylight (there’s two days), and he would have been in the grave Friday night and Saturday night (that’s two full nights). So even counting inclusively, you only get two days and two nights.

And let me just explain the difference between counting inclusively or counting exclusively. If fence posts are being placed every twenty feet along a 1000 foot road, how many fence posts would you need? Well, 20 goes into 1000 50 times, but if you only buy 50 fence posts, you will be one short, because there is a fence post at the beginning and at the ending of the road. So you need 51 posts. That’s counting inclusively, and we do that quite frequently. There is nothing strange about that whatsoever. On calendars, you can count inclusively or exclusively. You can count the start date or leave it out. That has always been true in ancient times as well as in modern times. On Sunday I could say, “I am leaving in two days” and you would probably think “Tuesday.” That’s counting exclusively. Both ways of counting are legitimate. And here’s the point - almost all the so-called mistakes that people talk about are simply the difference between counting inclusively or counting exclusively. One is not right and the other wrong. They are just different ways of counting the same thing. And if you need more information on that, you can go to Wikipedia and look up inclusive counting and you will see different examples of how we commonly use both ways of counting, and consider both to be perfectly accurate.

So on the Wednesday theory, they try to answer the liberal by saying that Jesus was crucified on Wednesday and was in the grave three full 24 hour periods, adding up to exactly 72 hours. Of course, they have to say that Jesus rose on Saturday rather than Sunday. But aside from that, there is a certain logic to their position. They are counting exclusively. That is legitimate, if the text calls for it. But unfortunately, that creates its own set of problems as the chart shows. On your charts you will see that on the twenty Biblical anchors I have judged the theories on, the Wednesday theory only scores 9 out of a possible 20. But that is better than the Friday theory, which scores 6 out of 20. We are going for broke. We are going for a perfect score. And I am not going to take you through the whole chart, but let me at least get you started on what the Scoreboard is about.

1Jesus was “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt 12:40), not simply two days and two nights (as on the Friday theory).

How does the Thursday theory match up to Scoreboard #1 - “three days and three nights”? If you look at the chart on page 1 labeled “Christ’s Death at the Passover,” you will see that it does match. I’ve done it visually because Jewish days start at 6pm, and its hard to wrap your brain around that if you don’t see it in picture form. The dark blocks are night periods and the white blocks are day periods. There were three daytime periods and three nighttime periods in 30 AD if there was a Thursday crucifixion. Unlike the Friday theory where Jesus was in the grave parts of two days and two nights, on the Thursday crucifixion theory He was in the grave for three days and three nights.

2The sequence was days and nights, not nights and days (Matt. 12:40).2

But back to point 2 of our Scorecard (which is on page 3), does it meet the second criteria of the sequence of days, the sequence being three days and nights rather than three nights and three days? Yes it does. Jesus was clearly put into the grave before the Sabbath began while it was still light. He was put into the grave during the daylight hours. But the reference here is actually to Jesus’ soul being in the heart of the earth – in Sheol/Hades. That started at 3pm on Thursday. But either way you interpret it, His death and His burial are both during the first daylight period of time. Contrast that with the Wednesday theory, which insists that Jesus was put into the grave after twilight, and once the Sabbath had begun. Their sequence is three nights and three days. It’s only a small point, but since they pride themselves in being accurate down to the hour, we need to show that this is not the case. And I do believe in being accurate down to the hour.

3Our counting must be able to accommodate the fact that Jesus said He would be “killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31; cf. Matt 27:63).3

The third point on the Scorecard is that Mark 8:31 says that Jesus would be “killed, and after three days rise again.” That word “after” creates a huge problem for both the Wednesday and the Friday theories. The Wednesday theory bases its whole system on an exclusive counting method. In fact, there is no reason to believe in the Wednesday theory unless you hold that you can only count the days exclusively. But it also rules out the Friday system, which clearly cannot account for the resurrection being after three days on any form of counting. They try to make the “after” refer to after the capture, interrogation, and the kangaroo court trial, but the text is quite clear that it is counting from the death of Jesus, not His interrogation. If Jesus was buried late on Friday afternoon, Sunday is not after three days no matter how you slice it. But on a Thursday theory, it is. You have Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and after that comes Sunday. It’s a very natural method of counting.

4The phrases “after three days” (Mark 8:31; cf. Matt 27:63), “after two days…on the third day” (Hos. 6:2 – see 1Cor. 15:4), “in three days” (Matt 20:61; Mark 15:29; John 2:19), “within three days” (Mark 14:58), “the third day,” (Matt 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; Mark 9:31; 10:34; Luke 9:22; 13:32; 18:33; 24:7; 24:46; 1Cor. 15:4), and “on the third day” (Acts 10:40) show that both “inclusive” and “exclusive” counting systems are used in the Bible just as they are in our own day.4

But let’s move on. Liberals bring up the objection that one verse says He was raised “within three days” and another verse says that he was raised “after three days.” Oh, oh! They say that you can’t have it both ways. It’s either within or after; logically you can’t have it both. They think that is a clear contradiction. Well, on the surface it appears to be. But I would respond that liberals should have asked whether it is really credible that Mark is going to contradict himself so completely within the space of 37 verses? That seems extremely unlikely.

Mark himself says “after three days” in Mark 8:31, yet he very correctly records Jesus as saying that he would “rise the third day” in Mark 9:31. Two different people are speaking to two different audiences. Jesus was speaking exclusively and Mark was interpreting it inclusively. Mark does not explain it by changing Christ’s words. Mark quotes Christ’s words exactly as He said them (exclusively), and interprets what was meant and does so inclusively. By including both forms of counting in the Scripture, the Holy Spirit crystalizes the issue before us.

Both the Wednesday and the Friday theories fail to account for these different ways of wording things. It’s not just a perceived contradiction; it is a real contradiction on either the Wednesday or the Friday theories. And the problem with both of those theories is that they insist that Scripture can only count one way – either inclusively or exclusively. And my response is to ask, “Why? That’s rather arbitrary.” They are failing to take into consideration that the various Gospels were written to different audiences. Several Friday theory papers have insisted that inclusive counting is Hebrew and exclusive counting is Western. And generally speaking that is true. But on the fence post illustration, I showed how Westerners routinely use inclusive counting. On the other hand, I read one Wednesday advocate say “I can’t think of a single example of inclusive counting in Scripture.” But that is patently ridiculous. Every commentary that I own says that Luke 13:32 is an example of inclusive counting. Jesus said, “I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.” His counting explicitly includes today. When you include “today” it is always inclusive counting. Are you beginning to understand?

Both systems of counting were used in the Old and New Testaments just as both systems of counting are routinely used today. Neither a Jew nor a Roman would have been confused by either approach. But if you take an either/or false dichotomy to this counting, you simply will not be able to reconcile the phrases I have listed in your outline. The phrase "on the third day" rules out the Wednesday theory (whether you use inclusive or exclusive counting) and "after three days" rules out the Friday theory (whether you use inclusive or exclusive countring).

5Christ fulfilled a prophetic calendar that included a meatless Passover meal at the beginning of Nisan 14 (Ex. 12:18 with Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7), the slaying of the lambs before the end of Nisan 14 (Numb. 28:16; 2Chron. 30:15; 35:1 with Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7) and the Passover lamb scheduled to be eaten by other Jews the beginning of Nisan 15 (Numb. 28:17; see John 13:1-2).5 If Christ doesn’t die on Nisan 14, it is difficult to see any fulfillment of the calendar (only of the sacrifice).

The fifth point is that the Friday theory messes up a big chunk of the prophetic calendar. It didn’t use to. Scholars used to be unaware of some of the implications of the dates. But Edersheim tried to rescue a Friday theory by having Jesus crucified in 34 AD. And given that he didn’t have a computer to calculate all the lunar cycles backwards, it is remarkable that he was only off by a day. What a brilliant guy! He was an amazing scholar. But one day will mess up everything. And everyone who has used a computer calendar program agrees that he was off by one day. He was wrong. So if you try to use Edersheim to defend a Friday theory, your information is very outdated.

Once computer calculations of lunar cycles began to happen in 1973 and following, everyone knew that Edersheim had miscalculated, and 34 AD would simply not work for the date of Christ’s death. There are a lot of other problems with a 33 or 34 AD date too, so that most scholars have been absolutely convinced that Jesus died in 30 AD, no matter what problems that may pose. And I too hold to a 30 AD date. I think that is a pretty solid date. So that has forced a lot of new thinking, and I have had to read a lot of new papers defending a Friday theory. Most of them have ditched any attempt at making Jesus be crucified on Nisan 14. It simply will not work. Instead, they say that He was crucified the next day. But, while solving one problem, it opens up a plethora of other problems.

One of the problems is that Nisan 15, the day that they are now saying he was crucified on, was a high Sabbath – one of the most important Sabbaths in the year. And it is utterly inconsistent with all the non-Sabbatarian activities that the legalistic Jews were willing to engage in. Turn with me to John 19. In verse 31 it says, “Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day) [He’s explaining that this was not your usual Sabbath…] the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” The key thing to note is that these legalistic Jews didn’t want these three victims on their crosses during the Sabbath. And yet the Friday theory advocates who have been forced to a 30 AD crucifixion date would have us believe that those Jews were talking about the weekly Sabbath on Saturday, but that they had no problem with working on the Passover Sabbath that occurred on Friday in 30 AD. But if you look at how Jews treated the Passover Sabbath, that is simply not credible. A Sabbath was a Sabbath; you just didn’t do the kind of things that they were doing to Jesus on the Sabbath.

But even if it were OK for the to do all of this work on the Passover Sabbath, it still doesn’t fit what the text says. Look at verse 42: “So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.” They are in a real hurry. They don’t have time to do much more because the Sabbath was almost upon them. But the modern Friday Theory people who are trying to rescue the theory and still have it in 30 AD insist that it was the weekly Sabbath, not the Festival Sabbath that was upon them. But that just isn’t so. John has already defined which Day of Preparation he is talking about. Look at verse 14: “Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover.” This is not the Preparation Day for the weekly Sabbath. This was the Preparation Day for the Passover Sabbath, which was one of seven high Sabbaths in the year. And of course, verse 31 calls this particular Sabbath a high day. There is no way they could do this work on a high Sabbath.

So the day after Christ was crucified was clearly Nisan 15. There goes the Friday theory. If you look at the Jewish calendar for 30 AD you will find that Nisan 14 was a Thursday, Nisan 15 was a Friday, and Nisan 16 was a Saturday. It is inconceivable that Judas could be thought to go out to buy stuff on a Sabbath (that’s Scoreboard #8). Where is he going to buy anything? All of the stores are closed.min Israel it was illegal to have a store open on any Sabbath. Likewise, it is inconceivable that Nicodemus would be willing to buy linen on the Sabbath (on Nisan 15), let alone find someone who could sell linen to him on the Sabbath. That’s Scoreboard #9. If you are off by one day, it is like dominoes – everything falls apart.

One other interesting note is that both Matthew and Mark speak of more than one Sabbath prior to Sunday. It’s very interesting. But none of the Gospels speak of more than one day of Preparation. Did you get that? There is more than one Sabbath, but only one day of preparation. That means that the Sabbaths were back to back, which only happened in 30 AD. In 30 AD Friday was the Passover high day Sabbath and Saturday was the weekly Sabbath. So the day of preparation had to happen on Thursday.

John makes clear that Christ was crucified on the Preparation Day of Passover. So point #7 argues against the Wednesday theory too, since there is no evidence that there were two Days of Preparation - one on Wednesday and another on Friday. If the Wednesday theory were correct (and if He were crucified in a different year), both Wednesday and Friday should have been called Days of Preparation. This strongly suggests the two Sabbaths were not separated by a non-Sabbath Friday, but were back to back. And of course, in 30 AD the two Sabbaths were back to back. Friday was the 15th, a high Sabbath, and then Saturday obviously was the regular Sabbath. You would only need one Day of Preparation for both. The late James Montgomery Boice says of these two Sabbaths:

Matthew’s account of the events of the Resurrection morning begins, ‘In the end of the sabbaths (plural), as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week’ (Matt. 28:1). The plural ‘sabbaths’ has been a puzzle to many commentators and translators, who usually change it to the singular ‘sabbath.’ But the plural is completely explained if there were actually two Sabbaths, the Friday Passover Sabbath and the Saturday Sabbath, back to back.6

Let me try to wind down on this first section. If the Thursday crucifixion is correct, it makes a big difference. It means that Jesus partook of the first Passover meal on Nisan 14, not the Lamb Passover meal of Nisan 15. I guess we are backing up again to point 5 on the Scoreboard. If Jesus ate the Passover meal on Wednesday evening, at the beginning of Nisan 14, (as I believe) then he ate a meatless meal. The whole meal was a ceremony with bread and wine. The lambs would be slain about eight hours later on the same day - Nisan 14, then that lamb would be eaten when Nisan 15 began on Thursday evening. The same bread and wine was eaten on both days, but on Nisan 15 the lamb was the focus, not the bread. As we will see in a moment, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper with bread and wine alone because the next day He would be the final Lamb. He did not want competition, and he certainly did not want to permanently institute blood and meat for the Lord’s Table. From here on in, bread was to only symbolize the flesh and wine to symbolize the blood, just as water-baptism replaced the bloody symbol of circumcision. There were to be no more sacrifices once Jesus’ sacrifice was completed.

Here are some other things that would be messed up if you ignore the problems with AD 26 or AD 33 (and they are substantial) and you say that Jesus was crucified on Nisan 14. First, you have a Palm Monday instead of a Palm Sunday (so you aren’t supporting tradition either way you look at it) and it totally messes up the order of the week. And the only reason I mention tradition is that it is the Friday theory’s biggest argument. But here’s the problem, if you look at the last section of the chart on page 4, you will see that none of the three theories 100% supports Western tradition. No theory does. So that's not really a strong argument.

But there is another problem with the newer Friday theory. You find that Jesus doesn’t die at the time the lambs die. He still is not in the tomb three days and three nights. And there are other problems for both Wednesday and Friday. On a 26 AD or 33 AD dating, the lambs would be slain two hours earlier than Jesus died, and the darkness would come two hours too late to stop the temple preparations for such sacrifices. It was uniquely on this year that the two Sabbaths were back to back, and it was in that circumstance alone that the sacrifice was made at 3 pm rather than 1pm.

And there is a whole pile more evidence that I won’t get into this morning that Thursday fits the timing for a New Covenant Institution, a new calendar, and focuses the attention on Jesus so exquisitely that I predict in a few more decades most evangelical scholars will adopt the Thursday theory. There are already a number who do, and several who aren’t sure what they believe any more, but say that Thursday needs to be reopened for discussion. Even former Friday advocates like Ernest Martin have switched to Thursday. It just makes sense. I won’t bore you with all the other 14 points, but they progressively build the case for a Thursday crucifixion. I wanted the chart to be more complete for your files. But let’s get on to the beauty of Passion Week as it was supposed to look. There is an incredible symmetry if you hold to a Thursday crucifixion. And I brought out some of these points a few years ago.

An overview of Passion Week to show that Jesus went just as it had been determined

Ten days before Christ was crucified, He was anointed with oil for His burial on the very day when Passover lambs were marked out and consecrated for death. And it was in the same area.

Over the next ten days those lambs had to be seen and examined every day to make sure that no blemishes occurred. And of course, every day of the next ten days is accounted for on a Thursday interpretation. Jesus was seen, and though He was accused of sin, they could find no wrong in Him. He was examined and found to be without blemish. In contrast, on the Friday interpretation there is one missing day, and some say two missing days.

Then there is the triumphal entry on Nisan 10. Why does Jesus walk to the temple? That was the day in which the lambs were herded to the temple. Josephus says that there were over 250,000 lambs led to the temple – crowding the streets as Jesus walked in the midst of those lambs toward the priests who would examine the lambs. And interestingly, far from finding blemish in Jesus, Jesus finds blemish in them and cleanses them out of His temple. No longer will Jesus allow these priests to legitimately perform their ceremonies. He is the last Lamb. But anyway, when you picture the Lamb of God walking in the midst of those 250,000 lambs, it gives added meaning to the emotion in Christ's words when he talks about his impending death in John 12. This was all very self-conscious. He was fulfilling prophecy in perfect synchronization with the festival rituals.

And if you look at the chart on the Passover Meaning, you will see that it all perfectly pointed to Jesus. This is on page 2. I will race through it. He was the lamb of God. He was a lamb without blemish. He was in his prime. He was anointed four days before His Passover. He was crucified on the 14th. Just as all Israel had to kill the lamb in Exodus 12:6, all Israel is accused of killing Jesus in the Gospels – just as you and I did with our sins. Just as the blood of the lamb was applied to the door posts, Scripture says that the blood of Christ must be applied to our lives and that it protects us from the destruction of God. It is a household redemption just as Christ redeemed entire households. Acts 3:25 says that Jesus would bless all the families of the earths even the New Covenant is a family covenant. Just as blood was applied on the threshold and those who stepped over the threshold left Egypt and committed themselves to the Lord and to His new kingdom, we do the same today, and when we refuse to do so and want to leave the church and return to the world, Hebrews 10:29 says, “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” If we go back over that threshold, we are trampling on His blood. Just as they had to stay inside the house to be protected in Exodus 12, we must remain in Christ’s household to be spared according to Hebrews. Just as they had to partake of the lamb, so too must we partake of Jesus. Just as they had to eat all of it, John 6 says to His complainers that we must partake of all of Him. We cannot pick and choose of which parts of Jesus we like. No, you take all of Jesus. The Jews in that chapter wanted Jesus as a provider, but not as Lord and not Savior from sin. But Jesus told them that they must partake of Him as He is, and if they are offended in Him, they have no salvation. Just as it was roasted with fire, Christ suffered under the fire of God’s judgment. Just as it had to be eaten immediately, Scripture says, that “today” is the day of salvation and “now” is the acceptable time to receive Christ. Just as bitter herbs were eaten in remembrance of their sufferings in Egypt, Christ redeems us from the bitterness of sin. He didn’t die to make us comfortable in our sin; He died to rescue us from that bitter bondage. Just as what was left over of the lamb had to be burned and none of it left for any stranger, Christ’s redemption is effective for the elect alone. Jesus said, “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.” Not one bit of that Passover Lamb could go to those outside the covenant. Revelation 5:9 says that we are redeemed out of the rest of mankind to God. Just as not one bone of the lamb could be broken, John 19 says that this was a prophecy that not one bone of Christ could be broken. Just as the Passover had to be eaten with haste, we are admonished by Jesus to be ready to forsake all and follow Him. Just as they fled from Egypt upon eating of that Lamb, we are called to flee from the wrath to come. Just as Egypt was judged by the death angel, those not redeemed will be judged. Just as there was no leaven in the Passover meal, Christ dealt once and for all with the leaven of sin and replaced it with the leaven of His kingdom. And that’s why leaven was in the next feast – the feast of Pentecost. The spread of the kingdom replaces the spread of sin. The leaven of the kingdom in Pentecost replaces the leaven of sin at Passover. So they ate unleavened bread at Passover and they ate leavened bread at Pentecost to symbolize the start of the kingdom.

I’ll come back to some events in a moment, but there is significance to the timing when Christ was nailed to the cross, as well as the darkness from noon to three o’clock, the three hours of darkness.

Those were the precise hours when preparations would have been made in the temple between 12:00 and 3:00 o'clock so that they would be ready to efficiently sacrifice the over 250,000 lambs that would have had to be slain between three o’clock and five o’clock. And they had to end at five to give enough time to go to their homes and not break the Sabbath which started at 6 pm. Now that’s a lot of lambs to get prepared from noon to three and to be slain from three to five. And Josephus indicates that on a typical Passover, almost three million people traveled to Jerusalem from around the world.7 Of course, not all of them would have to be present at the temple. Since ten people could eat a lamb, Josephus said that there were usually 250,000 men who would be waiting for a lamb at the temple standing in line down the streets leading up to the temple. God wants to make sure that there is a spectacle that the nation of Israel will not be able to deny.

In order to accommodate the massive crowds, the priests had a system all worked out that began at noon. And it wouldn’t get done if they didn’t begin at noon. But what happened at noon? Darkness happened. When darkness struck the nation at noon ( at the precise moment that they would begin their preparations), it was a thick darkness that light could not penetrate, and there were 250,000 men standing in and around the temple who couldn’t move for fear of being trampled, and who have not brought lanterns with them. Who would bring a lantern in the middle of the day? God gives them three hours to think about what is happening on this particular Passover. There was no way they could move out of there. And they didn’t want to anyway, because they needed their lamb. They were a captive audience to one of the world’s greatest dramas. Are you beginning to see the excitement involved in understanding God’s chronology? Chronologies need not be boring. They are keys to understanding the text.

And then when they are relieved to finally have the power turned back on at 3pm, here’s what they would have witnessed (putting all the different sources together – which Ernest Martin does a nice job of). According to Josephus, a Roman historian, and the Talmud, they would have seen the outside doors open up on their own, they would have heard a loud voice saying, “We are leaving this place,” (that would be freaky – but that was the glory cloud leaving), they would have then felt an earthquake, they would have seen a several ton lintel holding up the outer curtain fall to the ground (the outer curtain going down with it), then they would have seen the inner curtain being torn from top to bottom. It was obviously God who was ripping that curtain from top to bottom. That was the moment of Christ’s death, and it was also supposed to be the moment in which lambs would have been slain. But panic ensued, and they could not do what they were scheduled to do. God did not want any competition with His final Lamb. (All of this symbolism is totally messed up on a Friday theory.)

Well, what captures the vision of the people the moment the lights are turned back on is the holy of holies. They can see right down the corridor. Their eyes have unwittingly seen what not a one of them ever dreamed as being possible. Thousands of priests witnessed it, and perhaps tens of thousands of Jews would have been perfectly positioned to have seen all the way down into the Holy of holies. What was done was not done in a corner. And the significance of this could not have been lost on the priests. It’s no wonder that so many priests became Christians in Acts 6. Christ with one sweep of His hands was wiping away the sacrificial system to anyone who had eyes to see.

But there was also preparation for the Festival of Firstfruits. Firstfruits was on Sunday, but the preparation for it began the evening before Jesus was crucified (Wednesday evening). The elders went out and marked the spot that was to be harvested by binding together the standing grain with a rope. That was the night that Jesus was bound by the elders of Israel. Guess where the grain was bound? Outside Jerusalem over the brook Kidron. Guess where Jesus was bound? Outside Jerusalem over the brook Kidron in a Garden called Gethsemane, which would have bordered that field. So the grain was bound on the evening that Jesus was bound.

Guess when the grain was cut down? It was the next afternoon just before the Passover Sabbath began, and announcing the start of the Passover Sabbath. And that was when Christ was taken off the cross. It was almost Sabbath which was why they had to find a nearby tomb. Now let me read you part of the description of the Firstfruits harvest given by the Jewish writer, Alfred Edersheim:

When the time for cutting the sheaf had arrived … just as the sun went down, three men, each with a sickle and basket, set to work. Clearly to bring out what was distinctive in the ceremony, they first asked of the bystanders three times each of these questions: ‘Has the sun gone down?’ “With this sickle?’ ‘Into this basket?’ ‘On this Sabbath? (or first Passover day)’ – and lastly, ‘Shall I reap?’ Having each time been answered in the affirmative, they cut down barley to the amount of one ephah, or about three pecks and three pints of our English measure.

When you think about these details, again, God’s superintending providence can be clearly seen. It foreshadows the fact that the elders cut off Christ from the land of the living. They agreed to do it on the Passover timing. And they asked the people if they should apply the sickle and the people agreed. Well, what they agreed to on the grain, they also agreed to on Christ. They cried out, “Crucify Him.” The whole people were applying that sickle to Jesus. Edersheim comments on the irony of the moment as the throng carried that basket of grain away at the very time when Nicodemus and Joseph carried the body of Jesus to a nearby tomb.

… a noisy throng followed delegates from the Sanhedrin outside the city and across the brook Kedron. It was a very different procession, and for a different purpose, from the small band of mourners which, just about the same time, carried the body of the dead Savior from the cross to the rock-hewn tomb wherein no man had yet been laid. While the one turned into ‘the garden,’ perhaps to one side, the other emerged, amidst loud demonstrations, in a field across Kedron, which had been marked out for that purpose. They were to be engaged in a service most important to them. It was probably to this circumstance that Joseph of Arimathea owed their non-interference with his request for the body of Jesus, and Nicodemus and the women, that they could go undisturbed about the last sad offices of loving mourners.

The heavy basket containing the sheaves of grain was carried to the temple and the grain stayed in the basket for three days and three nights just as Christ was in the tomb for three days and three nights. Always on the first Sunday after Passover, the grain was taken out of the basket, beaten, ground, and purified. And then it was offered up to the Lord as a wave offering. The grain is a symbol Jesus and of all saints united to Him in His death, burial, and resurrection. And just as the grain was ground together and so united that it could not be separated, we are so United to Jesus that we cannot be separated. Our participation in His resurrection guarantees our own.

The key to your being received by God as a heave offering is being united to Jesus by faith. It is only those who put their faith in Christ of whom the Scripture says that they legally died with Christ, were buried legally with Christ, and were raised with Christ. From that point on, our entire destiny is tied up with Jesus. Ephesians says we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places.

Now isn’t that a marvelous picture that God gave?

Conclusion – How this can help us in our Christian walk

It helps us to appreciate the accuracy and harmony of Scripture. It helps us to fulfill 1Peter 3:15, which commands us to always be ready to give an answer of our hope. It helps us to deal with the doubts of others. It strengthens our faith in the power and wisdom of God. But it also helps us to trust God’s providence now. If God could so perfectly superintend over 100 details of Christ’s crucifixion, even working through the sinful actions of men, without tempting to sin or being involved in sin Himself, He is up to the task of working all things together for our good today. We can trust Him.

Just as Jesus had a total confidence in God when He said that He was going as it had been determined, we too can have boldness and confidence that we are going as it has been determined. We need not fear financial collapse in America, even though it is likely coming. We need not fear communism. We cannot die one day sooner than God has ordained, and we cannot suffer one thing more than God in His goodness allows. This whole message should cause us to trust God’s providence and His grace implicitly. But certainly we should stand in awe, amazement, and adoration of God’s wisdom and grace as displayed in the Passion Week. In a moment I will give you opportunity to do so as we praise Him for the cross of Jesus Christ in our concluding hymn. But let’s pray first.

Scoreboard for the Crucifixion Date Theories

Testing the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday Theories With Key Scriptural Facts.

1Jesus was “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt 12:40), not simply two days and two nights (as on the Friday theory).
2The sequence was days and nights, not nights and days (Matt. 12:40).2
3Our counting must be able to accommodate the fact that Jesus said He would be “killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31; cf Matt 27:63).3
4The phrases “after three days” (Mark 8:31; cf Matt 27:63), “after two days…on the third day” (Hos. 6:2 – see 1Cor. 15:4), “in three days” (Matt 20:61; Mark 15:29; John 2:19), “within three days” (Mark 14:58), “the third day,” (Matt 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; Mark 9:31; 10:34; Luke 9:22; 13:32; 18:33; 24:7; 24:46; 1Cor. 15:4), and “on the third day” (Acts 10:40) show that both “inclusive” and “exclusive” counting systems are used in the Bible just as they are in our own day.4
5Christ fulfilled a prophetic calendar that included a meatless Passover meal at the beginning of Nisan 14 (Ex. 12:18 with Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7), the slaying of the lambs before the end of Nisan 14 (Numb. 28:16; 2Chron. 30:15; 35:1 with Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7) and the Passover lamb scheduled to be eaten by other Jews the beginning of Nisan 15 (Numb. 28:17; see John 13:1-2).5 If Christ doesn’t die on Nisan 14, it is difficult to see any fulfillment of the calendar (only of the sacrifice).
6The crucifixion clearly takes place before a festival Sabbath (John 19:14 – “the Preparation Day of the Passover”), which is additional evidence that it took place on Nisan 14. That Nisan 15 was the Festival Sabbath can be seen from Lev. 23:5-7; Numb. 28:17-18; etc.
7There is only one “Day of Preparation” in the Gospels – the “Preparation Day of the Passover” (John 19:14). In 30 AD this day of preparation would be Nisan 14, not Nisan 15 because there were back to back Sabbaths (Friday and Saturday). On the Wednesday theory one would expect two (Wednesday and Friday).
8That Jesus ate the last supper on the start of Nisan 14 rather than on the start of Nisan 15 is further strengthened by the fact that John 13:29 indicates the possibility of buying something that day.
9Likewise, Nicodemus purchases linen on the day of Christ’s death (Mark 15:46). Even if Judas might have broken the Sabbath, it is highly unlikely that Nicodemus would purchase anything on Nisan 15.
10This is further strengthened when John 19:31 says that the Jewish authorities wanted the body taken down before the Passover Sabbath commenced (“the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day”).8
11The burial of Jesus was also on the Day of Preparation and before the Sabbath (Luke 23:54; John 19:42), not after sunset as the Wednesday theory believes. The Friday theory accounts for this by insisting it is the weekly Sabbath. However, John 19:31,42 make it clear that it was Nisan 15 that was being avoided, not Nisan 16.
12Every day is accounted for during Passion Week on the Wednesday and Thursday theories, but there is an “embarrassing missing Wednesday” on the Friday theory.
13Christ was clearly resurrected on Sunday (Mark 16:9), not Saturday.
14This day of resurrection was said to take place after Sabbaths (plural) had passed (Matt. 28:1 – literal Greek). There is only one Sabbath on the Friday theory.9
15Since Firstfruits was a temple ceremony, it is almost certain that the temple calendar was used by the Jews rather than the much later Pharisaic calendar for determining the festival of Firstfruits?10 The Sadducees rightly argued that Firstfruits always had to fall on a Sunday (Lev. 23:9-14). Too much argumentation has assumed the Pharisaic calendar, which placed Firstfruits on the 16th, irrespective of day..
16The resurrection of Christ and Old Testament saints (see Matt. 27:53-54; Is. 26:19; Hos 6:1-3 with 1Cor. 15:4; John 5:25; Eph. 4:8-10; Heb. 12:23) was said to occur “about dawn”11 (Hos. 6:3 [literal Hebrew]; Mark 16:9; John 20:1; with Matt 28:1; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). This messes up the Wednesday theory since it has Christ rising shortly after twilight on Saturday.
17Christ was crucified in 30 AD. Though this is still debated12, most scholars believe this is the date that fits most of the Biblical evidence. For many Biblical proofs of a 30 AD death of Jesus, see my book, December 25 Jewish Style.
18Palm Sunday was not a Sabbath. On the Wednesday theory, the triumphal entry falls on a Saturday. This is unlikely since it would involve both Christ (Deut. 5:14) and the people (Numb. 15:32-36) in Sabbath breaking. With Christ it would be failing to give an animal a Sabbath rest and with the people it would be in cutting down branches.
19The Friday theory also fails to achieve a Palm Sunday on Nisan 10, making the triumphal entry land on Monday.
20If Jesus does not rise on Sunday, the counting of days to Pentecost does not work. See chart attached.
21The Friday theory tries to maintain tradition, but in the process contradicts tradition by necessitating a Palm Monday instead of a Palm Sunday (unless they insert a day into the text of which no Gospel speaks). On tradition, all three theories fail.

The Biblical evidence clearly supports a Thursday crucifixion of Jesus on Thursday, Nisan 14, in 30 AD. Of course, there is a great deal of extra-Biblical evidence as well. The newest computer calendars support a Thursday crucifixion based on calculations of lunar cycles. A Jewish source composed in the late 100’s AD is the "Tractate Sanhedrin" from the Babylonian Talmud. It records earlier tradition when it states concerning Jesus, “On the Eve of Passover Yeshu was hanged.” (Sanhedrin 43a GBT VII, p. 181; SBT p. 281). This is external evidence confirming a Nisan 14 crucifixion. At the Council of Nicea there was a controversy between the Quartadecimans who believed in a Nisan 14 crucifixion and the Quintodecimans who believed in a Nisan 15 date. The Eastern churches tended to be Quartadecimans.

Comparison of Passover Lamb to the New Covenant Lamb of God

Passover lambChrist
lamb taken (Ex. 12:3)Christ is the lamb of God (Jn. 1:29)
without blemish (Ex. 12:4,5)Christ without sin (1 Pet. 1:19; 2 Cor. 5:21)
male firstling in its prime (Ex. 12:5)Christ not a babe - strong & sufficient - middle years
Set apart on Nisan 10 - four days before Passover (Ex. 12:3,6)Christ anointed 4 days before Passover for burial (Matt. 26:12)
slain on 14th (Ex. 12:6)Crucified on 14th (John 19:14,31)
All Israel had to kill lamb (Ex. 12:6)All Israel killed Christ (Matt. 27:20-23; Lk 23:18; Acts 2:23)
Blood applied to door posts (Ex. 12:7,22)Blood applied to hearts (1 Jn. 1:7; Mt. 26:28; Rom. 5:9; Rev. 1:5; 7:14) and is our protection (Rev. 12:11)
Blood on threshold (Ex. 12:7) and those who step over the threshold left Egypt and committed themselves to the Lord.Not to trample on precious blood (Heb. 10:29)
Had to stay inside house to be protected (Ex. 12:7)Heb. 3:6; 6:3-8; 10:26-39; etc.
Had to partake of lamb (Ex. 12:8-10)We have no life unless we partake of Christ (John 6:53-55)
They were to eat all of it (Ex. 12:10)John 6
lamb roasted with fire (Ex. 12:8-9)Christ judged one cross (Heb. 12:29; Is. 53:5; 1 Pet. 2:2)
To be eaten immediately - not put off till morning (Ex. 12:10)Heb. 3:7,12-15; 4:7 "Today"; 2Cor. 6:2 “Now”
Bitter herbs in remembrance of Egypt (Ex. 12:8)Christ redeeming us from bitterness of sin
What was left over was to be burned. None left for anyone else to eat (Ex. 12:10)Redemption is effective for the elect alone. Not universal.(Rev. 5:9-10; John 11:49-52; 17:9-10)
Forbidden to break any bone (Ex. 12:46)John 19:32-33)
Eat with loins girded, shoes on feet, and staff in hands (Ex. 12:11)Must be immediately ready to forsake all and follow Christ
Eat with haste (Ex. 12:11)Mt. 3:7; etc. "Flee from the wrath to come"
Egypt judged by death angel (Ex. 12:12-13)Those not redeemed will be judged (John 3:18; etc.)
No leaven (yeast)Christ has cleansed us from the growth of sin (1 Cor. 5:5-7)


  1. John Wenham, Easter Enigma (Paternoster Press, 1984), Introduction.

  2. The Wednesday theory starts their counting after twilight on Nisan 14, so their counting begins with night. 2

  3. Since the Wednesday theory rejects inclusive counting, they cannot account for this phrase. However, even with inclusive counting (see next point), the Friday theory cannot account for this phrase. 2

  4. It is common for Wednesday advocates to insist on a literal 72 hours in the grave, arguing that the Bible always used “exclusive” counting. Friday advocates are just as dogmatic that the only counting used in the Bible is “inclusive” counting. It is clear that Jews used both methods just as Westerners have always done. Consider the following examples of exclusive counting: Genesis 1; John 11:19. Or consider the following examples of inclusive counting: Luke 13:32-33; 2Kings 18:9-10; 1Kings 22:1-2,29-31. 2

  5. With the many references to Christ being our Passover sacrifice, and with every other detail of the prophetic calendar being perfect, it is difficult to understand why the Friday theory insists that Jesus was not crucified on Nisan 14, but rather was crucified on the festival Sabbath, Nisan 15. It requires very strained exegesis to get around the conclusion John 13:1-2 and 19:14 require that the last supper occurred on the evening of Nisan 14 (in 30 AD this was Wednesday evening) and the crucifixion therefore occurred later on Nisan 14 (in 30 AD, this would be on Thursday). 2

  6. Note: I no longer hold to this view. The plural σαββάτων sometimes refers to a single sabbath, rather than multiple sabbaths. I argue σαββάτων should be translated as singular in Matthew 28:1, in my book Sunday as a First-Day Sabbath.

  7. So these high priests, upon the coming of their feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour till the eleventh [That’s from the hour that Jesus died – from three o’clock to five o’clock. So they had a two hour window of time – he goes on], but so that a company not less than ten belong to every sacrifice (for it is not lawful for them to feast singly by themselves), and many of us are twenty in a company, (424) found the number of sacrifices was two hundred and fifty-six thousand five hundred; (425) which, upon the allowance of no more than ten that feast together, amounts to two million seven hundred thousand and two hundred persons that were pure and holy; (426) for as to those that have the leprosy, or the gonorrhea, or women that have their monthly courses, or such as are otherwise polluted, it is not lawful for them to be partakers of this sacrifice (427); nor indeed for any foreigners either, who come hither to worship.

    (Josephus, Jewish War, 6.9.3)

  8. The reference to the next day being a “high day” indicates that it could not be the Saturday Sabbath, but must have been an uncommon Sabbath. There were seven high day Sabbaths, and all were part of the festival calendar. In this case it would be Nisan 15.

  9. Note: I no longer hold to this view. The plural σαββάτων sometimes refers to a single sabbath, rather than multiple sabbaths. I argue σαββάτων should be translated as singular in Matthew 28:1, in my book Sunday as a First-Day Sabbath.

  10. Firstfruits foreshadowed the resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:20,23). Since the Festival of Firstfruits (the day on which Jesus was raised) was a temple Festival, it is certain that the calendar of the temple was followed, not the much later calendar developed by the Pharisees. The temple calendar always made Firstfruits land on the first Sunday that followed Nisan 14. In 30 AD, this would be Nisan 17.

  11. TWOT says about V;k that “with numbers and time it can mean “about.”

  12. Various Friday theory advocates have Christ being crucified anywhere from 30 AD to 34 AD.

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