Good Friday: An Impossible Tradition

In Colossians chapter two and verse eight the Apostle Paul said, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”

The Bible is not only the Word of God but is indeed the Word Himself. John said, “The Word was God” (John 1:1). Within the Bible’s pages we see the beautiful and unfolding drama of redemption, featuring the climactic crucifixion of God’s darling Son. On this particular day noonday became midnight. The sun refused to shine as the Son was rejected by sinful men. This day was unlike any other day in human history. GOD DIED on crucifixion day!

To what day, however, may we ascribe God’s good and merciful sacrifice of Himself? That is the question.

For centuries, Christians, or shall I say “Christendom,” has marked the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. The good news is that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (I Corinthians 15:1-3); the bad news for Good Friday is that the Scriptures speak superfluously about the day upon which He died. The promises and prophecies of Scripture connected with His death and resurrection cannot be irrefutably linked to a Friday crucifixion.

Please take a moment to ponder the following considerations concerning when the Lord Jesus Christ tasted death for every man (Hebrews 2:9):

1. THE EMPHASIS OF SCRIPTURE ON THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS

Jesus said in Matthew 12:40, “For as Jonas 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.”

These words were not the emphasis or hyberbole of Matthew; these are the words of the Lord Jesus! You say, “The Hebrews had an idiom concerning days. An onah was a Hebrew consideration that any part of a day could be considered an entire day.” This fact is true, and based upon such evidence, Jesus resided in the grave a portion of Friday, the entirety of Saturday and a portion of Sunday, thus three days.

However, the Lord Jesus promised to be in the tomb for three days and three nights. Such an idiom did not exist for the night.

John 2:19-21

Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.

See also Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34, Matthew 27:63, John 12:19, etc.

2. THE PASSOVER SABBATH VS. THE WEEKLY SABBATH

The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. (John 19:31)

If the Sabbath spoken of here is the weekly Sabbath, Good Friday would be the day of the crucifixion. If indeed there is another Sabbath at work here, what is the significance of the language John uses here concerning “that sabbath day was an high day?”

The weekly Sabbath/Saturday/7th day of the week was a tradition with roots previous to Adam’s occupation in the Garden of Eden. God rested from His laborers on the seventh day for our pattern of rest and worship. This day was commemorated in Exodus chapter twenty as a day which should be remembered and kept holy.

Our confusion often lies in our Gentile understanding of the Bible. Jesus died for the world, but He lived a Jewish life. The Passion week of our Lord was full of Jewish symbolism regarding his fulfillment of the Jewish feasts, which all point powerfully to the Messiah!

In His last days Jesus was the fulfillment of two Jewish feasts through death. They are Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Passover was the perpetual commemoration of their deliverance by Jehovah from Egypt through the merits of the blood of the innocent lamb. Exodus chapter twelve records that the houses of Israel were to take unto themselves a perfect lamb on the 10th day of the month Nisan (the beginning of months, Ex. 12:1-2). The lamb was kept by them until the 14th day of the month, upon which it was slain in the evening and the blood was applied to the door posts of their homes. When God came through Egypt that night, He was looking only for the blood. Ethnicity would not save them…only the blood! Jesus was the fulfillment of every Old Testament lamb, from the one slain in the Garden of Eden for man’s sin, to the top of Mt. Moriah in Isaac’s stead, to the multitudinous lambs slain in the Tabernacle and the Temple. John Baptist proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world!”

Immediately following the Passover was the seven-day feast of unleavened bread. At conception this feast spoke primarily of God’s quick and timely snatching of His people from the land of their bondage. Truly, they did not have time to let their bread rise! When the fulness of time came, they got out of dodge!

Upon the first day of this feast the cupboards were to be cleared of all leavening agents unto the seventh day of the same. Leaven as we know is a picture of sin (Exodus 12:15, Matthew 16:6, 11, 12, Mark 8:15) and was to be purged from their homes.

The Apostle Paul in speaking of the purity of the local church uses leaven once again in his fight against church impurity. He exclaimed, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (I Corinthians 5:7). As there was no sin and no guile found in our Passover Lamb (I Peter 1:19), so there is to be a seriousness about sin in His body, the church.

The Bible says,

In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month 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 is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. (Leviticus 23:5-8).

The first day (and the last day) of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is a Sabbath. This is a “special” Sabbath, also called a “high Sabbath”. As the Jews of the Old Testament were given preparatory time in cleaning their homes for this seven-day feast, so these New Testament-era Jews prepared for the feast. The Sabbath day following Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross can be reconciled by understanding that His death occurred in the middle of the week on the Eve of the “high day” or Sabbath rest of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

3. THE GOSPEL WRITERS RECORDED NO LESS THAN 20 EVENTS THAT OCCURRED BETWEEN HIS DEATH AT 3 PM AND A THE SUNSET (BEGINNING OF THE HIGH SABBATH) PRECEDING SABBATH DAY

In the Gospel records we are dealing in Jewish time (sunset-to-sunset), not Roman time (midnight-to-midnight). Seeing that according to this timeline, no work could be performed on Saturday (the weekly Sabbath), a Good Friday model would give the disicples less than three hours to perform the following:

-request His body from Pilate
-His body to be inspected on the cross and His legs not to be broken
-Joseph of Arimathaea goes to Pilate to beg for the body
-Pilate sends enquiry to Golgotha to concerning the certainty of Jesus’ death and the centurion’s enquiries to Golgotha to confirm death and report back to Pilate (we all know how slowly the wheels of government bureaucracy turn!)
-Joseph then goes to the market to buy fine linen
-Joseph proceeds to extract the body from the cross
-He, along with the help of others, washes the body and wraps it in a linen cloth (sindon- “one piece of linen, see Matthew 27:59) and lays the body in the Garden Tomb without spices/ointment
-the stone is rolled to cover the opening of the tomb
-later, Nicodemus procures a great amount of expensive spices, and returns with the help of Joseph and other ladies, as to embalm Christ’s body, and He is wrapped in a linen cloth and the head separately in a napkin (the word here is “othonion” is used here as speaking of plural cloths).
-again, the stone is rolled to cover the tomb and they depart
-on the first day of the week the women returned to anoint His decaying body with spices but found the stone rolled away

It seems totally unreasonable that Joseph and these women accomplished these many tasks in less than three hours from His death on late Friday evening to the beginning of their weekly Sabbath.

We must, therefore, conclude that the Lord Jesus died on Wednesday evening (the 14th day/Passover) and great haste was made by Joseph to quickly wrap Jesus in a single napkin in His tomb before the High Day commenced so that the Lord Jesus did not hang, ignored and unloved, on the cross for the entirety of the Passover Sabbath. This would have allowed the disciples the entirety of Friday to appropriately care for His body in the garden tomb.

DOES IT MATTER?

Of course it matters! Everything in the Bible matters! Paul said, “There are some traditions of men that are not after the truth of Christ.” We ought never to give any portion of our Bibles away in seeking to numb our minds so as to think in other men’s boxes. The Bible clearly states the necessity of Christ’s bodily resurrection after an interment of three days AND three nights.

May the passion week ignite us to know the truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us! CHRIST THE LORD IS RISEN TODAY….JUST LIKE HE SAID!

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