Is “Good Friday” biblical, or is it a tradition that ignores the clear sign Jesus Christ gave about His own resurrection?
Question: I have looked in my Bible for evidence of the “Good Friday” my church will observe next month, but I cannot find it. What am I overlooking?
Answer: Jesus gave us a very specific amount of time He would spend in the grave: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For 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” (Matthew 12:39–40).
Some claim that Jesus was using a Jewish idiom by which He didn’t mean three literal days and nights—that any part of a day would apply, whether day or night. However, Jesus said He would be in the heart of the earth as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish. In the Old Testament book of Jonah, the Hebrew does not allow for partial days when both days and nights are mentioned. It plainly means three literal days and three literal nights: a full 72 hours.
This fact alone proves that the widely assumed “Good Friday to Easter Sunday” chronology of only one full day and two full nights cannot be correct.
When was Christ resurrected? “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him’” (John 20:1–2). So, the tomb was already empty “while it was still dark” on “the first day of the week.” Counting back 72 hours, there is no way at all that Jesus could have been crucified on Friday!
Scripture reveals that Jesus died at about 3:00 p.m. (Matthew 27:46–50) and that He was put in the tomb right before sunset on a Sabbath preparation day (Mark 15:42–47). Most assume this means late Friday afternoon as the Sabbath began at sunset that day. However, the gospel of John gives us a vital detail about what happened immediately after His death: “Therefore, 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” (John 19:31).
Jesus kept the Passover with His disciples the prior evening. He was crucified on the daylight portion of the Passover day, and when the sun set that day, it was the start of the annual High Day Sabbath known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:4–7).
Understanding the Apostle John’s statement that it was a High Day Sabbath is crucial to understanding the chronology given in the New Testament. We see that Jesus kept the Passover with His disciples on Tuesday evening that year. He was crucified on the daylight portion of the Passover and put in the tomb right before sunset on that High Day Sabbath, which lasted from sunset Wednesday evening to sunset Thursday evening. The women observed that annual Sabbath, and when it was over they went out on Friday to buy spices (Mark 16:1). We then learn that they prepared the spices on that day and then rested on the weekly Sabbath (Luke 23:56). It should be evident that you cannot prepare spices before you buy them!
When we put all the relevant scriptures together, we see that Jesus was put in the tomb shortly before sunset on Wednesday right before the First Day of Unleavened Bread began. We know that 72 hours later, before the first day of the week had begun, He had risen.
Churches that hold to the Good Friday and Easter Sunday traditions are denying the plain words of Scripture and the very sign Jesus gave of His Messiahship.
For a more complete explanation and to learn more about false teachings that have been attached to Jesus’ resurrection, request free copies of Easter: The Untold Story and Satan’s Counterfeit Christianity, or read them online at TomorrowsWorld.org.
[Editor's Note: The previously published version of this item mistakenly cited Luke 23:15 instead of Luke 23:56. We apologize for the error.]