If Jesus died on Good Friday, how could He be in the grave three days and three nights if He arose on Sunday?

If Jesus died on Good Friday, how could He be in the grave three days and three nights if He arose on Sunday?

This is a common mistake that people make.  Nowhere in scripture does it say that Jesus died on Friday.  People assume that Jesus died on Friday because they are not familiar with the Old Testament laws and terminology and how that terminology changed over the years coming into the New Testament. 

Exodus 12 gives the instructions for observing the Passover Feast.  In it, there is a week long period in which two of those days are designated as holy convocations in which no work is to be done.  The word “Sabbath” is used for any day in which the Jews were not supposed to work, it simply means rest.  In Leviticus 16:31 it says “31It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever.” Other feasts called for two Sabbaths in a row.

Exodus 12:16 “On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you.”

Yes, there is the weekly Sabbath that they acknowledge as the seventh day or our Saturday.  However, the Jews follow lunar calendar, therefore the feast does not fall on the same day each year.  In fact, this would cause up to three Sabbaths in one seven day period to occur most of the time once you take into account the first day and the last day of the feast and then add in the Sabbath on the last day of the week. 

Jesus died on the Passover Day which would have made the very next day a Sabbath no matter what day of the week it fell on.  John 19:31 indicates that the Sabbath that was going to be on the next day was a “high day”, another phrase for a “holy convocation.”  Therefore, the next day being referred to as a Sabbath did not have to be Saturday.  You can pull up Jewish calendars for many different years and see that the Passover moves around according to their lunar calendar, and that many times there will be two Sabbaths in a row.

John 19:31 “31Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.”

Most scholars believe that Jesus died on a Wednesday and was put into the grave before sundown that day since the Jews were not supposed to touch a corpse on a Sabbath and their Sabbath started at sundown the day before.  The Jews measured a day from sundown one day until sundown the next day. Therefore Jesus most likely died on Wednesday and was buried before sundown.  With Jesus rising on Sunday morning, He would have been in the “heart of the earth,” not hell, for Wednesday night, Thursday, Thursday night, Friday, Friday night, Saturday and resurrected Saturday at sunset, which would constitute three days and three nights.  This would fulfill Matthew 12:40 “40For 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.”  References to the time of Jesus’ resurrection say, “when the Sabbath had past.”  However, it appears that the disciples did not go to the tomb until daybreak the next day, probably so that they could see what they were doing better.


I am an ordained minister and I have been called to a ministry that will serve the Pacific Northwest and will eventually plant or restore a church in Northern California.

Posted in Faith

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April 2012
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