Should We Be Celebrating Good Thursday? |

TBC Staff

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Tom: You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to him.

Today in this segment, we are going to discuss a subject which probably most of our listeners have never questioned but simply assumed to be true because, well, that’s what they grew up believing and never heard anyone challenge its veracity through the Scriptures. And what I’m referring to is Good Friday, the day most people believe that Jesus was crucified. In fact, most professing Christians around the world hold services on Good Friday in honor of Christ’s crucifixion, and that was certainly my experience growing up Roman Catholic. Nevertheless, we’re going to take a serious look at a biblical basis for Good Friday.

But before we get to that, Dave, I want to talk about the problem of accepting things simply because that’s the way someone’s always believed, or because one’s church had traditionally made it a practice of honoring a certain day.

Dave: Whatever we believe Tom, we must have a solid reason for it. We must have evidence. And God is running the universe; He’s the one who’s in charge. We’ve talked about this before. We need to find out what He has to say about it. I don’t care what some ecclesiastical genius or a great authority accepted by man has to say. Authority doesn’t come through the age of your organization, or how large it is, or fancy robes people wear, or what their traditions are. I wouldn’t want to step out into eternity trusting to some church’s tradition no matter how old it is, and how venerable and how large it is. I would want to know why God delegated them to tell everybody else what to do.

And you know in Matthew 23, Jesus took the rabbis to task for that very thing. Just to put it in modern terms, He said something like, “Well, you scoundrels, not only don’t you enter into heaven, but you stand in the way of those who would.” Jesus takes the rabbis to task for setting up a system of religion that they alone can interpret; nobody can get to God except by going through them. They make the rules. Now, common sense would tell you that that isn’t right. Why should I trust someone? Why should I trust a rabbi? Why should I trust a pope? Why should I trust a pastor? If God has not spoken and we can’t know that He spoke, we can’t know what He’s saying, we can’t understand it, forget it! So…

Tom: Yeah, but, Dave, you’re not saying here, “Look, don’t trust your pastor. Don’t trust people who have put in time and energy and scholarship upon things like, you know, understanding Greek, understanding Hebrew,” and so forth?

Dave: Well, Tom, it depends on what you mean by “trust.”

Tom: Well, I don’t want to worry people out there that we’re just throwing out everything that’s come down the line.

Dave: No, but on the other hand, you know what our whole ministry goes by—The Berean Call. The Bereans checked Paul out against the Scriptures. That’s all I am saying.

Tom: And they were commended for that.

Dave: That’s right. We are told that we should search the Scriptures to see whether these things are so. So I’m not saying that you sit in church with a skeptical eye on your pastor.

Tom: Or at least not cynical. Maybe some skepticism is okay.

Dave: Yeah but, Tom, you were talking not so much about a pastor’s Sunday morning but about traditions that have been accepted, and people just parrot these words. They accept what has been said before. And, you know, we could talk about a lot of traditions. We could talk about Mennonites or—every church probably has traditions. “This is the way you do it, and it’s been done this way for many years, and don’t rock the boat.”

But we’re not talking about doing it, whether you do things in a certain way, but beliefs, I presume. Tom, you’re running this show here, so you started us off on this.

Tom: Well, I’m concerned. We’re picking an issue here, and I know there are people there who are saying, “What are these whackos up to? They’re telling us that Jesus wasn’t crucified on Good Friday? The next thing they’ll be telling us that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25!”

Dave: Right.

Tom: Well, all we are saying is, “Well look, if this is what’s being presented, show us the scriptures that support that.” December 25, you won’t find any biblical support for that. We want people to, as you said, Dave, be Bereans—not be cynics, not have a critical spirit. But if they’re going to do whatever they do, it has to be on the basis of faith, and that faith ought to be based on their confidence in what God’s Word says. Where else can we turn?

Dave: Right. But, Tom, let’s make a distinction between December 25 and Good Friday…

Tom: Okay, good point.

Dave: …because most people that go along with the Christmas tradition, they don’t really think that Jesus was born December 25. They’re not sure, but they say, “Well, this is the time of the year for remembering His birth.”

Tom: Dave, I think you’re wrong there. I think a lot of people just think, Hey, what else can it be? Look, again, I grew up in the tradition of Roman Catholicism. There was so much based on tradition that we just believed because this is what the Church said. But we didn’t search the Scriptures. I didn’t!

Dave: Yeah, but you couldn’t search the Scriptures—well, you could in some sense. You had to make some deductions and so forth. But there is an important factor involved in whether Jesus was crucified on Friday, and I don’t remember where the question came from, but I think, in the book, I think it came from a file of the atheists attacks upon the Bible, because this is one of the things by which the atheists attack the veracity of scripture. They say, “Look, Jesus said, ‘As Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so the Son of man must be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’” And Jesus talked about rising from the…

Tom: Now you’re answering the question before we get to the question.

Dave: Well, you just said it.

Tom: No, I’m going to read it from your book, all right? It’s okay! Let me read this: “The Bible says,” just so our listeners understand, “the Bible says Christ was crucified the day before the Sabbath, which could mean on Friday. That the church accepts this is indicated by the world-wide Good Friday celebrations. Yet, the Bible also says He had to be three days and three nights in the grave, which is clearly impossible if He was crucified on Friday afternoon and resurrected early Sunday morning as the Bible says and Christians believed. Wouldn’t this contradiction cast doubt upon all the rest of the Bible, certainly upon the very heart of Christianity, the crucifixion, and the resurrection of Christ?”

Dave: Well, Tom, as I was saying, I’m not sure whether that question came out of my atheist file, but I think it did, because this is one of the obvious errors (as far as they’re concerned) in the Bible. But the Bible doesn’t say He was crucified Friday, you see, it says He was crucified the day before the Sabbath.

Tom: But millions of Christians assume that to be the case. You could go through any Bible, begin to look at the verses in the gospel that deal with this, and you’ll find headings: “Good Friday.”

Dave: Right. Well, it is the tradition not only among Catholics, but among Protestants and evangelicals as well. And what the atheist immediately says is just what that questioner said: If He was three days and three nights in the grave, how could He have been crucified on Friday? Now, I understand that the Jewish day begins in the evening, ends in the evening you know, and so you can make a case for three days since He was crucified Friday afternoon before sunset. Well, that’s part of the day that began Thursday evening and ended Friday.

Dave: And then all day Saturday would be from Friday evening until Saturday, the Sabbath, evening. And then, from Saturday evening until when He rose from the dead early in the morning on Sunday and that was the end of the part of the day, so you could say three days. But, Tom, how are you going to get three nights? Now, I have read some of the explanations, some Hebrew experts and so forth, and they talk about tradition. And I’ve had them come after me on this, but there is no way you can rationally get three nights. Now, they can try to say, “Well, the Jewish day meant the day and the night, so from Thursday evening until Friday evening, and if He’s crucified Friday afternoon, well, that included the night.” No, I don’t think so. Three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Tom: It’s very simple; we have a really very simple problem here. Three days, yes, but only two nights, but the scripture says He was in the grave three nights. So that has to move it back from Friday, which we’ve—we say “we,” and certainly I and many other Christians have considered Friday to be the day, but it can’t be.

Dave: Now, the reason why they think it must be Friday—one reason, I guess the major reason—is because it says it was just before the Sabbath. Well, the Sabbath is Saturday. But we’ve got a lot of other problems, Tom.

Tom: Let’s deal with that one. That’s a good one, Dave.

Dave: Well, there’s more than one Sabbath. We have the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for example. That began with the Passover night, and the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was a Sabbath. It was a special Sabbath.

Tom: Yeah. Let me quote John, the gospel of John:19:31: “The Jews therefore, (that is the Jewish leaders) 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,) and that they besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” So, John is indicating here that this was a special Sabbath day, not a regular Saturday or Sabbath day.

Dave: Yeah. Tom, when the Scriptures say it was the preparation, many people say, “Well, it was the preparation for the Saturday Sabbath.” But let’s go back to John:19:14: “And it was the preparation of the Passover,” it very clearly says. It was the preparation of the Passover, okay? Now, we have another problem then, a number of them. Jesus, if the…

Tom: Well, let me explain to our listeners: I’m laughing—this is kind of a nervous laugh because, you know, we’re dealing with so many things here that certainly I, for a number of years, and I know many others, again, just accepted these things. And when somebody says, “Wait a minute, check this out,” it’s a bit shocking! So go ahead.

Dave: Okay, well, if it was the preparation of the Passover when Jesus is on the cross, then they had not eaten the Passover lamb yet, because the preparation would involve killing the lamb, and then you have to roast it and so forth. And the lamb would be killed on the 14th day of the month—you get that from Exodus 12. On the 10th day of the month the lamb was taken out of the flock and it was kept under observation for four days to make certain that it was without spot and blemish. Now on the 14th day—and it’s rather interesting, prophetic statement there in Exodus:12:6—it says, “The whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.” There is a lamb coming, and Israel is going to kill it in the evening—that is, just before sundown, before a new day begins.

Furthermore, if Jesus—now we get to the problem then—Jesus did not…the Last Supper was not the Passover. That would have been entirely wrong.

Now, Tom, I guess we don’t have time to go into all these scriptures, but if you go, for example, let’s go to John:13:27: “Jesus said unto Judas, That thou doest, do quickly. Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him for some of them thought, that because Judas had the bag that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast.”

So the feast hasn’t yet begun—that is, the Passover feast, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and you would buy things because the day the feast began, the day you ate that Passover lamb, the stores were closed. I mean, there was nothing—you can’t go out there and buy something. So obviously, here they are, they’re eating the Passover (and this is what people say), and if they’re eating the Passover, this is a high Sabbath. There are no stores open out there! So obviously it must have been some time before this. In fact, it is the preparation. Now, they got the upper room, they followed the man with the pitcher of water on his head, and they began to prepare in the upper room. But they were preparing for a supper they were going to have the following evening, because the disciples didn’t know that Jesus was going to be crucified.

Tom: Dave, let me quote that to you, because that’s one of the more difficult passages with regard to the idea that this is not the Passover. I’m looking at Matthew:26:17-19, “Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus [now this is the first day of the feast of unleavened bread] saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the Passover? And he said, Go into the city to such a man and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at thy house with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the Passover.”

So you’re saying Jesus is going to keep it with them, so that’s kind of a problem, because He doesn’t. He’s on the cross when the Passover takes place.

Dave: Tom, there are some difficult passages here. The first day was referred to as the “day of preparation.” It was called the “first day of the feast” as well, so this was the day before.

But look, I can give you so many—well, we’ve given you one. Judas was going out and they thought he was going to buy something. You don’t buy something the night of the Passover when you’re going to eat that feast. Now, how are they going to prepare? They haven’t even killed the Passover lamb yet. The Passover lambs were all killed together. Jesus, the next day, is on the cross when the Passover lambs are being slain.

Furthermore, if we go to John:18:28

Tom: John:18:28, “Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover.”

Dave: Right. This is the morning after Jesus was betrayed. This was the morning after the Last Supper, but the rabbis have not eaten the Passover yet. That’s very odd if Jesus ate the Passover. Furthermore, Tom, I…

Tom: Dave, let me interject this: When you begin looking at this issue, and I remember doing it quite a while back, but there are all kinds of suggestions—one, that, well, they did it in part, because there were so many people who came to Jerusalem for the feast, and they had to, in order to get everybody done and get all of the lambs killed, and… You know, there were all kinds of rationale, but they’re all running against the issue that we began with, and that is, three days and three nights must precede…

Dave: A Sunday morning resurrection.

Tom: Exactly.

Dave: Now, Tom, there is more involved in that, of course, as you know. The Bible is God’s Word. Scripture must be fulfilled, and prophecy must be fulfilled. Jesus, who is our Passover, He’s the last Passover Lamb that was slain. He had to be on the cross when the Passover lambs were being slain, no question about it. Now, let’s go back to John 12: “Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.”

Now, if you want to go back and find out, he came quite a ways. We don’t have time to go into that. Now, let’s count six days from a Friday crucifixion. You count back six days and you know what you get? You get Saturday, which is the Sabbath. Jesus is not making this kind of a journey on the Sabbath, okay? That again tells—but if you count back from a Thursday crucifixion, then you come to Friday—it was the day before the Sabbath that He came in to Bethany. Now, I can’t explain that away.

Furthermore, I believe that He came, He rode into Jerusalem on the 10th of Nissan, 32 AD. What was the significance of the 10th of Nissan? We mentioned on the 10th day—well, in Exodus 12, God says, “This month shall be the beginning of months to you. And on the 10th day of the month you will take a lamb out of the flock.”

Now, Jesus had been hiding out—we will get to that in our study of John. John 11 tells us that he doesn’t walk in Jewry because the Jews sought to slay Him. There was a price on His head. That’s why Judas could go to them and say, “I’ll deliver Him into your hands. Now what are you going to give me for it?”

So He has been staying away from Jerusalem. He hasn’t been there in Judea for a long time because there’s a price on His head. Suddenly He shows up! How does He show up? He comes riding on a donkey into Jerusalem presenting Himself to Israel. When does He do it? The tenth of Nissan. The very day that the lambs are being taken out of the flock, here comes the Lamb of God and presents Himself. And then, He doesn’t run away and hide, He stays there. He is in the temple every day. He is under observation just as the Passover lamb was supposed to be. Here is the Lamb of God; He’s under observation.

So, then if that’s true, which I believe it has to be for all of the Scriptures to hang together, then count from Sunday—this is Palm Sunday, and I believe it really was on a Sunday—count four days from Sunday to the 14th when the lambs were slain, and that brings you to Thursday. So Jesus had to be on the cross on Thursday, not on Friday.

Now there are some people who try to say, “Well, he was crucified Wednesday.” But then we’ve got a problem, because you have too many days. Why couldn’t the women, then, get to the graves sooner than that?

But you see, here we have two Sabbaths that come together—this would happen once every 7th year. We have the high Sabbath, a special Sabbath as John:19:31 says, which you read for us. That Sabbath day was a high day, okay? So from Thursday evening until Friday evening is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Then from Friday evening—and that’s a Sabbath—from Friday evening to Saturday evening is the regular Saturday Sabbath, so the women could not get to the grave until Sunday morning. It all holds together, Tom.

But of course, you began it with this problem: three nights. Now, we’ve got three nights of Thursday crucifixion: Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night, and we have three days and three nights exactly as the Scripture says.

Now, I hope no one out there is saying, “Well, you know, you guys are just splitting hairs. Why are you doing this?” Well, the importance is because the Scripture had to be fulfilled. Jesus foretold it: He had to be three nights… We have the prophetic picture from the Old Testament of the Passover Lamb being taken out of the flock on the 10th and then killed on the 14th. We have so many things that must hold together if the Bible is truly the Word of God, and a Thursday crucifixion does all of that. Then why must I cling to the Friday, Good Friday? Because the whole world does it. Are you going to have some church that’s going to celebrate Good Thursday here? So, we are bound Tom, by tradition. And I have even talked about this to, really, top evangelical pastors, and they’ve said, “Well, Dave, yeah, you’ve got a point, but umm…yeah, okay.”

Tom, we’re just trying to say: search the Scriptures.

Tom: Right, that’s our heart in this.

Dave, just as you are laying this out for us, I get excited! I read the scriptures, but you certainly have an understanding, you know, have more time into it than I do. But when you begin to put these things together for me, I get excited about God’s Word! And that’s what we’re trying to do for our listeners: get them excited about God’s Word.

Dave: Amen.