I don’t have an ax to grind about when Christians commemorate the day Christ was crucified. In some ways, I think it’s odd that we do at all. I mean, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper so that we would remember His broken body and shed blood—the evidence of His sacrifice on our behalf. So setting aside Good Friday seems, redundant. Not a bad thing, certainly, but kind of like Kids Day.
When I was young I asked my parents why moms got Mother’s Day and dads got Father’s day but kids didn’t get a day. She wisely answered, That’s because every day is kids’ day. Well, she probably didn’t say “kids” but you get the idea. If it’s normative, then no special commemoration needs to be made.
So too with Christ’s death on the cross. We are regularly to celebrate it, so a special Good Friday seems unnecessary to me. But not to others.
So why am I calling this post Good Wednesday and talking about Christ’s execution today? Last year I wrote about the idea which I learned from my former pastor, Chuck Swindoll, that Christ died on a Wednesday, allowing His body to be in the grave three days and three nights as Scripture says.
This year I’m looking at an altered timeline which would allow for the events of the Passion described in the gospels to take place in all their fullness. I think that’s important for a number of reason, the greatest perhaps being that this understanding eliminates what some people have referred to as inconsistencies or contradictions in the four gospel accounts.
One of these differing accounts has to do with the time of Jesus’s crucifixion. Mark gives several time references in his record of events:
It was the third hour when they crucified Him. . . . When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. (15:25, 33)
Unlike the western manner of reckoning time, the Jews marked the hours starting at sunrise, as explained by Strong’s Lexicon:
hōra: a twelfth part of the day-time, an hour, (the twelve hours of the day are reckoned from the rising to the setting of the sun)
Hence, the third hour would have been 9 AM, the sixth hour, noon, and the ninth hour, 3 PM.
However, John records a different time in his gospel:
Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” (19:14-15, emphasis added)
Note that John describes Pilate at the end of his haggling with the Jews—the end of Jesus’s final trial—and it is already noon. Either he got the time wrong or Mark did or they both got it right and these events happened on different days.
Because I think all Scripture is inspired by our omniscient Holy Spirit, I don’t think either book has a wrong time recorded. Rather, I think we’ve been reading these accounts through the lens of our tradition. If we presuppose the accuracy of Scripture, based on God’s authorship, then where we think we see discrepancies, we need to re-evaluate our understanding.
If we understand the events connected with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus to have taken place over a period of several days, we can offer a counterpoint to the idea that the gospels contain errors or aren’t reliable or are only reliable for the generalities or the themes they depict.
One added note, not really related to this topic. This week the Americas enjoyed a rare sight—a full eclipse of the moon, the kind that creates a reddish cast, and consequently is known as a “Blood Moon.”
Monday night I watched as the earth’s shadow slipped across the face of the moon, darkening the reflected white light and in turn darkening the sky. The “total” part of the eclipse lasted only moments.
But imagine the day Jesus died and the full eclipse of the sun. Not the gradual movement of the moon between it and the earth, I don’t think. Mark said darkness fell over the whole earth on the sixth hour until the ninth. The heart of the day, from noon until three.
And why not? Why wouldn’t the universe protest against the Light of the world hanging on a cross, against the Maker of life giving up His Spirit in death.
It’s only fitting that during those hours when the dominion of darkness seemed to be winning, that the world would go dark.
Praise God, those three hours of darkness, those three days of Jesus’s burial, came to a glorious end.