Jesus' Last Week On Earth

Jesus' Last Week On Earth
Word Study

Each year in April when much of the world "celebrates" the greatest gift ever given, that being the life of the Son of God in exchange to purchase mankind's eternity back from sin, it's interesting to take a look at that last week that Jesus spent in bodily form prior to and through His death and resurrection.

The actual chronology may surprise some as it differs from the traditional celebration days the church centuries later assigned to the events.

While Church tradition commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday, by researching history, studying Jewish holiday traditions, and "doing the math", we find that Jesus actually didn't die on the Friday "celebration" day that the church set aside for commemoration centuries ago. Let's explore this to find out the facts.

The Friday view is based on the wording of Mark 15:42, which says that Christ's crucifixion occurred on the day of preparation, "the day before the Sabbath". Since the Hebrew weekly Sabbath is on Saturday, the Church traditionally, and mistakenly, held that Jesus was crucified on Friday. However, Jesus prophesied that he would be dead for three days and three nights (72 hours) before his resurrection:

"For as Jonah 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." ~ Matthew 12:40

There are obviously not three days and three nights (72 hours) between Friday evening and pre-dawn sunrise Sunday morning. Scripture reveals that the women got to the grave before sun-up Sunday morning and it was empty. So that would be less than 36 hours, only one and a half days in the tomb.

The early church's error appears easily resolved by a clarification of what Mark meant by "sabbath". The word sabbath simply means holy day, or a day set apart from others. Along with the weekly Sabbath day (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown), the Jews had other "sabbaths" throughout the year, marking high holy days. In Matthew 28:1, the Greek should be translated, "at the end of the sabbaths" - a plural word - noting that there had been more than one sabbath the previous week. The first day of the Feast Of Unleavened Bread was also a "sabbath" (Lev. 23:6,7). This feast is celebrated on Nisan 15, the day after Passover (Lev. 23:5-6). Jesus was crucified on Passover and Mark 15:42-43 notes that Joseph of Arimathea desired to take Christ's body down from the cross before the High Sabbath began. [Some can be confused by Luke 22:1 and Matt 26:17 if Jewish history is not known and understood. Denotatively, the two Feasts are separate days. Connotatively, the entire period from Passover through the 7 days of the Feast Of Unleavened Bread is considered "Passover".]

If Passover, the 14th day of Nisan, fell earlier in the week, the 15th could have been any day prior to Saturday, the weekly Sabbath. "When the sabbaths were past" would, of course, be Sunday (actually starting Saturday evening after sundown), in accordance to the Feast Of Firstfruits.

John 12:1 mentions that Jesus traveled to Bethany six days before the Passover. Hebrew days are reckoned from sundown to sundown, so that each "day" begins at sundown the evening before. These six evening-to-morning periods are important to our understanding of the fulfillment of Old Testament feasts, particularly the feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits. Let's track these days and see how they match the pattern set down for us in the book of Leviticus.

DAY ONE - FRIDAY - The 9th of Nisan

We know from Luke 19:1 and Mark 10:46 that Jesus was in Jericho prior to traveling to Bethany. Jesus would have had to be in Bethany before sundown on Friday, since at sundown the weekly Sabbath would start, and long-distance travel was not permitted on the Sabbath.

DAY TWO - SATURDAY (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) - The 10th of Nisan

"On the next day the large crowd that had come to the Passover festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.  So they took palm branches and went to meet him. They were shouting, 'Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel!'" - John 12:12-13 (GWT)

Jesus' entry through the sheep gate
This is Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, commemorated on Palm Sunday (in accordance with the traditional Friday view, which put it 5 days before the crucifixion). However, it appears it actually occurred on a Saturday. Jesus went into the Temple and threw out the money changers shortly after this. He then taught daily in the Temple until the Passover (Luke 19:45-48, Mark 11:15-17).

His entry into Jerusalem on the 10th day of Nisan also corresponds with Exodus 12:3-6, in which a lamb was separated from the flock and put on display as the lamb destined to be sacrificed on Passover. On this day, Jesus was put on display as he proceeded from Bethany down the Mount of Olives toward Jerusalem, entering though the "sheep gate", where all the lambs that were to be slaughtered, roasted and eaten for Passover had to enter. While the people welcomed Jesus as the Messiah, the King, His primary purpose at that time was to die as the sacrificial lamb, as he explains in John 12:23-33

Jesus taught in the Temple and around Jerusalem

DAY THREE - SUNDAY (sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday) - The 11th of Nisan

During this time, the "Lamb of God" was on public display in and around Jerusalem, teaching the people many things about Himself and the kingdom of God. Some of Jesus' most well-known parables and prophecies were made during these next several days.

DAY FOUR - MONDAY (sundown Sunday to sundown Monday) - The 12th of Nisan

A quiet day at Bethany - Matt 26:2-6 (spent in the house of Simon the Leper).

DAY FIVE - TUESDAY (sundown Monday to sundown Tuesday) - The 13th of Nisan

Jesus taught the multitudes, and told of His coming death.

DAY SIX - WEDNESDAY (sundown Tuesday to sundown Wednesday) - The 14th of Nisan

The "Last Supper"

- "The Last Supper" took place at the Passover meal (Luke 22:15-20, John 13-17). Jesus offered his disciples the broken bread and the wine as representing his own body and blood. He washed their feet and taught them many last things before his death. They then went to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed.

Judas betrayal and arrest by temple guards
- He was arrested in the Garden after Judas' betrayal.

Jesus on trial before Pilate
- After several "trials" which started early Wednesday morning (the first around 3am), he was beaten, scourged by Roman soldiers and finally crucified on Wednesday at the third hour of daylight (approximately 9am by Jewish standards of that day).

- The preparations for burial were made before evening as Jesus had to be removed and buried before sundown when the High Sabbath of the Feast Of Unleavened Bread began (Mark 15:42-43).


DAY ONE - THURSDAY (sundown Wednesday to sundown Thursday) - 15th of Nisan

Leviticus 23:5 designates the 14th of Nisan to be the day for observing Passover. Jesus was placed in the tomb just prior to sundown on Wednesday and spent his first full night and day in the tomb beginning on the 15th of Nisan, the Feast Of Unleavened Bread, a High Sabbath day. Unleavened bread was pure bread. Jesus was pure and undefiled and without sin. During the Jewish observance of this feast, some of the unleavened bread was to be hidden away by each family's father for a time, only to be brought out and eaten later. Jesus' physical body was hidden away for a time in the tomb, guarded by Roman soldiers, as His spirit descended into Sheol, the abode of the dead.

Roman soldiers guarding the sealed tomb where Jesus was placed

DAY TWO - FRIDAY (sundown Thursday to sundown Friday) - 16th of Nisan

Jesus' body's second full "day" in the tomb, while His spirit was in Sheol.

DAY THREE - SATURDAY (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) - 17th of Nisan

Jesus' physical body lay in the grave for the third full night after his crucifixion. Careful examination of scripture says that during this time, Jesus' spirit spoke the good news that all sins were forgiven to the righteous souls in Sheol, the abode of the dead. That His shedding of blood, His death, and His coming resurrection was in essence a "snatching of the keys to death and Sheol" from Satan, who had through sin, brought death into the existence of mankind. It now was forever paid in full.

Joakim Skovgaard's vision of Jesus bringing the good news of forgiveness of all sins to Sheol

Sometime after sundown Saturday evening (the start of Sunday), Jesus rose from the dead. Thus, he had been in the grave three full days and nights as He prophesied. [Some argue from Luke 24:20-21 that Jesus must have been crucified on Thursday, which would have had him in the grave Thursday night and Friday day, Friday night and Saturday day, Saturday night and Sunday morning until Sunday evening, which doesn't work according to the three day prophesy and linking to Jonah's three days in the fish. That would have put His resurrection on Monday morning].

Mary at the empty tomb
Early pre-dawn Sunday morning (John 20:1), when the women went to the tomb with burial spices, they found the tomb empty with angels guarding it. Sunday, as the "morrow after the Sabbath" after Passover was the Feast Of First Fruits (Lev 23:10-11; 1 Cor 15:20-23). In rising from the dead on Sunday, Jesus became the first-fruits of all those who die and yet will be resurrected to live forever. Hallelujah!

Jesus died and rose for you. It's very easy to be part of His family. Just believe in your heart that He died for your sins, rose again, and now sits at the right hand of God in His throne room. Simple. You don't have to try and clean up your life or stop doing this or that. Once done, He'll help you with all of that over the rest of your life and living with the Lord in your life is awesome. Jesus said "Come to me if you are tired and heavily burdened and I will give you rest." Go ahead...what do you have to lose?