THE TIME LINE FROM CHRIST’S ARRIVAL AT BETHANY TO HIS ASCENSION
(A note to the reader: Many critics of the Bible have assumed that there are errors in the Gospel accounts of Christ’s last week of His earthly ministry. The paper on the supposed errors in the Bible discusses and proves from Scripture that there are indeed, no errors in regard to this subject or any other subject).
The time line between Christ’s arrival at Bethany and His ascension can be a difficult and complicated study. Part of the difficulty is alleviated once we understand the Hebrew day and a few of the elements of the Hebrew Feasts of Passover and of Unleavened Bread.
Another difficulty found in this topic is the fact that most Christians believe that Christ was crucified on a Friday and rose on a Sunday. That adds up to two nights and two days but the sign of Jonah is that Christ will be buried for three nights and three days. The sign of Jonah is explained in Matt. 12:39-41. That passage reads, “But He answered and said unto them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas 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’”. (For the Scriptural evidence that Christ was buried for three days and three nights please see the paper on that subject.)
THE HEBREW DAY
The Hebrew day begins and ends at sunset. How do we know that? Let us consider Gen. 1:4, “…..and the evening and the morning were the first day. And 1:8, “…..and the evening and the morning were the second day”. And 1:13, “…..and the evening and the morning were the third day”. See also verses 19, 23 and 31. Please note that in every case, the order is first the evening, and then the day.
In point of fact, even in the 21st century, the Hebrew day begins and ends at sunset. That is to say, Jews today count sunset as the beginning and the end of the day.
THE FEASTS OF UNLEAVENED BREAD AND PASSOVER
We read in Lev. 23:5-7, 5) “The fourteenth day of the first month is the Lord’s Passover. 6) And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. 7) In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein”.
There are two elements of this passage that are of importance to our study. 1) Each of these two feasts begins on a different day, which makes them different feasts. That is to say if the Feast of Unleavened Bread was the same feast as the Feast of Passover they would begin on the same day. 2) The second point of importance to our study is that the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is specifically said to be a Sabbath, i.e. “ye shall do no servile work therein”. But please note, there is absolutely no indication that the Passover was to be a Sabbath. In point of fact the Bible never says that the Passover is a Sabbath. (If the reader would like to confirm that statement I offer this complete list of the passages which speak of the Passover. Ex. 12:11 and 48. Lev. 23:5. Numbers 9:2-14 and 28:16. Deut. 16:1-6. Joshua 5:10-11. II Kings 23:21-23. II Chron. 30:1-18 and 35:1-19. Ezra 6:19-20. Ezek. 45:21. Matt. 26:18.Mark 15:42. Luke 2:41 and 22:1-15. Jn. 2:13 and 23, 6:4, 11:55, 12:1, 13:1, 18:28, and 39, 19:14, 31 and 42. I Cor. 5:7. Heb. 11:28.)
As mentioned above, the Feast of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are two different feasts, beginning on two different days of the month. The point of them being two different feasts is further proved as we consider Ex. 12 which gives us the reasons that these feasts are to be commemorated. We read in Ex. 12:26-27, 26) “And it shall come to pass that when your children shall say unto you, ‘What mean ye by this service’? (i.e. the Passover service, see vs. 18). 27) that ye shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, Who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when He smote the Egyptians and delivered our houses…”.
Verse 17 of Ex. 12 gives us the reason for the commemoration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. “And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread: for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance forever”.
The point I am making in this section is that the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are two separate feasts. This is important because we read in Ex. 12:18, “In the first month on thefourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day at even”. In other words, Israel was told to eat unleavened bread on thefourteenth day, which was the day of Passover, but the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on the fifteenth day of the month. That means that they ate unleavened bread for eight days, i.e. the day of Passover plus the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
So we should not be surprised or confused when we read, for example, in Luke 22:1, “Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover…”. That is to say, even though the two feasts are different feasts, by the first century, Jews considered the Passover part of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
ON WHAT DAY WAS CHRIST CRUCIFIED?
I believe that a study of the time line between Christ’s coming to Bethany and His ascension will be easier to explain and understand if we attach days of the week to each event during that time. We know that Christ had already risen on the morning of the Sunday after Passover (see Matt. 28:1). That means that because He was in the grave for three days and three nights, Christ was buried on a Wednesday at sunset. He was in the grave Wednesday night, Thursday night, and Friday night. And the three days He was in the grave were Thursday, Friday and Saturday, that makes three nights and three days. We know that His grave was empty “early in the morning” on a Sunday which tells us that He rose from the grave shortly after sunset on Saturday evening. (Please see the paper on this web-site on how long Christ was in the tomb for the Scriptural evidence that it was indeed three days and three nights.)
Further, I believe that Christ was crucified on the day of Passover. We read in I Cor. 5:7 that, “……even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us”. This tells us that Jesus Christ was God’s true Passover Lamb. That is to say, when Israel sacrificed a lamb on Passover that lamb was the Passover lamb. The shadow of the Passover lamb was, of course, sacrificed on the day of Passover. If the shadow of the Passover lamb was killed on the day of Passover, surely the fulfillment was also killed on the day of Passover.
It is for that reason that I believe we may conclude that Christ was indeed killed on the day of Passover. The paper on this subject offers further proof of this belief and discusses all the scriptures that seem to say otherwise.
THE TIME LINE
On What Day Was The Triumphal Entry?
I believe the least complicated method of determining on what day Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem occurred is to consider that event as recorded in the Gospel of Mark. In an attempt to make a very difficult issue a bit less so, I will suggest a day to each of the passages quoted below, which will ultimately be proved to be correct.
We read in Mark 11:7-9, “And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and He sat on him. And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way. And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, ’Hosanna; Blessed is He That cometh in the name of the Lord…..and Jesus entered into Jerusalem”. Let us assume, for the moment that this occurred on a Sunday.
In verse 12 we read, “And on the morrow when they were come from Bethany…”. Let us assume for the moment that refers to a Monday.
Mark 11:12-13:37 records what Jesus said and did on that day, i.e. our assumed Monday.
Then in Mark 14:1 we read, “After two days was the feast of the Passover and of unleavened bread”. As will be shown below, the phrase, “after two days” tells us that it was the next day after the events of Mark 11:12-13:37, i.e. Tuesday. As discussed above, Passover was on a Wednesday. Also, as mentioned in the paragraphs above, first century Jews considered the feast of Passover (which was on the 14th day of the month) the same as the feast of unleavened bread (which was on the 15th day of the month).
In Mark 14:12 we read, “And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the Passover, His disciples said unto Him, ‘Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that Thou mayest eat the Passover?’” Note that the Passover was killed on the fist day of the feast of unleavened bread. Here we have a clear statement that the first century Jews considered the feast of unleavened bread the same as the feast of Passover. So verse 12 refers to the Passover which is called “the first day of the feast of unleavened bread”. So Mark 14: 1 and 12 refer to the same day. What day was that? Because we know that Passover was on a Wednesday, one day before must refer to a Tuesday. Mark does not specifically indicate a new day, but I believe verse 14:1 implies a new day with the phrase, “after two days”.
May I respectfully remind the reader that the Hebrew day ended and began at sunset. So when we read in Mark 14:12 which records the disciples asking Christ where He would eat the Passover, we must understand it to refer to the day which will begin at sunset. It is true that generally speaking the day would begin at sunset, not before, but we must use our common sense. That is to say, the disciples asked the Lord where He would eat the Passover. This implies, of course that it was before the sunset so that they could arrange for the Passover meal.
Let us put all this together. Christ made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a Sunday. The next day, i.e. Monday, He went again to Jerusalem and what He did and said is recorded in Mark 11:12-13:37. Then on Tuesday was the day of the feast of Passover which would begin at sunset.
Now let us consider Matt. 26:1-2 which reads, “And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, He said unto His disciples, ‘Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified. Note that Christ spoke of the day in which “the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified”. Christ knew, of course, that He would be betrayed on Passover, i.e. Wednesday. I believe that the phrase in Matt. 26:1, “And it came to pass” indicates a new day, i.e. Tuesday.
But Tuesday was not two days before the Passover, it was one day. The answer to this seeming difficulty lies once again, in the fact that first century Jews considered the Passover the same as the feast of unleavened bread.
Now let us consider John’s account of the triumphal entry. We read in Jn. 12:1, “Then Jesus, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany”. Six days before Passover was Thursday of the preceding week. In the next verse we read, “There they made supper….”. Verses 3-8 tell of Mary’s anointing of Jesus and the subsequent comments by Judas and Christ’s rebuttal of those comments. Then in verses 12-13 we read of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and most importantly in terms of this study, when that entry was made. “On the next day, much people that were come to the feast…..took branches of palm trees and went forth to meet Him, and cried, ‘Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel…..’”.
In other words, this account seems to say that Christ made His triumphal entry the day after he arrived in Bethany (i.e. the day after He was anointed by Mary) which was on Thursday, putting that triumphal entry on Friday. But all is clear when one does not assume that the anointing took place on the same day as Christ’s arrival in Bethany. That is to say, if we are to understand these events correctly we must see that Christ arrived in Bethany on the Thursday before Passover, but was not anointed until the Saturday after that. It is just that John did not record those events between the day Christ arrived at Bethany (Thursday) and the day before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Saturday).
Let us now consider the Scriptural evidence for what has been suggested above.
Six days before Passover (Thursday) Christ arrived in Bethany (see Jn. 12:1).
On Saturday before Passover Mary anointed our Lord (see Jn. 12:3-8).
The next day (Sunday) Christ made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (see Jn. 12:12-13).
The Betrayal And The Feast of Passover
We read in Matt. 26:14, “Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests and said unto them, ‘What will you give me and I will deliver Him unto you….’”.
The next event is recorded in Mat. 26:17-18, “Now the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus saying unto Him, ‘Where wilt Thou that we prepare for Thee toeat the Passover?’” Note that in the second phrase the disciples asked about eating the Passover, which is of course on the fourteenth day of the month. But Matthew recorded this question being asked on the “first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread”, which is, of course on the fifteenth dayof the month. In other words, this verse seems to say that the disciples are asking about where to eat the Passover one day after the day of Passover was to be observed. That makes no sense, of course. But all is clear when we bear in mind that, as proved in the section above on the two feasts, by the first century the Jews thought of the two feasts as one. So if the Passover was on Wednesday (beginning on our Tuesday at sunset), the question of Matt. 26:17 was asked on Tuesday before sunset. There is, however a problem with that statement that needs to be addressed. Let me explain the problem first.
The disciples asked our Lord on the day of Passover where He desired to eat the Passover. But Passover began at sunset so the meal would have been eaten at sunset and there would have been no time to prepare where it would be eaten. What is the answer to that problem? The answer lies in the fact that even though the Hebrew day began and ended at sunset, Matthew referred to the day of that sunset as the day of Passover. So in the case of Mat. 26:17 the “first day of the feast of unleavened bread” which was actually Passover, was on Tuesday even though Passover did not begin until that evening at sunset.
(There are a few New Testament passages that seem to suggest that Christ was crucified before the Passover. I believe that He was killed on the day of Passover and the paper on this web-site on that subject gives the explanations for those passages that seem to say otherwise.)
From Gethsemane To The Cross
The events from Gethsemane to the cross as given in the four Gospels are rather easily seen, so I will quote them from Matthew’s Gospel and give only the references from the other Gospels.
In the Garden of Gethsemane
Matt. 26:36, “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane….”. A word of clarification might be in order. We read in Luke 22:39, “And He came out, and went, as He was wont, to the mount of olives…”. It was at that point in time that Christ did what was recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, i.e. “kneeled and prayed”, etc. And we read in Matt. 26:30, “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out unto the mount of olives”. I believe we may conclude that the Garden of Gethsemane is in the same general vicinity as the mount of Olives. (See also Mark 14:32, Luke 22:39, Jn. 18:1).
Matt. 26:50, “….Then came they and laid hands on Jesus and took Him.” (See also Mark 14:46, Luke 22:54, Jn. 18:12.)
Jesus taken to Annas
The only Gospel writer to record Jesus being taken to Annas is John, “And led Him away to Annas first: for he was father-in-law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year” (Jn. 18:13).
Jesus taken to Caiaphas
Matt. 26:57, “And they that had laid hold on Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest where the scribes and the elders had assembled”. (See also Mark 14:53).
The trial in front of Caiaphas
Matt. 26:59-68, Mark 14:55-65, Luke 22:64-71, Jn. 18:19-23.
Jesus handed over to Pilate
Matt. 27:1-2 tells us when Jesus was handed over to Pilate, “When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the People took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death: And when they had bound Him they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate, the governor”. This was Wednesday, i.e. the morning of Passover which had begun Tuesday at sunset.
Jn. 18:28 should be considered. “Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas to the hall of judgment; And it was early and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but thatthey might eat the Passover”. (See also Mark 15:1, Luke 23:1, Jn. 18:28). Some assume from this passage that Christ was crucified before the Passover because it says that the Jews were concerned about being defiled for Passover. (For a consideration of all the passages that seem to suggest that Christ had been crucified before Passover, please see the paper on that subject.) May I respectfully remind the reader that first century Jews considered Passover and the Feast of Unleavened bread as one feast even though they were in actuality two different feasts. So what they were actually concerned about was that they not be defiled for the Feast of Unleavened Bread which was a sabbath, the next day, i.e. the day after Passover.
Jesus Before Pilate
The most complete account of Jesus before Pilate is recorded in Jn. 18:28-19:14.
In verse 28 we read that Jesus was led from Caiaphas “unto the hall of judgment” . (The Greek word translated “hall of judgment” is “Praitorion” and is also used in Jn.18:33 and 19:9. It is also used in Matt. 27:27, Mark 15:16).
Then in verse 29 we read that Pilate went out to the Jews to ask, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?”. In verses 30-31 the Jews answered Pilate, saying, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death”. In verse 33 we read that “Pilate entered the judgment hall (Greek “Praitorion”) again”, and he again questioned Jesus. That interrogation is recorded in verse 33-38a.
In verse 38b we read that Pilate went out to the Jews again saying, “I find in Him no fault at all”. At this point Barabbas was released as recorded in verses 39-40.
In Jn. 19:1-we read that Pilate had Jesus scourged and a crown of thorns was placed on His head and He was mocked. In verse 4 we read that Pilate went forth yet again to the Jews saying that he found no fault in Jesus. In verses 5-7 we read that Jesus was brought forth to the Jews but they insisted that Jesus be crucified. Then in verse 9 we read that Pilate once again went into the judgment hall to speak to Jesus. But “Jesus answered, ‘Thou couldest have no power at all against Me except it were given thee from above….’” (Jn. 19:11).
In verse 12 we read that yet again Pilate sought to release Jesus but the Jews insisted He be crucified saying, “If thou let this man go thou art not Caesars’s friend”. Verse 13 tells us that Pilate then “sat down in the judgment seat”. Jn. 19:16, “Then delivered he Him unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus and Led Him away”.
Verse 14 of Jn. 19 tells us when Christ was led away to be crucified. That verse reads, “It was the preparation of the Passover ….”. I believe this verse bears further study. As the paper on Christ being crucified on Passover will prove from Scripture, He was indeed crucified on the Passover, i.e. the fourteenth of the month. The events recorded in John 19 could not therefore, have taken place on the preparation day of the Passover. May I once again remind the reader that first century Jews thought of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread as the same Feast, even though they were two different Feasts. In order to avoid any contradictions in the perfect Word of God, I believe we may conclude that in Jn. 19:14 the preparation was for the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And as the above mentioned paper will prove, Passover was the preparation day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
The Day of Christ’s Crucifixion
The sign of Jonah is explained in Matt. 12:39-41. That passage reads, “But He answered and said unto them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas 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’”.
In terms of our study, what is important is that the sign of Jonah is that Christ would be buried for three days and for three nights. I believe they are three whole days and three whole nights. This will be discussed below.
We read in Jn. 20:1, “the first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher”. The first day of the week is our Sunday. How do we know that? We know that from the fact that we read in Lev. 23:3, “Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest…”. Jews today who keep the sabbath, keep it on Saturday. Because Jewish traditions have been kept without break from the time of Christ to this day, we may, in my opinion, conclude that Saturday was the sabbath day in the time of Christ as it is today. If Saturday is the weekly sabbath, the seventh day, (and I believe it is) that makes Sunday the first day of the week.
So Mary Magdalene went to the sepulcher early on Sunday morning while it was still dark, and she found it empty. Mary went to the tomb while it was still dark, which tells us that Christ was not there all of Saturday night. Therefore, because Christ was not in the tomb for all of Saturday night, Saturday night can not be counted as the third night.
I believe that Christ was buried at sunset Wednesday. If we count from Wednesday at sunset to Saturday at sunset we will have three whole days and three whole nights. We must bear in mind that the Jewish day began and ended at sunset. So the first night of His burial was Wednesday sunset to Thursday sunrise. The first day of His burial was Thursday sunrise to Thursday sunset. The second night of His burial was Thursday sunset to Friday’s sunrise. The second day of His burial was Friday’s sunrise to Friday’s sunset. The third night of His burial was Friday’s sunset to Saturday’s sunrise. And the third day of His burial was Saturday’s sunrise to Saturday’s sunset. In short, Christ was raised some time after sunset on Saturday night.
But most believe that Christ died and was buried on Friday. I believe the reason for that almost universal misconception is based on Mark 15:42 which reads, “And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, the day before the Sabbath….”. The assumption is that the sabbath mentioned in this verse refers to the weekly sabbath and the “preparation” then would be on Friday. But, as proved in the paragraphs above, Christ was not buried on a Friday, but on a Wednesday. I suggest that the sabbath referred to in Mark 15:42 is in reference to the sabbath which is not the weekly sabbath, but the first day of the feast of unleavened bread. Let us consider Lev. 23:6-7 which reads, “And on the fifteenth day of the same month (the first month, vs.5) is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein”. Note that the first day of the feast of unleavened bread is a sabbath, “ye shall do no servile work therein”.
Further, the term “preparation day” is used in John’s Gospel account of the day before Christ died. We read in Jn. 19:14-16, “And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour…..then delivered he Him unto them to be crucified….”. This verse tells us quite clearly that preparation was for the Passover, not for the weekly sabbath.
The term is also used in Matt. 27:62, Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, Jn. 19:31 and 42. But it is only Jn. 19:14-16 that tells us for which day the preparation was made. It was made for the feast of Passover, not the weekly sabbath.
The Hours of the Crucifixion
Mark 15:25 reads, “And it was the third hour and they crucified Him”. But we read in Jn. 19:14-16, “And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour; and he saith unto the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ But they cried out, ‘Away with Him……Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus and led Him away”.
The Hebrew day begins and ends at sunset. How do we know that? Let us consider Gen. 1:4, “…..and the evening and the morning were the first day. And 1:8, “…..and the evening and the morning were the second day”. And 1:13, “…..and the evening and the morning were the third day”. See also verses 19, 23 and 31. Please note that in every case, the order is first the evening, and then the day.
Now let us add Matt. 27:45-6 to this discussion where we read, “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour”. That tells us that Christ hung on the cross from the sixth hour until the ninth hour at which point He died. Matthew reckoned the sixth hour from sunrise, as was the Jewish custom, i.e. around 7:00 AM. That means that Christ was hung on the cross at around 1:00 PM, i.e. six hours after sunrise. And, John wrote that Christ was carried away at the sixth hour (Jn. 19:14). This then agrees with Matthew’s account.
We are now ready to consider the apparent contradiction between Mark 15:25 and John 19:14-16. In the KJV of Mark 15:25 we read, “And it was the third hour and they crucified Him”. What exactly does it mean that Christ was crucified? That is to say, I believe most of us think of the crucifixion as the time Christ hung on the cross. And that is how the Holy Spirit usually, but not always used the word. I believe that as we consider a few verses about crucifixion, we will see that the word, as used in the New Testament, is indeed usually used of the process, but it is sometime used in reference to the actual death of the one being crucified, not to the process that led to that death. Gal. 3:24 is an example of the term “crucified” being used in reference to a death, rather than the process of being killed. That verse reads, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lust”. And Gal. 6:14, “….by Whom the world is crucified unto me and I the world”. Paul was saying in these verses that one is figuratively dead to the flesh, and that he is dead to the world.
With that in mind let us consider once more Mark 156:25. Are we to believe that Mark had forgotten the time of Christ’s crucifixion? I do not believe that that is the case. How then are we to understand this verse? The Greek word translated “and” in the phrase, “the third hour and they crucified Him” is “kai” and is often translated “even” and should have been so translated in this verse. I believe that this verse is a succinct description of what happened that afternoon. That is to say, I believe that this verse should read, “And it was the third hour even they crucified Him”. In other words, in the third hour during which Christ hung on the cross, His crucifixion was completed, and He died.
We are now ready to consider the other Gospels as they recorded the events described in Jn. 18:28-19:16.
Matt. 27:11 tells that “Jesus stood before the governor”. Pilate interrogated Jesus but Matthew does not record most of what John recorded. In verse 19 we read that Pilate sat down on the judgment seat. At this point Barabbas was released (vs. 26). In verse 27 we read that Jesus was taken to the “common hall” where they mocked Him and put a crown of thorns on His head. (The Greek word translated “common hall” is Praitorion”, the same word translated “hall of judgment” in John’s account of these events.)
Christ On The Cross
We read in Luke 23:26, “And as they led Him away, they laid hold upon Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus”. And in Matt. 27:32 we read, “And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear His cross” (see also Mark 15:21). But in Jn. 19:17 we read, “And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha”.
Note that Matthew, Mark and Luke wrote that Simon bore the cross but John wrote that Christ Himself bore it. There is, of course, no contradiction here. Matthew, Mark and Luke wrote about when Christ started His march, while John recorded the time that Christ arrived at Golgotha. In other words, Simon started out carrying the cross, but by the time they reached Golgotha Christ was carrying it.
The Burial Of Jesus
Let us begin with Luke 23:53-54, “And he (Joseph of Arimathaea, vs. 51-52) took it (the body of Christ) down and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre and hewn it in stone, wherein never man before was laid. And that day was the preparation and the Sabbath drew on”.
Some have assumed that the “Sabbath” that “drew on” was the Passover and the preparation was for the day of Passover. But as stated above in the section on the two Feasts, the Bible never tells us that the Passover is a Sabbath. We are however, told that the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (the fifteenth day of the month) was indeed a Sabbath. We may conclude therefore, that it was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread that was referred to in the phrase, “the Sabbath drew on”. Because it was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (the fifteenth of the month) that “drew on” we must conclude that the Prepartion day was the day before the Feast of Unleavened Bread. That means that the “preparation” was not, as most assume, a day of preparation for the Feast of Passover, but rather it was a day of preparation for the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This makes perfect sense since every crumb of leavened bread must be gathered from the house and thrown out.
In short, Christ was crucified on the day of Passover, i.e. the fourteenth day of the month, Wednesday. That day was the day of preparation for the first day of the day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread which was a Sabbath.
Matthew recorded the burial of Christ in Matt.27:57-66. In verses 57-59 we learn that Joseph of Arimathaea went to Pilate to beg for the body of Jesus “when the even was come”. That tells us that Pilate gave him the body just before sunset on Wednesday. In verse 62 we read of the chief priests going to Pilate to ask that the tomb be guarded on the “day that followed the day of the preparation”. Again, the day of preparation was the day of Passover and it was a day in which the Jews prepared for the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Mark recorded the burial of Jesus in Mark 15:42-47. In verse 42 we read, “And now when even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath”. Verse 43 goes on to tell of Joseph going to Pilate for the body of Jesus. Here again, Joseph went to Pilate on Wednesday, the fourteenth day of the month which is Passover, the day before the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread which was a Sabbath.
John recorded the burial of Jesus in Jn, 19:38-42, and, of course his account is in perfect harmony with the other Gospel writers.
The women go to the sepulchre
Matt 28:1, “In the end of the sabbath as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre”. Sunday is always referred to in the Bible as “the first day of the week”. If the first day of the week is Sunday and Mary came at the end of the sabbath, obviously the sabbath of this verse is the weekly sabbath, i.e. Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.
Jn. 20:1, “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark unto the sepulchre….”. John does not speak of the other Mary. Is this a contradiction? Of course not. John does not say that there was just Mary Magdalene, he just does not, through the Holy Spirit, mention the other Mary who came with her.
Let us consider Mark 16:1 which seems to tell us that there were three women, not just Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. That verse reads, “And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had brought sweet spices that they might come and anoint Him”. This verse seems to tell us that there were at the sepulchre Mary Magdalene, the other Mary and Salome. But let us consider Mark 15:40 which speaks of “Mary the mother of James… and Salome”. Salome was the daughter of Mary. In short, the comma in Mark 16:1 is misplaced. It should read, “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James….. and Salome”.
We read in Luke 24:1, “Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre bringing the spices which they had prepared and certain others with them”. Who are the “they” mentioned in this verse? For the answer to that question we must go back a few verses to Luke 23:55-56, “And the women also which came with Him from Galilee followed after, and beheld the sepulchre and how His body was laid. And returned and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment”. The women we read of in Luke’s Gospel are not Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, they are an entirely different group of women. This is important as we consider Luke’s account of these events.
The women enter the sepulchre
In Matt. 28:1-2 we read, ”In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And behold there was a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it”. I believe that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary saw the stone rolled away.
In verses 5-7 we read that the angel told the women that Christ had risen and that they should go and tell the disciples.
We read in Mark 16:5 that the women entered the sepulchre and saw “a young man” sitting on the right side clothed in a long white garment….”. This “young man” told the women that Christ had risen and that they should go and tell the disciples. Obviously, Mark’s account is of the same event as Matthew’s, but Mark speaks of the angel as a “young man”, probably because that is what the angel looked like. Also Mark tells us that the women entered the sepulchre whereas Matthew did not record that.
Now let us consider Luke 24:4, “And it came to pass as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold two men stood by them in shining garments”. Note that there were two men. But in Mark 16:5 quoted above, we read that there was “a” young man, i.e. one. This is easily understood when we see that, as mentioned above, Luke tells of a different group of women, not Mary Magdalene and the other Mary as recorded in Mark’s Gospel.
The fact that Luke wrote of a different group of women than did the other Gospel writers, also accounts for other variations that exist between Luke’s Gospel and the other Gospels. For example, whereas Mary Magdalene and the other Mary saw the angel roll back the stone, the other women who came later saw that the stone had already been moved. (“And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre”). This means, of course, that the women about whom Luke wrote, had come after Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. In point of fact Mark recorded in 16:9 that Mary Magdalene was the first that Christ saw after His resurrection.
In short, Mary Magdalene and other Mary arrived first at the sepulchre and saw the stone moved away from the tomb and spoke with “ a young man”, i.e. “an angel. Then the other women came after and saw that the stone had already been moved and they spoke with “two men”.
Christ speaks to the two women
Matthew 28:9-10 records Christ’s appearing to and speaking with Mary Magdalene and the other Mary before they ran to the disciples. “And as they went to His disciples, behold, Jesus met them saying, ‘All Hail’, and they came and held Him by the feet and worshipped Him. Then said Jesus unto them, ‘Be not afraid, go tell My brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me’”.
Luke, who wrote of the other women, i.e. not Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, did not, of course, record Christ’s conversation with Mary Magdalene. Neither did John record that conversation.
The women run to the disciples
Jn. 20:2 tells of Mary running to Peter “and the other disciple”, i.e. John, to tell them that “They have taken away the Lord….”. Matt. 28:8, Mark 16:8 and Luke 24:9 record the same event.
Two disciples go to the sepulchre
Luke 24:12 reads, “Then arose Peter and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed wondering in himself at that which was to come”.
John 20:2-8 tells us many more details about the disciples going to the sepulchre. This passage tells us that Peter and “that other disciple”, i.e. John, both ran to the sepulchre, but John got there first. We read that John looked into the sepulchre and then Peter and they both saw the linen clothes. Then Peter went into the sepulchre with John following him. Then the two disciples went back to their own home (see J. 20:10).
Christ speaks with Mary Magdalene a second time
In John’s Gospel we read in 20:10-18 of the disciples returning to their homes and Mary remaining at the sepulchre where she saw and spoke with Christ a second time. (The Appendix at the end of this study addresses the fact that Christ told Mary to not touch Him, in spite of the fact that she had done just that earlier, as recorded in Matt. 28:9.)
Jesus appears to two of His disciples
Mark 16:12 records Jesus appearing to two disciples but they did not recognize Him at first.
Luke 24:13-33 records the conversation between Christ and the two disciples about whom Mark only alluded.
Christ appears to the eleven the first time
John 20:19, “Then the same day (the Sunday that Christ appeared to Mary) at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst…”. (Thomas was not there at this time).
Christ appears to the eleven a second time
The second time Christ met with the eleven is recorded in Jn. 20:26 where we read, “And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them; then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace be unto you’”.
Christ appears to the eleven a third time
A third meeting is recorded only in Jn. 21:1-23. We read in Jn. 21:1, “After these things, (i.e. after Thomas worshiped Christ as God) Jesus shewed Himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias”.
The great commission
Matt. 28:19-20, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of
Acts 1:3 tells us that Jesus “shewed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days….”.
Mark 16:19, “so then after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God”.
Luke 24:51, “And it came to pass, He blessed them and He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven”.
APPENDIX: WHY DID CHRIST SAY TO MARY “TOUCH ME NOT”?
We read in John 20 of the conversation between Christ and Mary Magdalene wherein Christ told Mary to not touch Him. It is important to consider Matt. 28:1-8 which records the events before the events recorded in John 20. That is to say, the events of Matt. 28:1-8 occurred shortly after Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the sepulchre the first time. But as recorded in Matt, 28:10 “Then said Jesus unto them, ‘Be not afraid; go tell My brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me’”. Which, they did. It was while they were on their way to inform the disciples of what they had seen that we read of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary worshipping and holding Jesus by His feet. Christ’s discussion with Mary Magdalene as recorded in John 20 occurred after Mary had returned to the sepulchre, i.e. the second time Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene.
With that time line established we are ready to consider two most widely held views of why Jesus told Mary Magdalene to not touch Him.
1) One view is that the reason Jesus told Mary Magdalene to not touch Him was because He had not ascended. While it is true that Jesus had told Mary that He had not yet ascended, the problem with that view is that Mary had already touched Jesus (“held Him by the feet”, Matt. 28:9) when Jesus told her later to not touch Him as recorded in John 20.
2) Another widely held view is that Jesus told Mary Magdalene to not hold on to Him because He had not yet ascended. Let us consider this view.
To begin, as mentioned above, Mary had already held on to Him as we read in Matt. 28:9. Let us consider the Greek word translated “held” in the phrase “held Him by the feet”. That Greek word is, “krateo”. We read in Matt. 14:3, “For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison…”. The phrase “laid hold on” is the translation of the Greek “krateo”. So “krateo” means “to hold on to”. Let us consider a few more occurrences of the Greek word “krateo”.
We read in Mark 12:12, “They (the Pharisees) sought to lay hold on Him, but they feared the people…”. Here too the meaning of “krateo” “is to hold on to”. Rev. 20:2 reads, And he laid hold on the dragon……. and bound him a thousand years”.
My point is that Mary Magdalene had indeed already held on to Christ hours before He told her to not touch Him.
Further, the Greek word translated “touch” in the phrase “touch Me not” is “haptomai”. The word is defined in Strong’s Dictionary as, “to attach oneself to, i.e. to touch (in many implied relations):-touch”.
But words are always defined by usage. In this case, it is defined by how it is used by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. It is used 36 times and is translated “touch” every time. May I suggest we consider the contexts of these occurrences to see if any must mean “touch” and if any must mean “to attach oneself to”.
The first occurrence is in Matt. 8:3, “And Jesus put forth His hand and touched him saying, ‘I will, be thou clean, and immediately his leprosy was cleansed”. Because the leprosy was cleansed “immediately”, it is clear that Jesus touched him, He did not attach Himself to the man. (See also Mark 1:41 and Luke 5:13.)
Matt. 8:15, “He touched her hand and the fever left her….”. There is nothing in this verse to imply that Christ did anything more than touch the woman’s hand.
Matt. 9:20-21, “Behold a woman which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind Him and touched the hem of His garment. For she said within herself, ‘If I may but touchHis garment, I shall be whole’”. Note the phrase, “if I may but touch”. This tells us that the woman did not seek to attach herself in any way, but to just touch His garment. (See also Mark 5:27-31, Luke 8:43-48.)
Matt. 9:29, “Then touched He their eyes saying, ‘According to your faith be it unto you’… ”. In this occurrence, the word obviously means “to touch”, not to “attach oneself to”.
Matt. 14:36, “And besought Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment; and as many as touched were made perfectly whole”. Note the phrase, “that they might only touch”. The word “only” tells us that it was indeed just a touch that was sought.
Matt. 17:6-7, “And when the disciples heard it (the voice at the transfiguration) they fell on their face and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them and said, ‘Arise and be not afraid’”. The fact that there were three who were afraid means that we may conclude that Jesus did indeed touch each one, not attach Himself to each.
Matt. 20:34, “And Jesus had compassion on them (two blind men) and touched their eyes, andimmediately their eyes received sight…”. Again, because they received sight “immediately” we may conclude that Jesus did touch their eyes, and not attach Himself to them in any way.
Mark 3:10, “For He had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon Him for to touch Him…”. Again, this passage speaks of many who would touch Him, which tells us that He did not attach Himself to any of them but did indeed touch each one. (See also Luke 6:19.)
Mark 6:56, “And withersoever he entered into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets and besought Him that they may touch if it were the hem of His garment…”. This verse describes many seeking to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. Again, I believe we may conclude that Jesus did not attach Himself to any one person.
Mark 7:33, “….and He spit and touched his tongue…”. Surely Jesus did indeed just touch the man’s tongue.
Mark 8:22, “….and they bring a blind man unto Him and besought Him to touch him”. Verses 23-25 describe how Jesus “spit on his eyes and put His hands upon him”. There is nothing in this passage that tells us if when Jesus touched the man He simply touched him or attached Himself to the man.
Mark 10:13, “And they brought young children unto Him that He should touch them…”. Given that they brought several young children, I believe we may conclude that Jesus touched each one. (See also Luke 18:15.)
Luke 7:14-15, “And He came and touched the bier: And they that bear him stood still. And He said unto him, Young man, ‘I say unto thee ‘Arise’. And he that was dead sat up and began to speak”. Because the most natural reading is that the young man sat up immediately, we may conclude that Jesus did indeed touch him, not attach Himself to him.
Luke 7:39 tells us that the “Pharisees spoke within themselves saying, ‘This man if He were a prophet would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him’”. If the woman had held on to Christ for any length of time at all, Jesus would not have needed to be a prophet in order to know who the woman was, and the Pharisees remark would have been meaningless.
Luke 22:51, “And Jesus answered and said, ‘Suffer ye thus far, and He touched his ear and healed him”. Given the circumstances (Jesus arrest) I do not believe the Jesus attached Himself to the servant, but rather touched his ear.
We will come back to Jn. 20:17.
I Cor. 7:1, “….It is good for a man not to touch a woman…”. I will allow the reader to come to his own conclusion as to the meaning of the word in this verse.
II Cor. 6:17, “….Touch not the unclean thing”. I believe the law forbids touching the unclean thing, not attaching oneself to it.
Col. 2:21, “Touch not, taste not, handle not”. The fact that this verse also tells us to not taste and to not handle, I believe we may conclude that to “touch not” means exactly that. Further, this verse makes a distinction between touching and handling. If nothing else that tells us that “haptomai” is different than handling.
I Jn. 5:18, “…..and that wicked one toucheth him not”. I believe this is a figure of speech and therefore does not help us in determining the meaning of the Greek word translated “touch”.
We have considered all 36 occurrences of the Greek word “haptomai”, translated “touch” in Jn. 20:17. Two occurrences do not give us the meaning. There is not one time that the word is used that we must conclude that it means “attach oneself to” and that leaves us 34 occurrences of the word which gives us the meaning “to touch”.
We are now ready to consider John. 20:17. “Touch Me not, for I have not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren and say unto them, ‘I ascend unto My Father, and to My God and to your God’”. I believe we must conclude that Christ did not tell Mary Magdalene to not hold on to Him, but to not touch Him.
How then can we answer the question posed, i.e. why did Christ tell Mary Magdalene to not touch Him after she had touched Him earlier? I suggest we consider the two occasions when some did touch Jesus after His resurrection.
As mentioned above, Matt. 28:9 tells of Mary Magdalene touching Jesus’ feet, “And as they (Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary”) went to tell the disciples, behold , Jesus met them saying, ‘All hail’. And they came and held Him by the feet and worshipped Him”. I believe we may conclude from that worship that they accepted their risen Messiah as God, Who alone is worthy to be worshipped.
Now let us consider another occasion where one was allowed to touch the risen Christ. John 20:26-29 records Thomas’s doubt. We read in verse 27, “Then saith He to Thomas, ‘reach hither thy finger and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand and thrust into My side; and be not faithless, but believing’. And Thomas answered unto Him and said, ‘My Lord and my God’”. The result of Thomas touching Christ was that he too accepted that Christ is God.
It is true that at the time that Thomas had touched Christ, he had not yet accepted Him as God, but I believe that our Lord knew Thomas’ heart, i.e. that he would believe, which is evidenced by the fact that Christ told Thomas to touch Him, and that is why Christ allowed Thomas to touch Him.
Now let us compare these two events with Mary’s conversation with the risen Christ when He told her to not touch Him. We read in John 20:16-17, “Jesus saith unto her, ‘Mary’. She turned herself and saith unto Him, ‘Rabboni” which is to say, ‘Master’. Jesus saith unto her, ‘Touch Me not, for I have not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren and say unto them, ‘I ascend unto My Father, and to My God and to your God’”. It is important to note how Mary addressed Christ, i.e. “Master”. “Master” is not one of the titles of Christ as God, but as Man. Let us also bear in mind that John’s Gospel presented Christ as the Son of God (see Jn. 20:30-31). In my opinion, the fact that Mary addressed the risen Christ by a title used of Him as Man, rather than as God, was the reason Christ would not allow her to touch Him at that point.
In short, I believe that because, in Christ’s second appearance to Mary Magdalene she did not worship Him as God, her touch would have defiled Him in such a way that would have been unacceptable before He had returned to the Father.
But some might object that surely Christ knew Mary’s heart as He had known Thomas’s, and given that Mary had earlier worshipped Him would that not have been sufficient? There is merit in that objection. My suggestion has difficulties, but it is based on the only difference I see between Mary’s comments and Thomas’s.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org