Jesus said he would stay in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40). However, if Jesus was crucified on a Friday and was already resurrected on Sunday morning, it means that He was in the heart of the earth for only two nights (Friday to Saturday and Saturday to Sunday) and a full day (Saturday). Is it a contradiction in the Bible or do we misunderstand something?
It is true that if the Lord Jesus had been crucified on a Friday, then it would make sense that He stood in the heart of the earth only two nights and a day, or if we counted Friday, then it would be two days and two nights. Why is it believed that the Lord Jesus was crucified on a Friday? Because it is specified in all the Gospels that the Lord Jesus was crucified on the day of preparation before the Sabbath. Thus, it is logical to conclude that the Lord Jesus was crucified on a Friday.
“Let this Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, so that we may see and believe!” Those who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him.” (Mark 15:32 NASB)
“It was a preparation day, and a Sabbath was about to begin.” (Luke 23:54 NASB)
Jesus was crucified on the day of Passover
However, the Gospel of John gives us a detail that is not evident in the other Gospels. The evangelist John specifies that it was the day of preparation for the Passover Sabbath:
“Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter the Praetorium, so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.” (John 18:28 NASB)
“Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour.“ (John 19:14a NASB)
“Now then, since it was the day of preparation, to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews requested of Pilate that their legs be broken, and the bodies be taken away.” (John 19:31 NASB)
From the Gospel of John we see that we are talking about a special Sabbath: “And that Sabbath was a great day,” writes the evangelist John. So it wasn’t an ordinary Sabbath. According to the Law, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which came after the Passover lamb, was a day of feasting with a holy assembly, that is, a Sabbath day (Leviticus 23:5-7). Respectively, the Lord Jesus was crucified on the day of Preparation for the Passover Sabbath, and the Passover to the Jews was not related to a specific day of the week, but to a specific date, so that each year could be celebrated on different days of the week:
“In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover. Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work.“( Leviticus 23:5-7 NASB)
Buying spices between two Sabbaths
Another detail that helps us understand on what day of the week Jesus was crucified is the purchase and preparation of fragrances by women. It would seem an insignificant detail, but if we look at when the fragrances for the anointing of the body of Jesus were bought and prepared, we will see that there were at least three days between burial and resurrection: two Sabbath days and an ordinary day between them. Why? Because the spices were bought and prepared after the Sabbath was over, but after they were prepared they rested on the Sabbath day according to the Law: so there was a Sabbath day before the spices were bought and prepared. and another Sabbath after they had bought them and prepared them:
“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might come and anoint Him. And very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.”(Mark 16:1-2 NASB)
“It was a preparation day, and a Sabbath was about to begin. Now the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how His body was laid. And then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes.
And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.” (Luke 23:54-24:1 NASB)
So we would have such an order of events:
Wednesday – Preparation Day for the Passover Sabbath (the Feast of Unleavened Bread) on which the Lord Jesus was crucified.
Thursday – The Easter Sabbath from the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Friday – A common day when women bought perfumes and prepared them to go and anoint the body of the Lord Jesus.
Saturday – The women rested according to the Law.
Sunday or the first day of the week – The women went to the tomb to anoint the body of the Lord Jesus and did not find Him.
Given that by the end of the night between the Sabbath and the first day of the week, Jesus was no longer in the tomb, we can conclude that Jesus was in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights:
Wednesday to Thursday
Thursday to Friday
Friday to Saturday
Thus, we can conclude that the Lord Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday, the day of preparation for the Passover Sabbath, that is, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was a Sabbath day with a holy assembly.
Translated by Aliona Soltan