See how I bare you on eagles’ wings and brought you unto myself.” Ex.19: 4.

Royce Kennedy ◊ 909 Whistling Duck Drive ◊ Largo, MD 20774




“The Jews, therefore, that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the Sabbath, since it was the preparation, (for that Sabbath day was a great one,) asked of Pilate that their legs may be broken, and they taken away.” John 19”31. “The first day of the week comes Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, to the sepulchre, and sees the stone taken away from the sepulchre.” John 20:1. “Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.” Mark 16:9. The day of the week Jesus died has of course generated much debate all over 2000 years with all sorts of fanciful theories. The truth of the matter is that in dealing with dates of the distant past very few reliable sources are available and we have no choice than to judiciously interpret the records that are available. Remembering that the accurate dating of an event is not as important as the event itself and that our salvation is based on the veracity of that event rather than on its accurate timing. For example, what is important is that Jesus actually died on the cross to save his people, not whether he died at 3.00 pm or at 3.15pm.

            The days in the bible follow the Jewish pattern of time keeping, for example, the Jewish hours were not of equal intervals during the day for the day was measured from sunrise to sunset and divided by 12, and of course the Summer Day was longer than the Winter Day, making the Summer daily hours longer than the Winter hours. Jewish hours are unequal hours and are obtained by dividing the period from sunrise to sunset (for the day) and from sunset to sunrise (for the night) into 12 equal parts each, also the Jewish full day was from sunset to sunset, in other words the 24 hour day began with the night, not with the day (midnight) as it does for us. An important point to note is that when the daytime is divided into 12 parts to produce unequal hours, the sun is on the meridian at the 6th hour whatever the season. The Jewish calendar day does not begin at midnight, but at either sunset or when 3 medium-sized stars should be visible, depending on the religious circumstance. Sunset marks the start of the 12 night hours, whereas sunrise marks the start of the 12 day-hours. This means that night hours may be longer or shorter than day hours, depending on the season.

            From the remotest time to the present the Israelites have computed the day from sunset to sunset, or rather from sunset to the appearance of the first 3 stars which marked the beginning of a new day. (Lev.23:32. Neh.4:21. Before the Babylonian Exile the time between sunrise and sunset was divided into “morning” “midday” and “evening”, but during the stay in Babylon the Hebrews adopted the division into 12 hours (John 11:9), whose duration varied with length of the day. We know from scripture that Jesus was not in the tomb early on Sunday when it was still dark. That’s when Mary came while it was still dark and found the stone rolled away. The 1st day of the week means Sunday and in Mark 16:9, it says, “He rose early on the 1st day of the week” meaning soon after the beginning of Sunday, i.e. Saturday after sunset. If we start counting from sometime during sunset on Saturday and go back 72 hours we come to Wednesday evening for his burial. Jesus was crucified on the 3rd hour of Wednesday which corresponds about to our 9 am. “And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.” Mark 15:25. He died about the 9th hour or about 3pm. “Joseph of Arimathaea, an honorable counselor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly to Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. And Pilate marveled if he were already dead: and calling to him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.” Mark15:43-45.

            All of this took place between 3pm and sunset, before the beginning of the high Sabbath, because the Mosaic Law forbade that bodies be hung on a tree during this day. “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day, sought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” John 19”31.” “But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they broke not his legs.” John 19:33. Please observe keenly that this Sabbath day was also called high Sabbath or high day, and it was not the normal weekly Sabbath that falls on Saturday. This high Sabbath fell on Thursday, meaning that Jesus died on Wednesday about 3pm, and his body had to be taken down from the cross before 6pm. when the high Sabbath would begin. The high Sabbath connects with the “Feast of Unleavened Bread or the Paschal.

            Jesus died on Wednesday and the day after (Thursday) was the High Sabbath (not Saturday—the weekly Sabbath) the feast of unleavened bread. The next day was Friday, an ordinary day and the women collected the spices to embalm his body, a regular task for women to do. “And when the Sabbath was passed (meaning Thursday—the high Sabbath) Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had brought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. Mark 16”1. “And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment.” Luke 23:56. Let us do a quick re-run here! The Sabbath (Thursday the “ high day”) was past and on Friday, a normal day, the ladies bought spices and ointments to embalm the body of Jesus. But the next day being Saturday, the weekly Sabbath, they had to rest and observe the Sabbath. The women went to the sepulchre the night of the first day of the week (Sunday) when it was yet dark but Jesus was not there. He was resurrected during the night preceding Sunday. Since the Jewish day begins at 6pm, the first day of the week while it was still dark could have been any time after sunset on Saturday because at that time it is officially the first day of the week.

Royce O. Kennedy