On What Day of the Week Did Jesus Die?


The Bible provides an irrefutable answer, but practices of the majority of professing Christians regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are clouded by misunderstandings and false teachings—especially concerning knowledge of what day of the week Jesus Christ died!

To begin, consider what Jesus said of His purpose:

“‘Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled’” (Matthew 5:17-18).

A part of what Jesus Christ fulfilled, that is, completed in God’s plan, was to die for the sins of mankind. Paul taught this as a foundational truth in the message he proclaimed:

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are (being) saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: 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…” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Likewise, Peter’s message to the household of Cornelius included facts about the death and resurrection of Jesus—including specific mention of when God restored life to Jesus:

“And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:39-43).

It is important for us to understand how the three days and three nights fulfill a part in the plan of God, and Jesus emphasized this during His ministry:

“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’” (Matthew 12:38-40).

In another instance, Jesus specifically told His disciples that He would be killed and then be resurrected:

“‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again’” (Mark 10:33-34).

Following His resurrection, Jesus reminded His disciples of the things He had been teaching them about what would happen to Him—all of which had been prophesied before:

“Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’ And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day…’” (Luke 24:44-46).

Up to this point, then, we can establish that Jesus was dead for three days and three nights. The time of the year in which Jesus died is clearly indicated, as well, for it was during the spring Holy Days of God on the Passover, Nisan 14. The 12th chapter of Exodus records God’s instructions to Israel for keeping the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, and these Holy Days were kept in Judah during Christ’s time (compare, Leviticus 23).

Jesus kept the Passover on the same day in which He was killed—that is, Passover was observed after sundown—the actual way “days” are described as beginning in the Bible (compare Genesis 1; Exodus 12:6). Regarding what constitutes a day, Jesus stated that the daylight portion is 12 hours long (John 11:9). That would leave another 12 hour period to describe the dark period of a 24 hour day. His point here was that of walking in the light and not darkness, but we can also gather an important reference to apply to the kind of day and night spoken of for His time in the tomb.

After the Passover, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives and was arrested during that night. What followed was His appearance before the Jewish leaders, then Pilate, the Roman governor, as well as Herod. Finally, in mid-afternoon, Jesus died:

“Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’… And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last” (Mark 15:33-34; 37).

What happened later on during the final daylight portion of this Passover is relevant to our learning what day of the week it was that these things took place:

“Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time. So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb” (Mark 15:42-46).

Note that this day was also called a “Preparation Day,” and Leviticus 23, verses 6-8, shows that on the first and last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread a “holy convocation” is to be observed. The “Preparation Day” mentioned here was for the first Holy Day of Unleavened Bread.

Jesus mentioned several times that He would rise on the third day following His death—even the Jewish leaders were mindful that Jesus had said this:

“On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, ‘Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, “After three days I will rise.” Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, He has risen from the dead.” So the last deception will be worse than the first.’ Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how’” (Matthew 27:62-66).

Note carefully that the weekly Sabbath also fell during the three days and three nights during which Jesus lay in the tomb. Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12 and John 20:1-18 are accounts of events immediately following the resurrection of Jesus—all occurring after the end of the weekly Sabbath—the first day of the week (Sunday), but remember that the new day began with the sunset of the previous day. Jesus was not in the tomb, for God the Father had restored Him to life at the conclusion of the three days and three nights, which coincided with the end of the Sabbath Day.

Even the angels who met with some of Jesus’ disciples at the tomb had to remind them:

“And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”’ And they remembered His words. Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest” (Luke 24:4-9).

Therefore, if we simply count back three days and three nights (using the biblical example of how days are determined), we come to Nisan 14, the Passover day, and this has to be a Wednesday! Jesus died during the mid-afternoon of Wednesday; He was placed in the tomb as a Holy Day, the First Day of Unleavened Bread, began; after three days and three nights in the tomb (Thursday, Friday and Saturday), Jesus was resurrected just before the first day of the week began (Sunday).

Here is another important proof of the time-frame presented in this Q&A. In Leviticus 23 we are given instructions concerning a very special offering which was to be presented during the Days of Unleavened Bread:

“‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: “When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it”’” (Leviticus 23:10-11).

Note what Jesus said to Mary on that Sunday following His resurrection after the weekly Sabbath ended:

“Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God”’” (John 20:17).

Jesus Christ is the first of the firstfruits of God (compare 1 Corinthians 15:20). He alone fulfilled the wave sheaf offering to God. Also, Paul spoke of Jesus as being our sacrificial “Passover” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

We have prepared several booklets which deal with the Holy Days of God and present further convincing proofs that Christians are to keep these Feast Days—just as Jesus Christ did and as His faithful servants have continued to do. Please visit our website for further information.

Lead Writer, Dave Harris

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