CHRONOLOGY OF THE CRUCIFIXION WEEK
The Lord Jesus Christ clearly said in Matthew 12:38-40 that He would spend "three days and three nights in the heart of the earth," just as Jonah had spent "three days and three nights" in the belly of the great fish. Isn't it strange, however, that almost universally throughout Christendom we find that the remembrance of Christ's crucifixion is held on "Good Friday" and that His resurrection is acknowledged as occurring on Sunday morning, at dawn? By no stretch of the imagination or masterful manipulation of Scripture is it possible to stretch the period from Friday evening to Sunday morning into "three days and three nights"! Many have attempted to do so and millions of Christians have accepted this viewpoint; but in all honesty, it just can't be done.
There are two vital issues at stake: the trustworthiness of the Bible and the Deity of Jesus Christ. If the Lord only spent 36 hours in the grave--from Friday at 6 PM until Sunday at 6 AM--then the Bible is not correct and the Lord Jesus is a false prophet. And if this is true, then we are foolish to believe the Bible and to follow Christ. We would be just as well off becoming Buddhists, Muslims or atheists.
So you see, this is no small matter. As a Bible-believing Christian who openly and unashamedly professes the Deity of Jesus Christ, I make no apology for standing on the Word of God and against the teaching of men--even sincere, godly men--who have explained away the prophecy of our Lord and the clear statement of Scripture. For in so doing they have committed a terrible act against the integrity of the Christian faith. I believe that diligent study of the Word of God will yield the truth, and this is what we seek.
Perhaps you're wondering why the vast majority of Christians accept the Friday-to-Sunday burial of Christ if it is wrong? The only honest answer that can be given is tradition. I firmly believe--and hope that you will to after you have finished this book--that tradition is wrong in this instance and that the Bible is clear and we have to make no apologies or excuses for Christ's words.
The key to properly understanding the "three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" is knowing the chronology, or time-event sequence, of the crucifixion week. As creatures of time, we always want to know when something happened, and what happened before and after. The Bible has recorded the significant events of the last week of our Lord's life on this earth. We'll have to do a little "digging" to find them, but then the Word of God commands us to "study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." II Tim. 2:15.
In this study, Scripture will be our basis, and the upholding of the honor of our Lord and His infallible Word will be our motive.
1. The Sign of the Prophet Jonah
There are several preliminary details that we need to consider before we actually begin to set forth the chronology of the crucifixion week. Although they may seem unrelated on the surface of things, as the study progresses, we will see their importance and relevance.
The Prophecy of Jonah
"Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Matt. 12:38-40.
Repeatedly the scribes and the Pharisees refused to accept the Messianic claims of the Lord Jesus. His words were not good enough for them. They wanted something more. They demanded an unmistakable sign. The Jews walked by sight, not by faith.
The Lord Jesus Christ responded to their demand by quoting Jonah 1:17, which says that the prophet Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish. Then He clearly applied this passage to His own coming experience, saying that He would be "three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Our Lord said that three full days would pass between the time of His entombment and the hour He arose from the dead. The Jews did not question the literalness of Jonah's three days and three nights in the great fish, and there is no reason to believe that our Lord did not mean that His own entombment would not be literally fulfilled.
The Typology of Jonah
Jonah's captivity in the great fish and his subsequent deliverance is a type of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The death and bodily resurrection of Christ after three days in the tomb is the sign that God is now using to authenticate the Gospel message. That's why the Apostle Paul wrote, "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." I Cor. 15:3-4.
Jonah was the only Old Testament prophet who was ever sent away from Israel as a missionary to the Gentiles. He was sent to that great and wicked city of Nineveh. After passing through a death-illustrating experience and being restored to his commission, God used him to bring repentance to the Ninevites.
At the time our Lord gave the sign of Jonah to the Jews, He was about to depart from Israel. The religious leaders had rejected His Messianic claims and had persuaded most of the people to do the same. But before the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ would be carried to the Gentiles, it was necessary for Him to be crucified, buried for three days and three nights as Jonah was and resurrected to newness of life and commission.
The importance of the sign of Jonah is that if Jesus Christ did not spend exactly three days and three nights in the tomb, then the Gospel message is not being authenticated, the Lord Jesus Christ's words are in error and the Bible is not true. No wonder Satan is so eager to perpetuate the "Good Friday" crucifixion and the Sunday morning resurrection. For in so doing he is attacking the Lord, the Bible and the Gospel at the same time.
2. The Passover Pilgrimage
The appropriate point to begin our detailed consideration of the crucifixion week is with an incident that occurred at Jericho. The healing of blind Bartimaeus stands at the beginning of the end of our Lord's life on this earth.
The Jericho Road
"And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me. And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me." Mark 10:46-48.
There is a significant point in Mark's record that we should not overlook. Bartimaeus called the Lord Jesus Christ the "Son of David." This is the only place in Mark's Gospel that this title appears. Elsewhere the Lord is referred to as the "Son of man." But Bartimaeus called Him the "Son of David," and he was healed of his blindness.
The spiritual blindness of the nation Israel, God's chosen people, is pictured by Bartimaeus' physical blindness. The Son of David, the Anointed One of God, had come to give sight to that spiritually blind nation. And in Jericho the Son of David once more showed His gracious power as Bartimaeus, who is a type of the remnant that will someday recognize Jesus of Nazareth as David's greater Son, had his vision restored.
The Passover Feast was, by far, the greatest crowd gatherer of all Israel's annual feasts. The pilgrims were young and old. The aged who were unable to walk the entire distance rode upon the backs of donkeys. The crowded road and the plodding asses made for slow progress along the road.
It is approximately 17 miles from Jericho to Bethany. Seventeen miles seems quite a short distance to us today because of our modern roads and means of transportation. But to the pilgrims of Jesus' day the distance was not short and the journey was not a minor undertaking. The road was wild, rough and a continuous upgrade.
The Outskirts of Jerusalem
When the pilgrim crowds reached the vicinity of Jerusalem, it was necessary that a camp be made before the sun went down and darkness settled over the land. Historical records indicate that on the eve of the Passover there were vast numbers of pilgrims in and around Jerusalem. Some estimates run as high as a million. The city of Jerusalem certainly did not have accommodations to handle so many people; therefore, it was necessary for the people to camp wherever they could find room. The campsites had to be prepared and the booths erected, which served as temporary shelters, after the destination was reached. It would frequently require several hours for a family to find a suitable campsite and to get properly settled down for the night.
The purpose in considering the details of the journey from Jericho to Jerusalem is to help us understand today that it would have been next to impossible for a group of traveling pilgrims to leave Jericho in the morning and arrive in Jerusalem on the same day. It took a minimum of two days to make the trip. And this fact has an important bearing on establishing the day of the week as well as the day of the month on which our Lord's last journey to Jerusalem was made.
When our Lord began His journey to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of the Passover as the true Paschal Lamb, a relatively small company followed Him. By the time He reached Jericho, the band of disciples had been joined by other religious pilgrims who also were headed for Jerusalem to keep the Passover. Having seen and heard of the miracles performed by Jesus, many in this assorted company expected Jesus to openly declare Himself as the Messiah when He reached Jerusalem. They anticipated the Roman yoke being thrown off by a force of arms, aided by a display of supernatural miracles from the Messiah Himself. Thus by the time the group reached Jerusalem, Messianic hopes were running high, and the stage was set for a triumphal march into the city.
Entry into Jerusalem "On the Next Day"
The Apostle John tells us of our Lord's arrival at Bethany after His long journey along the Jericho road. Leaving most of the traveling party at the outskirts of Jerusalem, Jesus and His disciples went to nearby Bethany.
"Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him." John 12:1-2.
The last eight miles on the Jericho road were the steepest part of the uphill grade; so we can be sure that our Lord and His party were quite weary when they arrived at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. They certainly must have appreciated the supper that was prepared as a token of their great love.
Notice, however, John 12:12-15, which reads:
"On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt."
The basis for what is known as Palm Sunday is found in this passage. It is generally taught that the triumphal entry occurred on the first day of the week, and that by observing Palm Sunday, Christians are properly commemorating the first significant event in the crucifixion week.
Let me point out that verse 12 definitely states that the so-called triumphal entry took place "on the next day" after our Lord's arrival in Bethany. If this occurred on the first day of the week, then the preceding day was the seventh day of the week. In other words, the Lord Jesus completed His journey from Jericho on the Sabbath.
One thing that was deeply ingrained in the consciences of the Jews of that day was the Sabbath. The Rabbinical laws of the Sabbath had been worked out to the minutest detail, one of which pertained to the "Sabbath day's journey."
The Sabbath day's journey is mentioned only in Acts 1:12, where we read, "Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey." Davis' Dictionary of the Bible states that the distance between Mount Olivet and Jerusalem, measured as the crow flies, is about 2,250 feet. The regulation of the Sabbath day's journey had its origin in God's injunction found in Exodus 16:29, which states that the Israelites on the wilderness journey were not to leave the boundaries of the camp on the Sabbath day. These were reckoned to be about 2,000 cubits, or just under 3/4 of a mile.
We know from secular records that some flexibility was allowed in the length of the Sabbath day's journey to permit Passover pilgrims encamped on the outskirts to come into Jerusalem. The walls of Jerusalem were considered as extended to encircle the encamped pilgrims during this season. The man-made regulation always permitted travel to any point within the city wall, since the Sabbath day's journey was considered to end at the city gate.
Bethany is fifteen furlongs (about 1 7/8 miles) from the actual walls of Jerusalem. John 11:18. Though this would have been slightly longer than a Sabbath day's journey, travel from Bethany to Jerusalem was permissible on the Sabbath, due to the "extended walls" of the Passover season.
But, a long eight-mile journey toward Jerusalem along the Jericho road by the Lord Jesus and all who were with Him would have been a clear violation of the Sabbath laws as most Jews understood them. Furthermore, the supper that Martha and Mary had prepared for Jesus on the day of His journey (if that day was a Sabbath day) would have placed them in violation of the Sabbath. The penalty for Sabbath violation was stoning to death by command of the religious authorities.
These facts lead to only one valid conclusion: the journey from Jericho was not made on a Sabbath day. Therefore, the triumphal entry could not have been made on a Sunday!
3. First Century Jewish Traditions
The observance of the Passover recalls Israel's deliverance from Egypt and the beginning of her national life. But in a much deeper sense, the Passover foreshadowed the sacrifice of that true, spotless Lamb of God, slain on Calvary's tree for the sins of the world.
The Law of the Passover
God's law of the Passover is considered in three books of the Pentateuch: Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. Three specific days are mentioned in conjunction with the observance of the Passover Feast. The first date of importance is the tenth of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish year, which in Moses' day was known as Abib. This is the date on which the Israelites were to select their Paschal lamb. "In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb." Exodus 12:3.
The next important date is the fourteenth of Nisan. Exodus 12:6 has these instructions: "And ye shall keep it (that is, the Paschal Lamb) up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening."
The Passover lamb was to be slain on the fourteenth. However, God's instructions permitted some tolerance as to the exact time of the slaying of the sacrifice, and this is extremely significant. The literal translation of the last clause of verse 6 is "between the evenings," not "in the evening."
According to Hebrew reckoning, a day begins at sunset. So the fourteenth of Nisan begins at 6 PM on the day we would call the thirteenth. And the fourteenth ends and the fifteenth begins at 6 PM on the following day, the day we would consider as the fourteenth. Therefore, the Passover extends from sunset on the thirteenth to sunset on the fourteenth.
In the observance of the first Passover, God specifically instructed Moses that the lamb was to be slain in the evening of the fourteenth, which was the evening that ushered in the day of the fourteenth. The Jewish custom down through the centuries, therefore, was to slay the lamb early in the evening of the fourteenth of Nisan (which actually was done late in the afternoon of the thirteenth) and partake of it at the Paschal supper, which was on the evening preceding the day of Nisan fourteenth. The highly significant point, however, is that the law permitted the sacrifice to be slain any time "between the evenings." Thus God made provision for His Son, the true Paschal Lamb, to partake of the symbolic Paschal lamb on the evening of the fourteenth and still offer Himself as an acceptable sacrifice before the setting of the sun on the day of Nisan fourteenth. God's way is perfect just as His Word is perfect.
Immediately upon the setting of the sun upon the day of the fourteenth of Nisan, the fifteenth of Nisan began. And according to Leviticus 23:6-7 and Numbers 28:18, this was the day that initiated the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In it, the assembly of Israel was to "have an holy convocation" and to "do no servile work therein." Don't miss this point, the day of Nisan fifteenth was always a Sabbath day! It made absolutely no difference on which day of the week it fell.
The nation of Israel was given a number of Sabbath days, among which the seventh-day Sabbath was only one type. The other Sabbaths, such as the fifteenth of Nisan, were considered to be "high" days; that is, they had even more significance than the regular seventh-day Sabbath.
One of the main reasons the Christian church holds to a Friday crucifixion is because the crucifixion day was followed by a Sabbath. Early church leaders jumped to the conclusion that this was a seventh-day Sabbath without carefully consulting the Scriptures. The Old Testament clearly teaches that every Nisan fifteenth was a Sabbath--and a high Sabbath at that. But John 19:31 tells us "that sabbath day was an high day." Therefore, the day of our Lord's crucifixion did not necessarily occur on Friday. It could have occurred on any day of the week.
Modifications to the Passover
When Israel was finally settled in Palestine, there was a modification in the manner the Passover Feast was observed. For instance, in our Lord's day the Passover was no longer eaten in a standing position. Instead, it was eaten in a reclining position just as the regular meals.
In the days of our Lord, it had become customary to kill the Passover lambs on the afternoon of the thirteenth of Nisan rather than on the evening of the fourteenth. Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us that there were sometimes as many as 250,000 lambs slain on the occasion of the Passover. It was necessary that the lambs be slain by the priests in the temple. We can imagine the momentous traffic jam that resulted from this and we can well appreciate that several hours of time would be required to sacrifice all these lambs.
So the killing of the Passover lambs began about two or three o'clock in the afternoon of Nisan thirteenth. Then by five to five-thirty in the afternoon, all the lambs were slain. Josephus confirms that in the years just before the time of Titus's destruction of Jerusalem, in 70 A.D., it was customary to slay the lambs between the ninth and eleventh hour (that is, between 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM).
At sundown on the thirteenth of Nisan, the fourteenth began. The lamb had been prepared, and when the roasting was complete, the participants gathered around the table and ate the Passover supper. God's law of the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread calls the fourteenth of the month Nisan "the Passover." However, by the time of our Lord, the Jews had come to call this day the "Preparation day." To them the major feast day, the "high" day, was the fifteenth of Nisan, the day the Scriptures designate as the first day of Unleavened Bread.
So at the time of our Lord's crucifixion, the fourteenth of Nisan, the day on which the Passover lamb was eaten, was called the day of "Preparation." The following day (the high Sabbath day, the fifteenth of Nisan) was called the "Passover day," although this was actually the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
This modification is confirmed by Matthew 26:17-19. Notice particularly verse 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?" If this passage were to be interpreted in strict accordance with the law of Moses, it would not make any sense. "The Passover" was the fourteenth of Nisan and the Paschal lamb was to be eaten on that day. "The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread" was Nisan the fifteenth. So we can conclude that the terms associated with the observance of the Passover Feast which appear in the New Testament are used in accordance with popular usage in that day and not strictly according to the definition of the law of Moses.
4. The Time of the Resurrection
In developing the chronology of the crucifixion week, there is one event that we can definitely associate with a particular day of the week. That event is the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He is Risen
"And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he said unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him." Mark 16:1-6.
This passage records the discovery of our Lord's resurrection and tells us the time of this discovery. More literally translated, this passage reads as follows: "And the Sabbath being past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the (mother) of James, and Salome brought aromatics, that having come, they might anoint him. And very early on the first (day) of the week, they come upon the tomb, the sun having risen." This account shows that this visit came very early on a Sunday morning.
The same incident is recorded in Luke 24:1-3. "Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus." So Luke also recorded that the discovery of the empty tomb came very early on a Sunday morning.
"The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him." John 20:1-2.
Note carefully that none of these Gospel reports describe our Lord's resurrection. These passages tell of the discovery of the empty tomb when the women came to anoint the Lord's body very early on a Sunday morning. The resurrection had already taken place sometime prior to this event. The idea that the resurrection took place at sunrise on a Sunday morning is not Scriptural. All three Gospels positively state that as early as the time was--even while it was "yet dark"--the Lord had already risen.
The Sabbath is Ended
We could know for certain when the resurrection of our Lord happened if we had just one definite witness to the exact hour of its occurrence. Well, God has seen fit to give us this witness in the Gospel of Matthew.
"In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it." Matt. 28:1-2.
Matthew described an event that seems to have occurred very closely in conjunction with the actual resurrection. This is the earthquake that took place when the angel descended from heaven to roll back the stone from the door of the tomb.
Matthew's emphasis here is upon the descent of the angel and the accompanying earthquake. The time of this event is set by the opening phrase "in the end of the sabbath." This designates a specific time of the day.
The word translated "began to dawn" in Matthew 28:1 is the Greek "epiphoskousa," which literally means "the coming of the light." Dr. H. A. Griesemer, a Greek scholar, has made the following remarks concerning this word. "The word 'dawn' is very misleading. We speak of the dawn as the opening of the day, the light that comes with the rising of the sun. We always associate the dawn with the sunlight, but the Greek word here is 'epiphoskousa,' which means the shining of the sun or the moon. You will observe that the passover feast always occurred at the time of the full moon. Just as the sun was setting, the moon would be rising."
Dr. George R. Berry in his Interlinear Greek-English New Testament translates the opening part of Matthew 28:1 as follows. "Now late on the sabbath, as it was getting dusk toward the first day of the week..." We can establish the time referred to by Matthew as the time of the setting of the sun on the seventh-day Sabbath. So, just as the sun had set at the beginning of the Jewish first day of the week (remember, the Jewish day always began with the evening at the setting of the sun); there was an earthquake, the angel of the Lord descended, and he rolled away the stone and sat on it.
The resurrection occurred at the "end of the sabbath," just as the first day of the week was beginning, which according to Hebrew reckoning would have been sunset on Saturday, or around 6 PM.
Certainly the stone would not have been rolled away from the tomb before our Lord arose from the dead. Furthermore, Matthew 27:51 tells us that there was an earthquake at the time of our Lord's death. So it seems reasonable that the second earthquake would have occurred at the moment of our Lord's resurrection. Therefore, Matthew supplies the definite witness to our Lord's resurrection at sunset on Saturday afternoon, 72 hours after His burial.
The requirements of prophecy also help us to pinpoint some of the key events of the crucifixion week. The Lord Himself prophesied that He would be resurrected on the third day. Matthew 16:21 says, "From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day."
According to Jewish reckoning, the setting of the sun marked the end of the day, but that point in time was also a part of that day. However, sunset also marked the beginning of the next day. So Christ also was resurrected on the first day of the week.
There is another prophecy that required the Lord Jesus Christ to be resurrected on the first day of the week. The Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:20, "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept." Jesus Christ in His resurrection fulfilled the law of the firstfruits. Leviticus 23:9-11 contains God's instructions concerning this law: "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath this priest shall wave it." The offering of the firstfruits, which typified the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, was to be waved before the LORD "on the morrow after the sabbath"--on the first day of the week!
The evidence that our Lord was resurrected at sunset on Saturday is overwhelming. Only this exact point in time permits our Lord's resurrection to literally fulfill the prophecy for three seemingly incompatible situations: (1) resurrection after "three days and three nights in the heart of the earth," (2) resurrection "on the third day," and (3) resurrection on the first day of the week--"the morrow after the sabbath."
5. Two Key Days
The most important day in conjunction with the crucifixion week is obviously the day of resurrection, which we have seen is Saturday-Sunday (Nisan 18). However, there are two other key days that we need to investigate from a Scriptural position before we can unfold the chronology of the crucifixion week.
"Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus." Luke 24:1-3.
Since it has been shown from the Word of God that the resurrection took place at sundown on the day that we would call Saturday, the traditional "Good Friday" myth can be dispelled once and for all. All arguments supporting a Friday crucifixion evaporate when we come to this realization. Furthermore, we can unreservedly apply the prophetic typology of Jonah, who was (according to our Lord's words) in the belly of the great fish for "three days and three nights." And this definitely fixes Wednesday as the day our Lord was crucified and buried.
The Lord died about three o'clock in the afternoon. Matthew 27:46-50. He was placed in the sepulchre at sunset. The Lord was crucified "between the evenings" on Nisan fourteenth in order to literally fulfill the Levitical law of the Passover. Therefore, Nisan the fourteenth began at sunset Tuesday, and that day extended to sunset on Wednesday. The Lord Jesus Christ partook of the Paschal supper on the evening of Nisan fourteenth, and He died as the true Paschal Lamb on the day of Nisan fourteenth. So both the type and antitype were fulfilled. Both were slain "between the evenings" as required by God's law.
Thursday was Nisan fifteenth, the "high Sabbath" of the Passover. Levitical law called this day "the first day of Unleavened Bread." Friday was Nisan sixteenth, Saturday was Nisan seventeenth, and Sunday (the first day of the week and the day on which the offering of the firstfruits was to be brought) was the eighteenth of Nisan.
Now, let's count backward from Wednesday, Nisan fourteenth, and see where other significant events of the crucifixion week fit into the chronology. First, we need to recall God's detailed instructions for the selection of the Paschal lamb. These are given in Exodus 12:1-3.
"And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house."
The Paschal lamb was to be selected and set apart from the other members of the flock on the tenth day of Nisan. Now, if Wednesday was Nisan fourteenth, then Tuesday would have been Nisan thirteenth; Monday, Nisan twelfth; Sunday, Nisan eleventh; and Saturday, therefore, would have been Nisan tenth. The tenth day of Nisan occurred on a regular seventh-day Sabbath.
Many prophecies and types were fulfilled during the crucifixion week; so it only seems natural to wonder what event of the crucifixion week fulfilled the selection of the Paschal lamb on Nisan tenth. Certainly if Jesus is the true Paschal Lamb, there must be some event that pointed to His selection and acceptance during the week. The answer seems obvious. Let's notice the words of Mark 11:7-9.
"And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him. And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way. And they that went before, and they that followed cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."
Hosanna means "Save now!" The triumphal entry was the fulfillment of the prophetic type represented in the law of the selection of the Paschal lamb. It was on this day that the multitude turned out to greet our Lord Jesus Christ and to recognize Him both as the King of Israel and as the One who had come to bring physical salvation from Roman oppression. The nationalistic fervor that had arisen on the Jericho road pilgrimage reached its peak with the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem.
The triumphal entry into Jerusalem by our Lord not only fulfilled the type of the selection of the Paschal lamb, it also fulfilled several Old Testament prophecies. Some 450 years prior to this event, the prophet Zechariah had written, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." Zech. 9:9. Zechariah's prophecy is quoted in Matthew 21:5 and John 12:15.
But this is not the only prophecy that was fulfilled on that day. About a century earlier than Zechariah's prophecy, the prophet Daniel was chosen of the Lord to give us the great time prophecy found in Daniel 9:25-26. "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself."
Daniel prophesied that Messiah the Prince would be cut off after 69 "weeks of years," which is 483 years (in 360-day prophetic years exactly 173,880 days), after "the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem." Sir Robert Anderson, in his book The Coming Prince, has done a remarkable job of showing that this prophecy terminated on the very day of the triumphal entry.
There is one further piece of evidence that shows that the triumphal entry took place on a Saturday rather than a Sunday. This comes from noticing what our Lord did after He arrived in Jerusalem on that day. Mark 11:11 says, "And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve." So ended the events of that day.
The focal point of the activity of the next day comes in Mark 11:15-16, where we read, "And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple."
On the day of the triumphal entry, Jesus entered into the temple, He looked around, and He left. On the following day, He entered into the temple and drove out the money-changers. Why did He not do this on the first day? The answer is obvious. The Lord did not cleanse the temple on the first day because it was the quiet Jewish Sabbath. There was no merchandising on that day! The Lord would not have hesitated to cleanse the temple on the first day if the business activities were in progress. And He did not need 24 hours to decide what to do about the disgraceful situation there. This passage is powerful circumstantial evidence that the triumphal entry did indeed occur on the seventh-day Jewish Sabbath.
6. Chronology: Friday Through Sunday
"Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with odour of the ointment." John 12:1-3.
We are now ready to consider the details of the chronology of the crucifixion week. We have developed a number of time-points, and the basic structure of the events during this week has emerged. But now it's time for us to begin at the day that our Lord Jesus Christ made the final part of His journey to Bethany from Jericho and step-by-step carefully go through the details of the Scriptural record that will take us event-by-event to that early Sunday morning when the empty tomb was discovered.
Friday, the Ninth of Nisan
Our starting point is John 12:1-3. You'll recall that there had been several changes in the observance of the Passover since God had given this feast through Moses at the time of the Exodus.
Originally, Scripture referred to the fourteenth of Nisan as the "Passover" and the seven days of Nisan fifteenth through the twenty-first as the "Feast of Unleavened Bread." However, in the days of our Lord, the Jews referred to the entire eight-day celebration as both the "Passover" and the "Feast of Unleavened Bread" interchangeably. The high point in the celebration was the Passover Sabbath, which was observed on Nisan fifteenth. To the Jews of our Lord's day, this was the focal point of the entire celebration, and it was referred to as the "Passover." The day previous, Nisan fourteenth, God's Passover, was referred to as the Preparation day.
Therefore, when John wrote that "Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany," he was using the term "Passover" as it was used at that time. He had in view the high Sabbath of the Passover celebration, which was Nisan fifteenth. So we can identify the day on which our Lord arrived in Bethany. That was Friday, Nisan the ninth. It was on this day that our Lord arrived at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, in the little village of Bethany, which was fifteen furlongs (1 7/8 miles) from Jerusalem.
The Lord Jesus Christ arrived in Bethany sufficiently early on Friday afternoon to permit Martha and Mary to prepare a supper for Him. We can be sure that the preparation of the food was finished before sunset. However, the supper was not eaten until after the sun had set and a new day had dawned. When Mary took the pound of ointment of spikenard and poured it on Jesus' feet and then wiped them with her hair, the evening of the tenth of Nisan, a seventh-day Sabbath, had already begun. This act of Mary's was the first phase of the selection of the Paschal Lamb, which God's law said must be done on the tenth day of the month.
Scripture does not tell us whether or not our Lord spent that entire evening in the home of Martha and Mary. The inference is that He did. It is significant that after our Lord's arrival in the vicinity of Jerusalem to keep His appointment with the cross, He never spent a night in the city of Jerusalem. In Scripture Jerusalem represents the fold of Judaism, the housing place of the sheep of that nation. After our Lord's selection as the true Paschal Lamb who was to die, not only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but for all peoples, it was necessary for Him to remain separate. The law required that the selected Paschal lamb be set apart from the rest of the sheep. Bethany represents the position of separation "outside the camp."
Saturday, the Tenth of Nisan
"On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord." John 12:12-13. This was the next day, the day following that evening on which our Lord Jesus Christ was anointed by Mary for His burial. It was Saturday, Nisan tenth, a seventh-day Sabbath, and the day on which God's law said that the acceptable "lamb without blemish" must be selected and set apart. Christ began the day by presenting Himself to Israel as her King. He was recognized as such. But then He was rejected, and the people of Israel selected Him as a Lamb for slaughter instead.
And what did the Lord of the Sabbath do when He reached the temple? Mark tells us that "Jesus entered into Jerusalem and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve." Mark 11:11.
It was the Sabbath. All was quiet. There were no money-changers or merchants at work in the temple. The Lord Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, simply inspected His house. "He looked round about on all things."
Herod's temple was a beautiful structure. But despite the beauty of this magnificent edifice, our Lord saw a great deal of ugliness, too. The evidence of a sinful and disobedient people was all around. But on this particular day, Nisan the tenth, the temple area was quiet, for it was a Sabbath. Thus our Lord simply inspected His Father's house and then withdrew Himself to Bethany as the sun began to sink in the west, closing the day on which the true Passover Lamb had been selected.
Sunday, the Eleventh of Nisan
"And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it." Mark 11:12-14.
This day was Sunday, Nisan the eleventh, the first day of the week. It was just one week prior to that time when our Lord would come forth from the tomb in resurrection life, "the firstfruits of them that slept." It is most appropriate that the incident of the cursing of the fig tree took place on this day. This incident is a living parable which predicts the setting aside of the nation Israel during the present inter-advent age. The fig tree is a figure used in Judges 9 in Jothan's "parable of the four trees," but it has continued throughout the Old Testament record.
On the first day of the week, Sunday, the temple area was a beehive of activity once again. Only two days remained until the fourteenth of Nisan which ushered in the eight-day celebration that the Jews referred to interchangeably as the "Feast of Passover" and the "Feast of Unleavened Bread."
To the temple merchants, Nisan fourteenth was a time of business--big business. There were many thousands of pilgrims present in Jerusalem. They had come from all over the Roman Empire. Many of then had only Roman money or money from their homeland, and this money had to be exchanged for the "shekels" of the temple in order to be useful for the buying of sacrifices and for giving in offerings. Those who had traveled far were unable to bring animals for sacrifice; so these had to be purchased.
This was like "Christmas" for the temple merchants. The business that they did during the Passover season often determined whether their fiscal years were successes or failures. In the same way, many businesses of our day have to depend on their volume of Christmas business for financial "success."
So on this first day of the week, the money-changers and merchants were in their booths early. No doubt they were calling out to the pilgrims who passed into the temple courts, hawking their merchandise and services. It is no wonder that the Lord Jesus Christ, in righteous anger, said to them, "Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves." Mark 11:17. And in this we see the fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi 3:1. "And the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts." And as we have seen, this occurred on Sunday, Nisan the eleventh.
7. Chronology: Monday and Tuesday
Monday, the Twelfth of Nisan
When the disciples saw the withered fig tree, Peter, who remembered the incident of the previous morning, called the Lord's attention to it.
"And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God." Mark 11:20-22.
Our Lord used this object lesson of the withered fig tree to deliver a great dissertation on faith and prayer.
This occurred on the second day of the week, Monday, Nisan twelfth. We have no way of knowing whether the dawning of this Monday was the proverbial cloudless one or not. But we can know that it was a fateful day. It was the last day that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, would offer Himself to God's chosen people, Israel, as their King and Messiah. This was a day full of dramatic incidents. It was a tiring day and from the viewpoint of those unable to see God's divine plan, it was a day that ended in failure.
The Lord and His disciples entered again into Jerusalem, and went into the temple court. Here there were a long series of encounters with those who sought to discredit our Lord's testimony. The chief priests and the scribes attacked Him in an effort to entrap Him in His own words. They first asked Him the source of His authority to do "these things." And by this, they doubtlessly referred to His cleansing of the temple the day before. Immediately the Lord brought out clearly His source of authority when He asked, "The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me." Mark 11:30.
That ended that line of questioning, but it did not end the encounter. The Lord then related the parable of the hedged vineyard and the wicked husbandmen, in which the chief priests and scribes clearly saw themselves portrayed in the roles of the wicked husbandmen. They were humiliated in front of the people, and they were put into confusion. "And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way." Mark 12:12.
Next it was the Pharisees' turn, and they joined forces with their old enemies, the Herodians--which was a strange combination indeed. They concocted a brilliant scheme to place the Lord Jesus Christ at odds with the Roman authorities and thus remove Him from the scene. But the little coin with Caesar's image on it sent them crashing down in defeat. Then the Sadducees came and tried their hand. The result was the same. The day finally drew on toward sunset after all had their turn to try to entrap Christ. All comers had been silenced. But their hatred had now crystallized. The Lord's hour was approaching. Things were moving rapidly toward that rendezvous with the cross.
Evening, the closing of that fateful Monday and the dawning of Tuesday, was rapidly drawing near. It was probably with reluctance that the Lord, with the twelve, left the temple courts and passed beyond the walls of the city to the slopes of the Mount of Olives. The evening sun was sinking low over toward the west side of the city, and it would soon be lost to view behind the hills. "And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!" Mark 13:1. This enthusiastic remark, probably made with the intent of cheering up the Lord after that trying day, set the stage for that great prophetic revelation that Bible scholars call the "Olivet Discourse." This discourse came at the close of the day on Monday, the twelfth of Nisan.
Now, let's turn our attention to a passage of Scripture that allows us to check our chronology. The passage is found in the opening verse of Mark 14. Here Mark wrote, "After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death."
This verse not only gives us a time mark to check our chronology, but it also verifies the records that have come down through secular channels concerning the terminology used by the Jews in our Lord's time. Although God's Word designates the fourteenth of Nisan as the Passover and the fifteenth of Nisan as the first day of Unleavened Bread, the Jews used these terms interchangeably. The fifteenth of Nisan, the high Sabbath of Passover, had become the focal point of the entire celebration; and it was the day commonly called "the Passover." Mark identified the day of Nisan fifteenth when he used the combination expression "the passover, and of unleavened bread" to refer to a single day.
Tuesday, the Thirteenth of Nisan
The Lord Jesus Christ and the twelve had climbed the slopes of the Mount of Olives at the close of Monday, Nisan twelfth. While they were there, the Master had delivered His discourse, which included the prophecy of the coming destruction of the temple and the city. The sun had set on Nisan twelfth, and the evening of the thirteenth day of Nisan had just dawned. And apparently, after the discourse, they went back to Bethany for the night. At this point Mark wrote, "After two days was the passover, and of unleavened bread." Mark 14:1. The evening was Nisan thirteenth, and the next day was to be Tuesday, Nisan thirteenth. Two days later would be Thursday, Nisan fifteenth, the day that Mark designated as "the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread."
"And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people." Mark 14:1-2. Notice that the word "feast" is not used in Mark 14:1. The verse literally says, "After two days was the passover, and of unleavened bread." The King James Version inserts the words "the feast of" in italics, but there is nothing in the Greek text corresponding to these words. The expression in Mark 14:1 refers to Nisan fifteenth. And the expression "on the feast day" in Mark 14:2 apparently refers to the same day, that is, the high day of the Passover celebration, Nisan fifteenth.
So the plot began to take form. The Lord Jesus Christ was to be apprehended and slain before Nisan fifteenth. God used the modifications of the Jews to take the Lord Jesus Christ to the cross on Nisan fourteenth, God's Passover.
It was on the evening of the thirteenth of Nisan, a Tuesday, after our Lord had delivered the Olivet Discourse, that the Lord and His disciples came down off the mountain and once again headed toward Bethany. This time they went to the house of Simon the leper.
Many Bible teachers have tried to establish that the evening meal in the house of Simon the leper was the same meal as that with Martha, Mary and Lazarus, reported by John in the opening verses of chapter 12. The reason for this is that the incident of the anointing of the Lord by the woman, described both in Mark 14:3-9 and in Matthew 26:6-13, does have many similarities to the incident of the anointing by Mary described in John 12:3-8. But careful reading also shows a great many differences. Mary anointed the Lord's feet (John 12:3), but the woman in the house of Simon the leper anointed His head. Mark 14:3; Matthew 26:7. The Scripture seems clear that the incident mentioned by Matthew and Mark occurred on a different day and in a different house and that the anointing was performed by a different woman from that in the incident mentioned by John. This second anointing of our Lord occurred on Tuesday evening, after the setting of the sun and the closing of Nisan twelfth.
"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?" Mark 14:12. This brings us to the day of Tuesday, Nisan thirteenth. This was our Lord's last day of freedom before His arrest and crucifixion. It is confusing because Mark prefixed this record with "And the first day of unleavened bread." But we should keep in mind that the Gospel writers used terms according to the contemporary usage in their day, not strictly according to the definition of Mosaic law. Josephus recorded that in those days the Jews celebrated "eight days of Unleavened Bread." They included the fourteenth of Nisan, the day that Moses designated as the "Passover," in the feast of Unleavened Bread (which was only seven days long).
Josephus also said that it was customary to kill the lambs between three o'clock and five o'clock in the afternoon before the Passover Supper, which then were roasted and eaten in the evening. The Jews of Mark's day still ate the Passover on the evening of Nisan fourteenth, but they often referred to this meal as the "first Chagigah." Alfred Edersheim in his book, The Temple--Its Ministry and Services, tells us that "the Chagigah which was strictly a peace offering might be twofold. The first Chagigah was offered on the fourteenth of Nisan, the day of the Paschal sacrifice, and formed afterwards part of the Paschal Supper. The second Chagigah was offered on the fifteenth of Nisan, or the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread." It is this second Chagigah which the Jews were afraid they might be unable to eat, if they contracted defilement in the judgment hall of Pilate. John 18:28.
The Lord ate the "first Chagigah," which was the true Passover Supper, with His disciples. Since the Jews included the fourteenth of Nisan in their designation "the Feast of Unleavened Bread," and since they allowed the hours after three o'clock in the afternoon on Nisan thirteenth to be considered as a part of Nisan fourteenth for the purpose of the slaying of the lamb, then it seems that Mark was designating the late afternoon of Nisan thirteenth in his prefix to this exchange between our Lord and His disciples.
So it was on Tuesday, Nisan thirteenth, that the disciples asked the Lord where He wished to eat the Passover. Evidently Judas was present when this question was put to the Lord; and since the Lord knew of Judas' plot to betray Him, He replied in a guarded way. Instead of naming the place, the Lord Jesus Christ sent Peter and John to find and follow the man bearing a pitcher of water. (By the way, this instruction was not so ambiguous as it might seem to us because men normally did not carry water in those days.) This was evidently a clever method of delaying the betrayal by Judas until after the Paschal Supper. Judas would not know until the time of the supper itself where it was to take place. This arrangement assured an uninterrupted evening following Tuesday, Nisan thirteenth. This brings us to the evening of Nisan fourteenth, the Wednesday on which our Lord would die.
8. Chronology: Wednesday and Thursday
Wednesday, the Fourteenth of Nisan
Immediately after sundown on Tuesday afternoon, the fourteenth of Nisan began. The lamb had been slain and roasted and was now ready in the upper room. The Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples arrived early after sunset and partook together of the Passover Feast. "And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God." Luke 22:14-16. It was on the occasion of this evening that the disciples' feet were washed, the Lord's Supper was instituted, and that wonderful discourse of our Lord was given beginning with the words "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me." John 14:1.
The Lord Jesus Christ knew that Judas was anxious to bring the soldiers to arrest Him. So when the supper had progressed to a certain point, the Lord said to him, "That thou doest, do quickly." John 13:27. This gave the betrayer an opportunity to get away and carry out his unholy purpose.
It is not the intent of this study to go into the details of those events of the crucifixion day. The point that is important to our study of the chronology of the crucifixion week is that the crucifixion took place on Wednesday, Nisan fourteenth. The Lord's body was placed in the tomb just as the sun was setting on that sad day. And with the placing of His body in the tomb, the fulfillment of the Lord's own prophecy that He would be "three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" was begun. Three days later, again at sunset, He would come forth in resurrection life.
"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,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away." John 19:31. This verse establishes that the day following our Lord's crucifixion was a "high day." That in turn established that it was Nisan fifteenth, the great Passover Sabbath, the day that God had designated as "the first day of unleavened bread." The Passover Sabbath was the greatest Jewish Sabbath of the year. It was not only a day of rest and worship like Saturday, the seventh-day Sabbath; but, unlike that day, this Thursday Passover Sabbath was a "high day." The fifteenth of Nisan fell on a different day each year, and that particular year it fell on Thursday as the Scriptural "time-points" clearly affirm.
Thursday, the Fifteenth of Nisan
What happened on this particular day? Scripture provides us with a record of only one specific event. And this record is found in Matthew 27:62-66. "Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch."
One thing of significance should be noted here. The chief priests and Pharisees said, "After three days." They were perhaps the very ones who were present when the Lord had spoken of the sign of the Prophet Jonah. And they remembered well what He had said.
It is quite likely that these events (which transpired on the day of Thursday, Nisan fifteenth) were in the minds of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus when they said, "And beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done." Luke 24:21. To those looking on, the sealing of the tomb and the placing of the Roman guard were very much events that were to be included in the burial of the Lord Jesus Christ. Since these words were spoken on Sunday, and since the final steps of the putting away of the Lord took place on Thursday, the two disciples were absolutely correct in their statement of time.
9. Chronology: Friday Through Sunday
To conclude this study of the chronology of the crucifixion week, let's direct our attention to a passage from the Gospel of Mark. In his description of these events, Mark provides final verification of the chronology that we have established:
"And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre. And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid. And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great." Mark 15:46-16:4.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was placed in the sepulchre, but it was necessary that those looking on hasten home because the High Passover Sabbath had arrived. Mark 15:47 tells us; "And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid." This verse refers to the events that took place late in the afternoon of Wednesday, Nisan fourteenth. The wording of this verse seems to infer that the women observed the Lord's body being placed on the shelf in Joseph's new tomb, but that they did not remain on the scene as the heavy stone was rolled in place.
Now the very next verse in Mark's Gospel, Mark 16:1, says, "And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him." The word "Sabbath" as used in this verse is singular. The reference is to the High Passover Sabbath, which occurred on Thursday, Nisan fifteenth. The bringing of the sweet spices, described in Mark 16:1, was a separate visit from the coming of the women to the tomb--that visit which took place early on the first day of the week, as described in Mark 16:2. Mark 16:1 describes an event that took place on Friday, Nisan sixteenth.
Friday, the Sixteenth of Nisan
"And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid." Mark 15:47. Again, the inference of this statement is that the women saw the Lord's body placed in the sepulchre but that they left before the stone was rolled in place to seal the door. Therefore, it is possible that they did not realize the impossibility of gaining access to the Lord's body without outside help. The Roman seal and the Roman guard were established on Thursday morning. The seal and the guard were to insure that the tomb was not opened until the three days were definitely past. It is entirely possible that the women were not aware of the Thursday development.
After the High Sabbath, the women (on Friday, Nisan sixteenth) "bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him." But on arriving at the tomb they found the heavy stone in place, the official Roman seal on it, and the Roman guard posted to make sure that no one touched that seal until after the third day had passed. So the women found it necessary to return to their homes to await the passing of three full days (which included the seventh-day Sabbath) before they could again attempt to anoint the Lord's body.
The Gospel of Luke also confirms that there were two visits to the tomb by those faithful women. The two visits are seen in the passage contained in Luke 23:55-56. "And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment."
The statement of verse 55 indicates that the women did observe the body of our Lord Jesus Christ placed in the tomb at sundown on the day of His crucifixion. Then verse 56 says, "And they returned and prepared spices and ointments..." This speaks of that first visit to the tomb on Friday, Nisan sixteenth. The women were unable to anoint the Lord's body because of the stone with its affixed seal and the Roman guard that had been set by Pilate. Unable to complete the task that they had attempted on that Friday, Luke says that they "rested the sabbath day according to the commandment."
Saturday, the Seventeenth of Nisan
Notice that the statement of Luke 23:56, that they "prepared spices and ointments," comes before the statement of the same verse that they "rested the sabbath day according to the commandment." The spices and ointments were prepared on Friday, Nisan sixteenth, but they were not used that day. The statement about the Sabbath day refers to the seventh-day Sabbath, which occurred on Saturday, Nisan seventeenth. The second visit, as recorded in Luke 23:1, occurred on Sunday, Nisan eighteenth, the first day of the week.
Recall that Matthew 28:1-2 tells us that "in the end of the sabbaths, as it was dawning toward the first day of the week," came the angel and the earthquake. The word "sabbaths" here is plural, and by using this plural form Matthew indicated that both the High Sabbath of Nisan fifteenth and the seventh-day Sabbath of Nisan seventeenth had passed. The Lord broke the bonds of death and came forth from the tomb. All prophecy concerning His death, burial and resurrection was literally and precisely fulfilled!
Sunday, the Eighteenth of Nisan
Mark 16:2-3 tells us of that second visit of the women to the tomb, which Mark asserted was early in the morning on the first day of the week. "And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?" This passage definitely indicates that the women had knowledge of the presence of the stone before they arrived at the tomb early on Sunday morning. And it also infers that the time limit set by Pilate as to how long the tomb must be sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers (three full days) had passed. The women felt sure of access to the tomb if only they could find someone with adequate physical strength to roll away the stone.
The record of the second visit to the tomb by the women is confirmed by the opening verses of Luke 24. The evangelist wrote, "Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre, And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus."
But the absence of His body was not loss. The answer of the angelic beings has been the victorious cry of Christians ever since:
"He is not here, but is risen!"
10. Chronology of Crucifixion Week Illustrated
John 12:1--"Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany..."
Jericho to Bethany
John 12:12,13--"On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna..."
Mark 11:11--"And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve."
The Triumphal Entry
Mark 11:12,13--"And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came..."
Mark 11:15--"And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple..."
Mark 11:19--"And when even was come, he went out of the city."
Cursing of the Fig Tree
Mark 11:20--"And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots."
Mark 11:27--"And they come again to Jerusalem..."
--Late in Day--
Matt. 24:1--"And Jesus went out..."
Matt. 24:3--"...He sat upon the mount of Olives..."
Matt. 26:2--"Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover..."
Battles with His Enemies
Matt. 26:6,7--"Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment..."
Matt. 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?
Matt. 26:19--"And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover."
Olivet Discourse Concluded
--Just After Sunset--
Matt. 26:20--"Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve."
--Then came Gethsemane and the arrest, the religious trial before day, the trial before Pilate in the morning, the crucifixion by noon--
Mark 15:42,43--"And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath..."
--Joseph of Arimathea went unto Pilate and requested the body of Jesus which he buried in his own tomb.
Mark 15:47--"And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid."
Matt. 27:62--"Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate." And secured a watch for the tomb.
John 19:31--"...For that sabbath day was an high day..."
Lev. 23:6--"And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD..."
Lev. 23:7--"...Ye shall do no servile work therein."
Mark 16:1--"And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him."
Luke 23:56--"And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments..."
Preparation Day of Seventh-Day Sabbath
Luke 23:56--"And rested the sabbath day according to the commandment."
Matt. 28:2--"And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it."
Luke 24:1--"Now upon the first day of the week, very early on the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them."
Luke 24:2--"And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre."
Luke 24:3--"And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus."
Lev. 23:10,11--"...Then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest...On the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it."
Discovery of the Resurrection