There's a passage in St. John's Evangelion:

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed.

32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him.

Since obeying the Jewish law and taking bodies down from crosses pretty much diminished the whole point of punishment by crucifixion (which was intended to take its time and kill slowly), I'm curious if there is a hint in any of scriptures that would explain why Romans could not simply put convicted Jesus to a prison cell, keep him there until the Sabbath was over and then perform a crucifixion without any haste? Any particular rules excluded such scenario?

  • This also begs the question of why the Romans would care about the Jewish sabbath in the first place.
    – Susan
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 22:30
  • @Susan It is reasonable to assume the Romans cared about the Sabbath, as we do know they avoided displaying their eagle in Jerusalem. However, the question does raise the valid issue of why Jesus was not crucified on Sunday. Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 22:50
  • Until 325 when Constantine switched to a 7 day week Rome was on an 8 day week. Rome displayed a public calendar and indicated on it regulations for that day. Please visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_calendar#Nundinal_cycle and search for "nefastus", which could be relevant. Also as pointed out the synoptics and "John" tell different stories. The point of the breaking of the bones appears to be to associate Jesus' death with that of the passover goat/sheep. Unlike the synoptics, John has Jesus dying at the time of the butchering of the passover.
    – user10231
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 0:09
  • @Susan I agree with what Dick Harfield wrote. We know the priests of the Temple were capable of sending protesting letters to an emperor in the famous case when the legion hanged their sigils on Fort Antonia's walls. It could be only practical reason to obey the Jewish law even for a Pilate who hated them to his bones. But for me the prison thingy I mentioned was even more practical. Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 12:22

5 Answers 5


John 11:53 / 12:1 suggest that the Pharisees began plotting to kill Jesus around a week before the Passover (depending on the degree of a time gap you suspect between the verses), and 11:57 suggests they were waiting until somebody told them where he was:

Jn 11:53 "So from that day on they made plans to put him to death."

Jn 11:57 "Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him."

Jn 12:1 "Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead."

Now it so happens, that on the evening of the Passover, somebody comes to let them know where Jesus is:

Jn 13:26-30 'Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.'

Jn 18:1-2 "When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples."

The Pharisees had been looking for somebody who knew who Jesus was (11:57), and at the time which Jesus chose to be revealed, Judas appears to tell the Pharisees where to find him. Jesus is immediately arrested and put on trial, and the trial progresses extremely rapidly, where Jesus goes from Gethsemane to Caiaphas' house to Pilate to the Cross within a matter of hours (John 18-19).

It had always struck me that the trial seems to happen very quickly, but I think you may have picked up on one reason why this is so: if the Pharisees' moment to grab Jesus came so close to the Sabbath, they would have been eager to kill him as quickly as possible, knowing on the Sabbath they could do nothing. They were not interested in putting him in prison and potentially losing their chance of killing him, and when they were asked what they wanted to happen on that Friday afternoon, they knew exactly what they wanted to ask:

Jn 19:6 'When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!”'

  • "potentially losing their chance of killing him" Why would that be? I'm really curious why it did not happen this way: Pilate questions Jesus, all those famous scenes happen with flagellation, 'Ecce Homo', washing hands, everything. Eventually he says to the crowd: ok, since you want it so badly, it will happen. Tomorrow you celebrate Sabbath, so there's no time to properly crucify him. He'll stay in prison until your celebration is over. And then my soldiers will proceed with the execution. What I said, I said. Leave now and come back on Sunday. Why not? Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 12:48
  • It's all conjecture from here, but my understanding goes: It had been a sham trial - they needed to clinch their desired outcome as quickly as possible. If you give people a day longer to cool off and ask questions, you never know what might happen, especially with Jesus' popularity (think triumphal entry). Pilate was already struggling to keep control of the crowd at his door, shouting for blood - at a festival time too, when anti-Roman tensions would be high. Pilate would want a fast and easy resolution - he saw there was no good reason to kill the man, but had to appease the crowd asap.
    – Steve can help
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 13:06
  • @MarcinT.P.Łuczyński - is there anything I can expand or improve in my answer, if I haven't answered it completely enough?
    – Steve can help
    Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 6:06

1. Question Restatement:

Is there a hint in any of Evangelions why Jesus was crucified so close to Sabbath?

This is a very contested, topic - but I hope I have identified all of the potential explanations:

2. Quick Answer - Why the Urgency?

Passover by definition is a Sabbath day, regardless of the day it falls on. So, in order to fulfill the prophecies it was necessary for Jesus to be crucified then.

Perhaps the best answer is simply, "because everyone was finally in agreement"?

Jesus' Timing:

Matthew 26:18 - And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’”

Pilate's Sense of Urgency:

NASB, Mark 15:15 - Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.

From Jewish Leadership Point of View:

NASB, John 11:48 - If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

3. Answer - The High Priest's Sense of Urgency, the Passover:

NASB, John 18:12 - So the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him, 13 and led Him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people.

This is the ONLY hint / explanation given in the Gospels - about the Underlying Reason.

The urgency was to fulfill prophecy, and to ensure that Jesus' death coincided with the Passover Sacrifice.

There were TWO Sabbaths the week Jesus died, the Passover Sabbath - the "High Day" - and the Seventh Day Sabbath. See "High Holy Day Sabbaths, Wikipedia".

NASB, John 19:31: Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for THAT Sabbath was a HIGH DAY), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

Matthew 27:25 - And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!”

NASB, 2 Chron. 35:11 - They slaughtered the Passover animals, and while the priests sprinkled the blood received from their hand, the Levites skinned them.

Isaiah 52:13 - Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted. 14 Just as many were astonished at you, My people, So His appearance was marred more than any man And His form more than the sons of men. 15 Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand.

NASB, John 11:49 - But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” 51 Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

53 So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.

3. Clarifications:

The Question was Asking for a HINT of why it was rushed, and why it had to coincide with THAT Sabbath, that "High Day".

Regardless if this explanation is right or wrong - it is the explanation offered in the Gospels - the only explanation.

  • How does this explain why Jesus was not crucified on Sunday? Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 22:52
  • You will of course be aware that in the synoptic gospels, the Passover was celebrated on the Friday, which began at sundown Thursday (our time). In these gospels, the sacrifices had already been offered up (Thurs evening - see Last Supper). We can't only refer to John unless so specified in the question. Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 23:03
  • @elikakohen Thank you very much! This is awesome extraction of quotations I would not be able to do myself. So, it seems that the hints are strongly 'prophecies' oriented and they concentrate around the concept of Passover offering. My curiosity is even bigger now. I still don't get why Romans succumbed to any Jewish idea and performed such a hasty crucifixion - but I understand this has nothing to do with scriptures so it's a question for a different forum, I suppose. I can understand the position of Caiphus and his take on Jesus being an Passover offering, but not Romans' participation. Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 12:38

The Gospel of John specifically shows that the year in which Christ was crucified was a year in which the Passover fell on the Sabbath day. (John 19:31). A very good case can be made for this proximity of the Crucifixion to the Passover Sabbath being an act of the Providence of God. It is many years since I studied this, but the Wikipedia article titled "Passover Sacrifice" will tell you that all the lambs of all the Jews in Jerusalem which were to be eaten on Passover had to be slaughtered in the Temple courtyard on the afternoon before the the day of Passover. Because in the year that Christ was Crucified, Passover fell on the Sabbath day, this would mean that on this Friday exactly when Christ was hanging on the Cross, thousands upon thousands of Lambs were being slaughtered in the temple and their blood sprinkled on the altar there. When God wants to emphasize a point, He can certainly do it.


Lynch mobs dont follow the rules. Crucifixion was 2 months after Passover during the new wine festival which became pentecost. Everyone was drunk as a skunk.


Herod did to Peter exactly what the OP suggested for Jesus:

Acts 12:1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.

So there was no law against holding an accused in prison over the Passover rest. Ultimately, Jesus was crucified at the time dictated by the Father, regardless what men did or trying to do.

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