Tradition observes that Christ was put to death on Good Friday but Thursday is the day that would fulfill the sign of Jonah. Matthew 12:38-40 says "the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth". So did the Lord mean what He said here in Matthew 12? Three days and three nights in the earth? There are not 3 nights between Good Friday and Sunday morning, the first day of the week when Christ arose (John 20:1). By looking at the Feasts from Leviticus 23, we can confirm our answer that the Lord is always accurate. In some weeks the Jewish feasts could require two consecutive days of rest (weekly and annual Sabbaths). This helps to determine that Christ was crucified Passover day, Thursday the 14th of Nissan.
John 18:28 shows that some Jews had not yet eaten their passover in the hours before early Thursday morning. We know that Jesus and others had already eaten their Passover meal the previous Wed. evening. Customs or reasons for different times in killing the lamb and the Passover meal might come from the translation of Leviticus 23:5 where "at twilight" literally means "between the evenings". Also Pharisee and Sadducee disputes on Passover customs perhaps were based on past examples of Hezekiah, Josiah or from the book Ezra when passover changes were allowed. We can be sure Jesus celebrated the passover meal at the correct time of Wednesday evening when the 14th began. A new day was said to begin when 3 stars were visible in the evening. It is helpful to mention that the Jewish day begins in the evening unlike our present method of changing over at midnight. The 14th of Nissan is the date of the Passover meal celebration at twilight Wednesday evening. However it is still Passover, the 14th during daylight hours Thursday. During these daylight hours several events took place as our Savior was on the cross. It was the day of preparation (John 19:14) when all leaven is to be removed from the house in preparation for the High Sabbath of the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This High Sabbath Friday the 15th, proceeded the weekly Saturday Sabbath of the 16th. This study is not to prove what the priests were doing at the exact time Jesus was nailed to the cross, but it may be probable that the priests were sacrificing a national passover lamb at the temple Thursday the 14th, as the true sacrifice of God was taking place on Golgotha outside the camp.
Passover and the Feast of Unleavened bread are sometimes referred to like one feast(1). However, a 7 day Feast of Unleavened Bread starts the day after Passover. The 7 day Unleavened Bread feast is proceeded by a day of preparation(Passover day). Passover is an evening memorial meal of unleavened bread and roasted lamb celebrated at twilight on the 14th. Studying these feasts should also help us understand Jesus words about Him being the bread from heaven, eating His flesh and drinking His blood (John chapter 6). Like our Savior, no bone of the passover lamb was to be broken (Exodus 12:46, John 19:36).
From Exodus 12:3-6 we read that the Jews are to choose their sacrificial passover lamb on the 10th of Nissan, the first month of the Jewish calendar. Nissan 10th was the day after a weekly Saturday Sabbath, and it is also called Palm Sunday by Christians today. This day Christ rode into Jerusalem and the people laid palm branches before Him, not realizing that He was to be their sacrificial lamb in a few days(2). Isaiah 53:1-9 predicted that Messiah would be the final paschal sacrifice, the final sacrifice for sin. Jesus is "our passover" in I Corinthians 5:6-7. Jesus is portrayed as this Passover Lamb in four passages: John 1:29, 1:35-36, I Peter 1:18-19, and Revelation 5:6. John the Baptist called Jesus the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 36). Believe in this Lamb for eternal life.
Leviticus and Exodus give us the best look at the timing of Christ sacrifice and how God had revealed this prophecy so many years before(3,4,5,6):
- Nissan 10th—Palm Sunday (the 10th actually starts Saturday evening till Sunday evening)—Jews choose and test the paschal lamb.
- Nissan 11th—Sunday evening till Monday evening—the lamb is tested
- Nissan 12th—Monday evening till Tuesday evening—the lamb is tested
- Nissan 13th—Tuesday evening till Wednesday evening—the lamb is tested
- Nissan 14th—Wednesday evening till Thursday evening&mdash.The lamb is killed at twilight on Passover (is not a Sabbath). Also called preparation day to rid the house of all leaven for the next day is a High Holy Sabbath, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
- Nissan 15th—Thurs. eve till Friday eve—High Holy Sabbath the beginning day of Feast of Unleavened Bread (John 19:31, Leviticus 23:6-7, Exodus 12:16).
- Nissan 16th—weekly Sabbath. Friday eve till Sat. eve
- Nissan 17th—Sunday morning—Feast of Firstfruits—celebrated the day after Sabbath—Christ arose and is the firstfruits of our resurrection.(1Cor.15:20-23). Note that the Sadducees also disputed the Pharisees over the Feast of Firstfruits day. They could not agree from which Sabbath they should count for being the day after the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:11). This argument would arise because two Sabbaths occurred in one week.
This study can help us tie Old Testament and New Testament together in showing how God has revealed His plan for all mankind through His chosen people and through His Son who is the Word. On Palm Sunday many of the Jews welcomed Jesus saying "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord" (Matthew 21:9). Just a few days later the crucifixion took place and Jesus was killed. In Matthew 23:13-39 Jesus had warned the nation of Israel of their coming desolation for rejection of God's Word. One day they will see Him again, but not "till you say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord" (Matthew 23:39). All Israel will be saved one day when they call on Jesus as Messiah (Romans 11:26, Romans 10-11). He will not come back until they do. Maranatha.
Some translations read "first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread or Day of Unleavened Bread" in Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12, and Luke 22:7. By inserting capital lettered words here, unless we are careful, it may confuse Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. A Passover meal includes "unleavened bread" but is not one of the 7 days of Feast of Unleavened Bread. The use of "first" or "Day" would indicate of chief importance. The Passover day is the first day of 8 days of feasts which include unleavened bread.
An additional comment about John 12:1-12 , in relation to the Sign of Jonah study may answer another possible question. I had looked at this passage before but originally decided not to include it in the study. John 12:1 says Jesus arrived in Bethany 6 days before passover. Some might jump to the wrong conclusion in counting 6 days from the supper in verse 2 which was Saturday night as verse 12 makes clear. Most likely Jesus and His disciples did not travel much on the sabbath and were in Bethany before the sabbath began Friday evening. Friday during daylight hours was the 8th of Nissan and 6 days before passover on the 14th. We are not told that they(Martha) made Jesus a supper the evening He arrived. The time of arrival and the time of supper are not stated to occur on the same day. John 12:1-12 does not contradict my view on the sign of Jonah unless one jumps to wrong conclusions on time between verse 1 to verse 12.
Further detail concerning Exodus 12 is needed. Exodus 12:41 and 12:51 are linked together in structure and are referring to Nissan the 15th as the day the Lord led Israel out of Egypt. The phrase in verse 41 and 51, "and it came to pass, on that very same day" are both referring to the ending of the 430 years of captivity when the Lord led them out and is not saying that He led them out on the 14th. Leviticus 23:5-6 showing the dates of passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread not being on the same date. The word "It" beginning verse 42 seems to refer to it being night when the Lord led them out. But verse 42 could be a transition referring to verses 43-50 and Passover. Or the "It" in verse 42 could lead back to verse 27 and "It is the Passover". Either way verse 42 is not contradicting all the events of Passover happening in the night on the 14th. Exodus 12:43-50 are viewing some additional regulations for passover, which is on the 14th. It would require some time for all the events of the night and the daylight of the 14th (Ex.12:21-39) to occur. For example, just to assemble all Israel with belongings in preparation to depart Egypt may have taken most of the daylight hours. As evening approached and the beginning of the 15th starts, the Lord led Israel out. An additional comment about the phrase, "This same night" or "that night" in Exodus 12:8;12. These verses are referring to all the events occurring at night on Nissan 14th, from Exodus 12:6 thru 12:31. For passover to have occurred on the closing evening of the 14th, the amount of time required to complete everything would put the majority of events on the 15th at night, and not the 14th. Demonstrating again that Jesus took the Passover meal correctly at the beginning evening of the 14th.
Ex.12:18 says unleavened bread is to be eaten everyday for 7 days. On the 14th at evening till the evening of the 21st. That is a total of 8 days. However the requirement to eat unleavened bread on the 21st may not be included as the 21st begins at evening. But it is required to eat on the 14th. The word "on" is inclusive for the 14th but "until" the evening of the 21st is not inclusive, as the 21st begins at evening. No leaven is to be found in the house for 7 days. It would be difficult to find leaven for bread on the 21st in order to bake leavened bread because of this. Also this is a sabbath and certain restrictions apply. Difficult but not impossible as they may have been tired of unleavened bread after a week. Thank goodness for a gentile bakery across the street for example!
Exodus 12:15-16 at first seems to mean the same day by using the phrase "On the first day". "On the first day" in verse 15 is referring to passover day as removing leaven from the house. Verse 16 is referring to "on the first day" as a holy convocation on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.Leviticus 23:5-6 showing the different dates and John19:14;31;42 showing the day of Preparation on the 14th for a high holy sabbath on the 15th.The overlapping of the seven days between these two feast makes it somewhat hard to follow. Note that in Leviticus 23 between verse 5 and 6 a period mark is placed for punctuation. But verse 4 is saying a list of the feast is following. Verse 5 and 6 are joined together with the word "and" their meaning should not be separated by a period mark. This shows the 7 days of unleavened bread overlap to include both the 14th and the 15th. This is in agreement with the reading of Exodus 12 on these matters. Let us not overlook the importance of such a small word as "and."
Quartodecimanism holds that Jesus partook of the Passover meal on the correct beginning evening of the 14th. The following morning, still on the 14th, Jesus was crucified on Passover day.
Note: This article is copied from my web page under Sign of Jonah.