I brought this up in the first two services this morning and received some confused looks. The third service this morning was going long, so I tried not to chase this rabbit, but thought that this would be a good place to address this.
First, what is "Holy Week" or "Passion Week?" This is the time from Palm Sunday (today) through Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday). Passion Week is so named because of the passion with which Jesus willingly went to the cross in order to pay the debt of our sins. It's described in all four gospels and begins with the triumphal entry of Christ on a colt, as prophesied in Zechariah 9:9.
Maundy Thursday is also known as "Holy Thursday" and comes before Good Friday. This is the name given to the day on which Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples, known now as the Last Supper. The word "Maundy" comes from the Latin for "command." This refers to the command Jesus gave his disciples at the Last Supper that they should love and serve one another.
Many liturgical churches hold services and special events on Maundy Thursday. Some Baptist churches do as well. Should all churches do this? The Bible neither commands nor forbids it. It is a good thing to remember the events of the Last Supper (as we did this morning in worship) and especially the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. As long as people who choose to gather together on this day do so for the purpose of remembering the command of Christ and focus on the personal relationship one can have with Him, it can be a special occasion. I, however, do not believe the church must be mandated to hold services on this day. Those that choose to, more power to them. It's a very special day.
Then, there's Good Friday. This is the Friday immediately preceding Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday) and is celebrated as the traditional day on which Jesus was crucified. The Bible does not instruct Christians to remember Christ's death by honoring a certain day. The Bible gives us freedom in these matters - see Romans 14:4. However, we are to remember the sacrifice Christ made for us, daily. Whether or not Christians or churches choose to "celebrate" Good Friday, the events of the day should be ever in our minds. Jesus' death on the cross is the paramount event in Christianity, except for the resurrection, which must have the crucifixion to occur.
OK, so we have those specially named days "Maundy Thursday" and "Good Friday" and it seems everything is in place on the calendar, until you look through the gospel accounts of the crucifixion and the prophecies Jesus made himself about his death and realize we have a number problem. Now, this is nothing to die over, split a church over or fight about. I just find it interesting. This first came to my attention in Israel as I discussed with my friend and guide Yoni about the time issues. He gave me some things to think about.
We all know that Jesus was to be dead three days and three nights. I've heard explanations about how Friday to Sunday can be three days, but the more I look at it, the more that doesn't make sense. So, here's some information from www.gotquestions.org about this issue:
Question: "On what day was Jesus crucified?"
Answer: The Bible does not explicitly state on which day of the week Jesus was crucified. The two most widely held views are Friday and Wednesday. Some, however, using a synthesis of both the Friday and Wednesday arguments, argue for Thursday as the day.
Jesus said in Matthew 12:40, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Those who argue for a Friday crucifixion say that there is still a valid way in which He could have been considered in the grave for three days. In the Jewish mind of the first century, a part of day was considered as a full day. Since Jesus was in the grave for part of Friday, all of Saturday, and part of Sunday—He could be considered to have been in the grave for three days. One of the principal arguments for Friday is found in Mark 15:42, which notes that Jesus was crucified “the day before the Sabbath.” If that was the weekly Sabbath, i.e. Saturday, then that fact leads to a Friday crucifixion. Another argument for Friday says that verses such as Matthew 16:21 and Luke 9:22 teach that Jesus would rise on the third day; therefore, He would not need to be in the grave a full three days and nights. But while some translations use “on the third day” for these verses, not all do, and not everyone agrees that “on the third day” is the best way to translate these verses. Furthermore, Mark 8:31says that Jesus will be raised “after” three days.
The Thursday argument expands on the Friday view and argues mainly that there are too many events (some count as many as twenty) happening between Christ's burial and Sunday morning to occur from Friday evening to Sunday morning. Proponents of the Thursday view point out that this is especially a problem when the only full day between Friday and Sunday was Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. An extra day or two eliminates that problem. The Thursday advocates could reason thus: suppose you haven't seen a friend since Monday evening. The next time you see him it is Thursday morning and you say, “I haven’t seen you in three days” even though it had technically only been 60 hours (2.5 days). If Jesus was crucified on Thursday, this example shows how it could be considered three days.
The Wednesday opinion states that there were two Sabbaths that week. After the first one (the one that occurred on the evening of the crucifixion [Mark 15:42; Luke 23:52-54]), the women purchased spices—note that they made their purchase after the Sabbath (Mark 16:1). The Wednesday view holds that this “Sabbath” was the Passover (see Leviticus 16:29-31, 23:24-32, 39, where high holy days that are not necessarily the seventh day of the week are referred to as the Sabbath). The second Sabbath that week was the normal weekly Sabbath. Note that in Luke 23:56, the women who had purchased spices after the first Sabbath returned and prepared the spices, then “rested on the Sabbath” (Luke 23:56). The argument states that they could not purchase the spices after the Sabbath, yet prepare those spices before the Sabbath—unless there were two Sabbaths. With the two-Sabbath view, if Christ was crucified on Thursday, then the high holy Sabbath (the Passover) would have begun Thursday at sundown and ended at Friday sundown—at the beginning of the weekly Sabbath or Saturday. Purchasing the spices after the first Sabbath (Passover) would have meant they purchased them on Saturday and were breaking the Sabbath.
Therefore, according to the Wednesday viewpoint, the only explanation that does not violate the biblical account of the women and the spices and holds to a literal understanding of Matthew 12:40, is that Christ was crucified on Wednesday. The Sabbath that was a high holy day (Passover) occurred on Thursday, the women purchased spices (after that) on Friday and returned and prepared the spices on the same day, they rested on Saturday which was the weekly Sabbath, then brought the spices to the tomb early Sunday. Jesus was buried near sundown on Wednesday, which began Thursday in the Jewish calendar. Using a Jewish calendar, you have Thursday night (night one), Thursday day (day one), Friday night (night two), Friday day (day two), Saturday night (night three), Saturday day (day three). We do not know exactly when He rose, but we do know that it was before sunrise on Sunday (John 20:1, Mary Magdalene came “while it was still dark”), so He could have risen as early as just after sunset Saturday evening, which began the first day of the week to the Jews.
A possible problem with the Wednesday view is that the disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus did so on “the same day” of His resurrection (Luke 24:13). The disciples, who do not recognize Jesus, tell Him of Jesus' crucifixion (24:21) and say that “today is the third day since these things happened” (24:22). Wednesday to Sunday is four days. A possible explanation is that they may have been counting since Wednesday evening at Christ's burial, which begins the Jewish Thursday, and Thursday to Sunday could be counted as three days.
In the grand scheme of things, it is not all that important to know what day of the week Christ was crucified. If it were very important, then God's Word would have clearly communicated the day and timeframe. What is important is that He did die and that He physically, bodily rose from the dead. What is equally important is the reason He died—to take the punishment that all sinners deserve.John 3:16 and 3:36 both proclaim that putting your trust in Him results in eternal life! This is equally true whether He was crucified on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.
Recommended Resource: The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas.
One thing this does is mess up the schedule for Holy Week. Therefore, don't get too caught up in it if you celebrate Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. You could have Maundy Tuesday and Good Wednesday but that would be too confusing and just set you up for unnecessary arguments. Remember the events of Holy Week. The days aren't the big deal. The important thing is we know Jesus died on the cross for us and in so doing, glorified the Father. Three days later He arose from the dead and is alive today. . .so you and I can have life.