Was Jesus Resurrected On Easter Sunday?
Every once in a while I get the urge to write something that pokes at people’s belief systems. This was the case with my articles “The Christmas Story You Haven’t Heard,” and two articles on “What is Truth?
It is not my intention to tell anyone what to believe, for I know that is a very personal matter and we are constructed in such a way as to strongly defend our beliefs. However, it seems that many, if not most, take their beliefs for granted as if they are absolute.
People often mindlessly follow traditions assuming they are factual and true. This is the case of the Christmas story of three wise men when the Bible does not indicate how many there actually were. Logically, there were probably quite a few more since they had a caravan that traveled quite a distance, but this doesn’t seem to occur to most people; not that it makes a significant difference to your everyday life, but it serves as a good example of something people take for granted as true.
So not being able to control my urge to post an Easter question on social media, I was curious to see what kind of reaction it might generate. Here is the simple question:
“If Jesus was in the grave three days and died on Friday, how could he have resurrected on Sunday?” Several people clicked “Liked,” but one person took exception. He said, “On the 3rd day and 3 days aren’t the same. If you knew Hebrew culture and wasn’t so stuck in your western mindset you wouldn’t be asking dumb questions.” So I thought I would answer him. I am assuming anyone who would comment on this believes what the Bible says and therefore my comments must adhere to the Biblical text itself.
What Does the Bible Say About
When the Resurrection Happened?
What I’m presenting in this article is taking the Biblical statements concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus at face value, and I’m not attempting to prove whether the narrative is true or not. I leave that for you to decide on your own. But, I do think it is important that you have sound reasons for what you believe and what practices to adhere to.
Millions attend sunrise services commemorating the resurrection of Jesus which they believe took place on a Sunday morning. Read my analysis of the Bible verses which clearly describe what the actual facts are.
I make no claim to be a Biblical scholar but I can read, so my comments are based on what the Bible actually says and not what any tradition follows. My contention is that the traditional practice of Good Friday as the crucifixion and Sunday as the resurrection is not following the Biblical narrative. The sequence of time can be a little confusing unless you take into account the narrative from all the Gospels.
Here is the Biblical Sequence
Mark 9:31 – “…and he said to them, the son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.”
Matt 12:40 – “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of a 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.”
The scripture is explicit here that he would be in the tomb for 3 full days and nights, so he couldn’t have been crucified on Friday and resurrected early Sunday.
John 18:28 – This is a key scripture to the sequence of events because there were actually two Sabbaths that week. There was Passover and what is referred to as an “annual high day or Sabbath) the first day of unleavened bread, as well as the weekly Sabbath which was Saturday. “Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas to the hall of judgment; and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defied; but that they might eat the Passover.” (This refers to ritual uncleanness that would be incurred by entering the gentile’s hall, and they didn’t want to do this prior to the Passover which is followed by the first day of Unleavend Bread that is referred to as a High Sabbath).
John 19:31 – “The Jews therefore because it was the preparation that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath, (for that Sabbath day was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broke, and that they might be taken away.” This is referring to the first day of unleavened bread which was a high Sabbath day and not referring to the normal weekly Sabbath. The crucifixion would have been on a Wednesday which is the only possibility if he would be in the tomb three full days and three full nights and be resurrected after the weekly Sabbath and before sunrise on Sunday.
Luke 23:52-54 – “his body was taken down…and that day was the preparation and the (high day) Sabbath drew on.”
This refers to the first day of Unleavened Bread which is a high Annual Sabbath day (a Thursday), and his body was removed from the cross the day before. He was buried before sunset on the Annual High Sabbath day. Verse 56 –They (the women) prepared spices and ointments and rested on the Sabbath.
Matt 27:63 – The Pharisees came to Pilate and said: “…we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, after three days I will rise again.”
Matt 28:6 – “He is not here: for he is risen as he said.”
Mark 16:1-2 – “And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene…bought sweet spices that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning…at the rising of the sun.” Mark 16:6 – “…he is risen; he is not here.” So Jesus must have resurrected before sunrise on Sunday.
Mark 15:25 – Jesus was crucified the third hour which would have been 9 am Wednesday, and he was still on the cross the ninth hour which would have been 3 in the afternoon.
Luke 23:44 – “And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.” The sixth hour Jesus was talking to the thief on the cross next to him.
Verse 45 – “the sun was darkened and the vail of the temple was rent in the midst.” This would indicate he died somewhere after the ninth hour or after 3 pm on Wednesday prior to the High Sabbath day.
If you calculate three full days and nights from his death on Wednesday afternoon about or after 3 pm, Matt 12:40 – “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of a man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” This means he actually resurrected late afternoon on Saturday, hence he was gone when the women arrived very early Sunday morning before sunrise.