Passion Week

by Pastor Matthew Norville, Sr.


“Passion Week” (also called “Holy Week”) is a term that some Christians use to describe the approximately one week period of time from Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey to His resurrection. It is called “Passion Week” because Jesus did what He did that “week” because of His “passion” (His strong and intense love for His Father and us, and because of the tremendous suffering that He went through for us).

“Passion Week”—if you count the beginning of it from the time that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey—actually lasted nine days: from Friday, Nisan 9th through Saturday, Nisan 17th.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on Friday, Nisan 9th, and His suffering ended on Saturday, Nisan 17th when He arose from the dead.

How do we know this?

Firstly, we know that Jesus was the ultimate Passover Lamb. I Corinthians 5:7 says,

“…For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.”

When the Passover was instituted in 1445 B.C. (Exodus 12:1–13) when the Israelites were about to leave Egypt, it was observed on the 14th day of the first month (Abib or Nisan 14th). The Passover lamb was killed on the 14th day of the first month (Exodus 12:6). Though the first Passover saved the Israelites from having their firstborn killed by God, it also pointed to the fact that one day Jesus would be the ultimate Passover Lamb and that He would be killed on the 14th day of the first month (Nisan 14th).

So we know that Jesus was crucified and died on the 14th of Nisan.

We also know that Jesus died at about three o'clock in the afternoon.

Matthew 27:46–50:

“And about the ninth hour (3:00 P.M.) Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is to say, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, ‘This man calleth for Elias.’ And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave Him to drink. The rest said, ‘Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save Him.’ Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.”

Mark 15:34–37:

“And at the ninth hour (3:00 P.M.) Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is, being interpreted, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, ‘Behold, He calleth Elias.’ And one ran and filled a sponge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave Him to drink, saying, ‘Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take Him down.’ And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.”

Luke 23:44–46:

“And it was about the sixth hour (12:00 P.M.), and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour (3:00 P.M.). And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’: and having said thus, He gave up the ghost.”

Secondly, we know that Jesus was dead for three days and three nights. His body was in the tomb for three days and three nights and He, Himself, was in Hell (Hades) for three days and three nights.

Matthew 12:40:

“For as Jonah 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.”

Mark 8:31:

“And He began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”

Matthew 27:62–63:

“…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.”’”

Science tells us that after three days a dead human body begins to decay and stink. That is why in the story of Lazarus dying and being raised from the dead that Martha said, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (John 11:39).

This is also why Psalm 16:10 says,

“For thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell; neither wilt thou suffer (allow) thine Holy One to see corruption (decay).”

And Acts 2:27 says,

“Because thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell, neither wilt thou suffer (allow) thine Holy One to see corruption (decay).”

Jesus was only dead for three days so His body never began decaying or stinking.

Thirdly, we know that the women came to the tomb early Sunday morning (“the first day of the week”).

Matthew 28:1:

“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 sepulcher.”

Mark 16:1–2:

“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 sepulcher at the rising of the sun.”

Luke 24:1:

“Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulcher, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.”

Fourthly, we know that when the women arrived at the tomb at dawn, the stone was already rolled away from the doorway and Jesus was not there.

Mark 16:3–6:

“And they said among themselves, ‘Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher?’ And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulcher, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith 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.’”

Luke 24:2–3:

“And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.”

Remembering that the Jewish days went from sunset to sunset (approximately 6:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M.), the start of their 24-hour day began at sunset (approximately 6:00 P.M.). Since Jesus died at about 3:00 P.M. on Nisan 14th, the three days and three nights (the 72 hours) that Jesus was dead for would have been the last 3 hours of the daytime of Nisan 14th (3:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M.), the following 12 hour night followed by the 12 hour day (which was the 24 hours of Nisan 15th), the next 12 hour night followed by the 12 hour day (which was the 24 hours of Nisan 16th), and the 12 hour night of Nisan 17th followed by the first 9 hours of the daytime of Nisan 17th.

Therefore, the women must have arrived at the tomb on the morning of Nisan 18th.

The Bible does not say that Jesus rose from the dead at dawn on the day that the women arrived at the tomb. The Bible says that the tomb was empty when the women arrived at the tomb at dawn.

Therefore, Jesus must have risen from the dead at about 3:00 P.M. the afternoon before the Sunday morning that the women came to the tomb. Jesus had already been resurrected for about 15 hours when the women arrived at the empty tomb on Sunday, Nisan 18th at dawn.

Counting backwards then, we know that in this particular year Nisan 17th was a Saturday. Friday was Nisan 16th. Thursday was Nisan 15th. And Wednesday was the Day of Passover, Nisan 14th, the day that Jesus died on.

We also know that Tuesday that week was Nisan 13th. Monday was Nisan 12th. And Sunday was Nisan 11th.

Continuing our counting backwards, we know that the previous week Saturday was Nisan 10th. Friday was Nisan 9th. And Thursday was Nisan 8th.

Nisan 8th would be six days before the Passover and was a Thursday that year.

John 12:1 says,

“Then Jesus, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom He raised from the dead.”

So we know that Jesus came to Bethany on Thursday, Nisan 8th.

John 12:2–3 says,

“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 the odor of the ointment.”

This was a supper in the house of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. (They were siblings.) Mary then anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair.

This took place on Thursday, Nisan 8th.

Then, in John 12:12 it says,

“On the next day….”

The next day after Thursday, Nisan 8th would be Friday, Nisan 9th.

So we know that whatever happened on this “next day,” happened on Friday, Nisan 9th.

John 12:12–15:

“On the next day (Friday, Nisan 9th) 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 Zion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt.’”

So we know that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (ass) on Friday, Nisan 9th.

The gospels record quite a number of things that Jesus did on this Friday, Nisan 9th.

Matthew 21:1–17, Mark 11:1–11, Luke 19:29–48, and John 12:12–36 all record things that Jesus did on this Friday, Nisan 9th, five days before He was crucified.

Of significance was Jesus casting out the moneychangers and the people that sold and bought in the temple, and Jesus healing people in the temple.

Matthew 21:12–14:

“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be called the house of prayer”; but ye have made it a den of thieves.’ And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple; and He healed them.”

(This was not the first time that Jesus had cast the moneychangers and them that sold and bought out of the temple. He had done it at least once before about five months into His ministry (John 2:13–17).)

Then, when the evening came, Jesus and His twelve disciples walked the three kilometers back to Bethany where they were staying.

Mark 11:11:

“…And now the eventide was come. He went out unto Bethany with the twelve.”

Matthew 21:17:

“And He left them (the chief priests and scribes), and went out of the city into Bethany; and He lodged there.”

Then Matthew 21:18 says,

“Now in the morning as He returned into the city (of Jerusalem)….”

And Mark 11:12 says,

“And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany….”

This “next morning” or “next day” would be Saturday, Nisan 10th. It was on this day (morning) that Jesus cursed the fig tree.

Mark 11:13–14:

“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 forever.’ And His disciples heard it.”

Then, when Jesus and His disciples arrived in Jerusalem, He drove the moneychangers and them that sold and bought out of the temple again. (He had just done this the day before, but they were back again!)

Mark 11:15–17:

“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 moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer (allow) that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And He taught, saying unto 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.’”

Then, at the end of the day, Jesus and His disciples went back to Bethany for the night.

Mark 11:19:

“And when evening was come, He went out of the city.”

Then Mark 11:20 says,

“And in the morning….”

It was now Sunday morning, Nisan 11th.

Mark 11:20–21:

“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.’”

We have to put the two passages of Scripture from Matthew, chapter 21, and Mark, chapter 11, together to fully understand what happened here regarding the fig tree.

On Saturday morning, on their way from Bethany to Jerusalem, Jesus cursed the fig tree. The last part of Matthew 21:19 says,

“…And presently the fig tree withered away.”

This means that the fig tree withered away immediately.

But if you only read the story in Matthew's gospel, you can get the impression that the disciples immediately saw the fig tree wither away because the next verse (verse 20) says,

“And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, ‘How soon is the fig tree withered away!’”

But Matthew 21:20 doesn't say that the disciples immediately saw the fig tree withered away. It just says, “when the disciples saw it.” And we know from Mark 11:20 that the disciples didn't see the fig tree withered away until the next morning, Sunday morning.

Mark 11:20–21:

“And in the morning (Sunday morning), as they passed by (on their way to Jerusalem from Bethany), 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 (yesterday morning) is withered away.’”

So in Matthew 21:20 when the Bible says, “And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, ‘How soon is the fig tree withered away!’” they were saying, “Look Lord, the fig tree that you cursed yesterday morning is already withered away just twenty-four hours after you cursed it!”

So what does Matthew 21:19 mean when it says, “…And presently (immediately) the fig tree withered away”?

Mark 11:20 tells us:

“And in the morning (Sunday morning), as they passed by (on their way to Jerusalem from Bethany), they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.”

When Jesus cursed the fig tree on Saturday morning on their way to Jerusalem from Bethany, the roots immediately died and dried up. But because the roots of the tree were underground, no one could immediately see this. The fact that the tree was dead was not visible until the next morning, Sunday morning, twenty-four hours later, when the part of the tree that was above ground was withered away.

This is very similar to when you break a branch full of leaves off of a tree. You have cut off the branch from where it gets its nourishment and life from, but the leaves don't immediately wither away. It takes some hours before the leaves wither.

This was a lesson in faith which Jesus expounded upon in the succeeding verses in Matthew 21 and Mark 11.

Matthew 21:20–26:5; Mark 11:20–14:2; and Luke 20:1–22:2 all record things that Jesus did on Sunday, Nisan 11th, three days before He was crucified.

Then on Monday, Nisan 12th, when Jesus was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, an unnamed woman poured ointment on Jesus' head while they were eating.

Matthew 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, and poured it on His head, as He sat at meat.”

Mark 14:3:

“And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on His head.”

Matthew 26:6–13 and Mark 14:3–9 are the same story of the same unnamed woman. This took place on Monday, Nisan 12th in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper.

This is not to be confused with Mary (the sister of Lazarus and Martha) when she anointed Jesus' feet with ointment and wiped Jesus' feet with her hair in her own home in Bethany on Thursday, Nisan 8th (John 12:1–8).

These two different stories of anointings of Jesus have some similarities but ARE NOT the same event.

The next day was Tuesday, Nisan 13th. This was the first day of unleavened bread and the day that Jesus sent two of His disciples to get the Passover meal ready.

Mark 14:12–16:

“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?’ And He sendeth forth two of His disciples, and saith unto them, ‘Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him. And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, “The Master saith, ‘Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the Passover with my disciples?’” And he will show you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.’ And His disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as He had said unto them: and they made ready the Passover.”

When the first Passover lambs were killed back in Egypt in 1445 B.C., they killed them in the evening on Abib or Nisan 14th.

Exodus 12:6:

“And ye shall keep it (the Passover 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 evening, remember, signified the start of the next day. So during the daytime it was Abib or Nisan 13th, and when it became evening it became Abib or Nisan 14th.)

However, in the succeeding years since the first Passover, the lambs were killed and the Passover meal prepared during the daytime of the 13th. Then, when the evening arrived, and it became the 14th, the people ate the Passover meal together.

So in the year that Jesus was crucified, “The Last Supper” actually occurred on what we would call Tuesday evening. On their calendar it was the beginning of Wednesday, Nisan 14th.

A lot happened during the 24 hours of Wednesday, Nisan 14th. Jesus ate the Passover meal with His disciples. He instituted “The Lord's Supper” (Communion). He washed the disciples' feet. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was illegally arrested. He was kept up all night and tortured. He had several sham trials. He had a “crown” of thorns driven into His head. He was scourged thirty-nine times. He was forced to carry His cross, but He was so beat up that He was only able to carry it to the Jerusalem city gate. He was crucified at 9:00 A.M. He died six hours later at 3:00 P.M. He went to Hell (Hades) and His body was put in a tomb. Just to name some of the things that happened in that one day!

The next day, which began at sunset (approximately 6:00 P.M.), was Thursday, Nisan 15th, the first day of the seven day Feast of Passover (also known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread). The first day of this feast was a Sabbath day—regardless of what day of the week it fell on. This is the reason that Jesus' body had to be in the tomb by sunset. The Jews were not allowed to prepare dead bodies for burial on Sabbath days. Since Jesus died at about 3:00 P.M., they only had about three hours to get Jesus' body down from the cross, put a little wrapping on it, and get it in a tomb. They were planning to come back later to finish the job.

Since Nisan 15th (which was a Thursday this particular year) was a Sabbath day (the first day of the Feast of Passover), they could not finish preparing Jesus' body for burial on this day.

The second day of the feast, Nisan 16th (which was a Friday), was the “Day of Firstfruits of Barley Harvest” where the firstfruits of the barley harvest were offered to the Lord, so they could not finish preparing Jesus' body for burial on this day either.

The next day, Nisan 17th, the third day of the feast, fell on a Saturday this particular year, so because it was the Weekly Sabbath they could not finish preparing Jesus' body for burial on this day either.

So the first available day to finish preparing Jesus' body for burial was Sunday, Nisan 18th. That is why the women waited three-and-a-half days before they came back to the tomb to finish preparing Jesus' body for burial. (In theory, they could have come back to the tomb at sunset on Saturday, the 17th. But with no electric lighting back then, there was no point. So they waited until dawn on Sunday morning.)

Note 1: Many people think that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on the Sunday before He was crucified. They call this day “Palm Sunday.” These same people think that Jesus celebrated “The Last Supper” with His disciples on what we would call Thursday evening. They call this day “Maundy Thursday.” They then say that Jesus was crucified and died on Friday. They call this day “Good Friday.” Then they say that Jesus rose from the dead on the following Sunday morning—a day-and-a-half after He died.

All of these misconceptions are basically because of two misunderstandings of the Scriptures: 1) They don't understand the Old Testament Sabbath days; and 2) They don't believe that the Bible actually means what it says.

The average person usually knows that the last day of the week, Saturday, is the Weekly Sabbath. They understand that God created this present creation in six days and rested on the seventh day and that the concept of the Weekly Sabbath is taken from that.

But what many people do not understand is that there were seven other Sabbath days celebrated each year under the Old Covenant that were based upon calendar dates and thus could fall on any day of the week. One of these Sabbath days was Nisan 15th, the first day of the Feast of Passover. (The “Feast of Passover” was also known as the “Feast of Unleavened Bread.”)

Since we know that Jesus was crucified on Nisan 14th (There is never any argument about this.), we know that the day after He was crucified was Nisan 15th, the first day of the Feast of Passover (or the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread). This day (Nisan 15th) was a Sabbath day no matter what day of the week it fell on.

A Sabbath day is a holy convocation where no manner of work is to be done.

In Exodus, chapter 12, and Leviticus, chapter 23, it explains that the first day of the Feast of Passover (Abib or Nisan 15th) and the last day of the Feast of Passover (Abib or Nisan 21st) are Sabbath days.

Exodus 12:16–17:

“And in the first day (of the Feast of Unleavened Bread) there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you. And ye shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread….”

Leviticus 23:6–8:

“And on the fifteenth day of the same month (the first month of the year) is the Feast of Unleavened Bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day (which would be the twenty-first day of the month) is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.”

Then Leviticus 23:9–11 explains that the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Abib or Nisan 16th, the day after the Sabbath) is the Day of Firstfruits of the Barley Harvest.

“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 (barley) harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your (barley) harvest unto the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.”’”

So the Bible is very clear here, that the 15th of Nisan was a Sabbath day. The 14th of Nisan, the Day of Passover, when the Passover meal was eaten, was NOT a Sabbath day. That is why the Jews were allowed to partially prepare the dead body of Jesus for burial and place it in a tomb on the 14th of Nisan.

Now the reason that so many people have the calendar of “Passion Week” messed up is because of this misunderstanding of these Sabbath days. The only Sabbath days that most people are familiar with are the Weekly Sabbaths, the Saturday Sabbaths. And since the Scriptures are abundantly clear that Jesus was crucified and died the day before a Sabbath day, most people think that Jesus was crucified and died on a Friday, the day before the Weekly Sabbath. And since everybody knows that Jesus died on Nisan 14th, they figure that Nisan 14th must have been a Friday in the year that He was crucified.

Then counting backwards six days to when Jesus came to Bethany (John 12:1), they figure that Nisan 8th was on a Saturday that year. They then figure that “the next day” (John 12:12) was Sunday, Nisan 9th when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. And since verse 13 says that the people “took branches of palm trees and went forth to meet Him,” they call that Sunday before He was crucified, “Palm Sunday.”

And since these people think that Jesus was crucified on Friday, then “The Last Supper” must have been the evening before, on Thursday, which they call “Maundy Thursday.”

(This is also where the idea of “Pentecost Sunday” came from. Because if Nisan 14th was a Friday that year, the “Feast of Pentecost,” Sivan 6th, would have been a Sunday.)

Then they run into the problem of the Scriptures saying that Jesus was going to be dead for three days before He was resurrected. If Jesus died on Friday afternoon at about 3:00 P.M. and the tomb was empty on Sunday morning at about 6:00 A.M. when the women got there, that is only about thirty-nine hours max—just three hours more than a-day-and-a-half (if Jesus rose from the dead just minutes before the women got there).

So they say that the Scriptures don't exactly mean what they say. They come up with this half-cocked explanation that “three days” really means “just a part of three different days” (three hours of Friday, twenty-four hours of Saturday, and twelve hours of Sunday). They even have a term for it. They call it “Jewish reckoning” or “inclusive reckoning.” But there is no such thing as “Jewish reckoning” or “inclusive reckoning” in the Bible—or as far as I can tell—anywhere!

The truth of the matter is that the Sabbath day that the Scriptures are referring to that Jesus was crucified before, was the Nisan 15th Sabbath day, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

The day before the Feast of Passover (or Feast of Unleavened Bread) was called the “day of preparation.”

In other words, Nisan 14th had two names. It was called the “Day of Passover” and it was called the “day of preparation” or “preparation day” or just “the preparation.” It was the “day of preparation” for the seven day Feast of Passover.

Matthew 27:62:

“Now the next day (Nisan 15th), that followed the day of the preparation (Nisan 14th)….”

Mark 15:42:

“And now when the evening was come, because it was the preparation (Nisan 14th), that is, the day before the (Nisan 15th) Sabbath,”

Luke 23:54:

“And that day was the preparation (Nisan 14th), and the (Nisan 15th) Sabbath drew on.”

John 19:14:

“And it was the preparation (Nisan 14th) of the (Feast of) Passover….”

(You will notice that I added the words “Feast of” in parentheses to this verse. We know that this verse is referring to the preparation of the “Feast of Passover” and NOT to the preparation of the “Day of Passover” because it was already the “Day of Passover.”)

John 19:31:

“The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation (Nisan 14th), that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the (Nisan 15th) Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,)….”

John 19:42:

“There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day (Nisan 14th)….”

The day before the Weekly Sabbath, the Saturday Sabbath, is never referred to as the “day of preparation” or “the preparation (day).” This phrase is only used when referring to the day before the seven day Feast of Passover.

You will also notice that John 19:31 says in referring to this Nisan 15th Sabbath day, “for that Sabbath day was a high day.” This is because this was not your usual every Saturday Weekly Sabbath day. This was the Sabbath day that was the first day of the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Therefore, Jesus did not die the day before the Weekly (Saturday) Sabbath. We know this because it doesn't fit with the rest of Scripture. If the women would have come to the tomb on say, Tuesday morning, then that could have been possible because there are three full days in between Friday and Tuesday. But since the women came to the tomb on Sunday morning and found it empty, Jesus could not have been crucified on Friday because there are not three full days in between Friday and Sunday morning.

God knew that some people would try to say that Jesus was not dead for three full days, so that is why Jesus made it emphatically clear that He was going to be dead for three full 12 hour days and three full 12 hour nights (72 hours).

Matthew 12:40:

“For as Jonah was three days and three nights (72 hours) in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights (72 hours) in the heart of the earth.”

Note 2: There is a verse (Mark 16:9) that seems to say that Jesus rose from the dead early Sunday morning.

Mark 16:9:

“Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.”

This verse, as it stands, contradicts the other verses in the Bible that clearly explain that Jesus was dead for three days and three nights. If Jesus died on Wednesday, then this verse would mean that He was dead and in the grave for three days and four nights. If Jesus died on Friday, then this verse would mean that He was only dead and in the grave for one day and two nights. Neither of these scenarios fit in with the rest of Scripture.

The problem is with the punctuation of the translation.

When the Bible was written in its original languages, there was no punctuation. When people translate the Bible from its original languages into other languages, the punctuation has to be added by the translators.

The words of the Bible are the inspired Word of God, and therefore, cannot be changed. But the punctuation added by the translators is not part of the inspired Word of God, and therefore could be incorrect. Such is the case here.

The comma after the word “week” should be after the word “risen” instead. Then the verse would read:

“Now when Jesus was risen, early the first day of the week He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.”

The translators put the comma after the word “week” instead of after the word “risen” where it should be.

The verse is explaining that the first person that Jesus appeared to was Mary Magdalene and that this occurred early Sunday morning. The verse is not saying that Jesus rose from the dead early Sunday morning.

This is also borne out in John's gospel, chapter 20, where it explains that after Mary Magdalene arrived at the tomb early Sunday morning (which we know from the other gospels was with a number of other women), she ran and got Peter and John and then ran back to the tomb with them. Because she and they (Peter and John) ran, it wouldn't have taken a lot of time and so it would still have been very early in the morning when Jesus appeared to her a short time after Peter and John went back home (John 20:1–17).

Note 3: There are about a dozen verses in the three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), the book of Acts, and I Corinthians that say that Jesus was raised from the dead “the third day.” What does this mean, “the third day?” “The third day” what?

This means “the third day after He died.” Jesus died on Wednesday, Nisan 14th. The third day after Wednesday, Nisan 14th is Saturday, Nisan 17th. Jesus rose from the dead at about 3:00 P.M. on Saturday, Nisan 17th after being dead for three days and three nights (72 hours).

Therefore, Jesus' rising from the dead at about 3:00 P.M. on Saturday, Nisan 17th, after being dead for three days and three nights (72 hours), fulfills the Scriptures that say that He would rise from the dead “after three days (after 72 hours),” and it fulfills the Scriptures that say that Jesus would rise from the dead “the third day (after He died).”

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This page last updated May 28, 2018.