The last week of the life of Jesus has been the subject of many sermons, books and lessons. Because no dates were given in scripture, there is disagreement as to the timing of some of the events. The Lord Jesus said that the prophet Jonah was a sign. “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40) This gives us a clue as to the timing of His death on the cross.
It is also interesting that Jonah was given as a sign, because Jonah was the only prophet of God to obtain repentance. The prophets of the Lord were usually mistreated, imprisoned or even killed. The people of Israel did not repent. However, the king of Ninevah and the people of the city repented, and the Lord delayed his judgment against them. Of course, Jesus obtained the repentance of those of us who love Him. Our judgment is not just delayed, but canceled because of the blood of Jesus.
The first day of Jesus’ last week was probably Sunday. Jesus would not have traveled on the Sabbath, so he came to Jerusalem the next day. We know it as Palm Sunday, the day when the Lamb of God was presented to Jerusalem. Following the pattern given in Exodus, this was the tenth day of Nisan, the same day that the Passover lambs were chosen for sacrifice. (Exodus 12:3) John the Baptist called Jesus the “Lamb of God.” (John 1:29)
Also, please note that Jesus never spent the night in Jerusalem. He always returned to Bethany. (Matthew 21:17) This was because Jerusalem was the “fold” of the Jews. As the Lamb of God, like the lamb chosen for the Passover sacrifice, Jesus was kept separate from the main “flock” and dwelled in a separate place, Bethany.
Again, following the pattern of the Passover observation, Jesus cleaned out His house by driving the moneychangers out of the Temple. It was also during this time that He gave the “Olivet Discourse” in which He described future events that would occur in Jerusalem. (Matthew 24 and 25, Mark 13, Luke 21)
Nisan 14, the day of preparation for Passover, began at sundown on the evening. If Sunday was the tenth of Nisan, then this would be the evening of Wednesday, Nisan 13. Jesus celebrated Passover with the Disciples a day early. Afterward, He was arrested in the garden. All during Wednesday night He was taken from place to place, in violation of Jewish law.
If the assumption that “Palm Sunday” was Nisan 10 is correct, then Jesus was crucified on Thursday, Nisan 14. As the Passover lambs were being slaughtered for the Passover meal (please see Exodus 12:6), the Lamb of God died on Calvary. He was taken from the cross in the late afternoon because “the next day was to be a special Sabbath.” (John 19:31) Passover is Nisan 15, whatever day of the week it falls on. In this case, I believe Nisan 15, the special Sabbath, was Friday. The regular Sabbath would be the next day.
Thus, when Jesus was resurrected Sunday morning, He had spent three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, just as He prophesied. This day was already a Jewish holy day called “Firstfruits.” On the day after the Sabbath, or Sunday, the Firstfruits of the new harvest were to be presented. (Leviticus 23:11) Jesus was the Firstfruits of the resurrection. (First Corinthians 15:20)
Certainly, here is an item for praise. Jesus was the Firstfruits of the resurrection so that we may have that same wonderful hope. Thank you, Jesus. Praise His name!