The Myth of the Friday Crucifixion of the Lord Christ
The Passover Defined
For professing Christians to maintain the myth of the Friday crucifixion of the Lord Christ it must also be the case that they are very ignorant of how the LORD defined the Passover and how and why the He ordered and arranged it as He did.
The Passover was to be a Reminder of the LORD’s Power and Grace
The exit from Egypt was a landmark experience for the ancient Jews; it was evident that the LORD did not want them to forget about all that happened. It was to become a part of their national soul.
This context (“remember”) was prominent in Moses’ last address to the ancient Jews as he announced to them his own imminent departure and death (as revealed by the LORD), the appointment of Joshua to replace him as their national leader and the long-awaited crossing of the Jordan river to enter Canaan.
Look at these words:
“Indeed, ask now concerning the former days which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and inquire from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything been done like this great thing, or has anything been heard like it? Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard it, and survived? Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? To you it was shown that you might know that the Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him. Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you; and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire. Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them. And He personally brought you from Egypt by His great power, driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in and to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is today. Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.”
[But, as we know, the OT is filled with the fact that those ancient Jews did indeed forget—consistently throughout each generation—the LORD’s constant care and provision, and His abundant work of grace among them.
Moses made some astonishing declarations to them during that last address; note especially these which precede and are within the “Song of Moses” (which the LORD commanded him to teach to the Jews):
“Now therefore, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the sons of Israel; put it on their lips, so that this song may be a witness for Me against the sons of Israel. For when I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and are satisfied and become prosperous, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant. Then it shall come about, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify before them as a witness (for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants); for I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.”
The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He.
They have acted corruptly toward Him,
They are not His children, because of their defect;
But are a perverse and crooked generation.
Do you thus repay the Lord,
O foolish and unwise people?
But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked—
You are grown fat, thick, and sleek—
Then he forsook God who made him,
And scorned the Rock of his salvation.
The Lord saw this, and spurned them
Because of the provocation of His sons and daughters.
Then He said, “I will hide My face from them,
I will see what their end shall be;
For they are a perverse generation,
Sons in whom is no faithfulness.”
For they are a nation lacking in counsel,
And there is no understanding in them.
Is it not laid up in store with Me,
Sealed up in My treasuries?
Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,
In due time their foot will slip;
For the day of their calamity is near,
And the impending things are hastening upon them.]
The Passover, at the very least, was to serve as an annual reminder of the LORD’s great power and grace extended to the nation even while the nation descended ever deeper into sin and rebellion.
The Passover Defined
So, what was the Passover and how was it to be observed?
There are six OT passages which tell us all we need to know regarding the event:
Preparations for the Passover began on the 10th of the first month; it was then that the lamb to be slain was chosen:
Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. … Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.
At the beginning (that is, the “twilight”) of the 14th of the first month, the chosen lamb was to be slain:
You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.
In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover.
Now, let the sons of Israel observe the Passover at its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall observe it at its appointed time; you shall observe it according to all its statutes and according to all its ordinances.
Then on the fourteenth day of the first month shall be the Lord’s Passover.
Observe the month of Abib and celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night.
The LORD made provision for the case in which a Jew would not be able to observe the Passover because of “uncleanness” (in that context, contact with a dead body) or on a “distant journey”. For those cases, the Passover could be observed exactly one month later:
In the second month on the fourteenth day at twilight, they shall observe it …
The Passover must be observed by the Jew; any Jew not observing it was to be cut off from the nation:
But the man who is clean and is not on a journey, and yet neglects to observe the Passover, that person shall then be cut off from his people, for he did not present the offering of the Lord at its appointed time. That man will bear his sin.
Aliens sojourning with the Jews may also observe the Passover:
If an alien sojourns among you and observes the Passover to the Lord, according to the statute of the Passover and according to its ordinance, so he shall do; you shall have one statute, both for the alien and for the native of the land.
[This is a beautiful harbinger of the Gentiles also being accepted into the same blessings as the Jews: remember, there was to be “one statute”.]
Note that elsewhere the LORD calls this a “feast” within a context of the other national feasts (the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Ingathering, the Feast of Weeks):
You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread, nor is the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover to be left over until morning.
Once the chosen lamb was slain, it was to be roasted whole, then eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs:
You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. ... They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails.
The blood of the slaughtered lamb was to be placed on the doorposts and lintel.
Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.
Nothing of the slaughtered lamb was to be preserved. Whatever was not eaten was to be destroyed by fire:
And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire.
It should be obvious that elements of the Passover deliberately mirrored the events of the Exodus from Egypt. Clearly, this highlights the fact that it was to be an annual reminder of the LORD’s great power, and the grace and favor He showed to the descendants of Abraham:
Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the Lord’s Passover. For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
A seven-day Feast, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was to follow the Passover, beginning on the 15th of the first month. On the first day of that week all leaven was to be removed from their homes; moreover, they must not make or eat anything with leaven for the entire week.
Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.
Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.
On the fifteenth day of this month shall be a feast, unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days.
On the fifteenth day of this month shall be a feast, unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days.
There were two highlighted days within that week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread: the first and the seventh. For both days the Jews were commanded to do “no laborious work”—a description identical to the weekly Sabbath!
On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and another holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you.
On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work. But for seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the Lord. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work.
On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work. … On the seventh day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work.
[During that time, in the OT Scriptures these days were not referred to as “Sabbath”, since that term was reserved for the weekly Sabbath. However, by the time of the Lord Christ these also had come to be known as “Sabbaths”, since their observance was essentially identical to the weekly Sabbath.]
The previous chapter includes a table (and PDF download) which demonstrates this sequence during the Passover feast which initiated the Lord Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
There is one last detail: the Passover must be celebrated in a particular place:
You are not allowed to sacrifice the Passover in any of your towns which the Lord your God is giving you; but at the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name, you shall sacrifice the Passover in the evening at sunset, at the time that you came out of Egypt. You shall cook and eat it in the place which the Lord your God chooses. In the morning you are to return to your tents.
The OT Scriptures record only two places in which the Passover was kept: Gilgal and Jerusalem; each of these are reviewed below.
After the LORD appointed Joshua the leader of young, national Israel, they journeyed north along the east side of the Dead Sea, coming to the south end of the Jordan river. It was here, roughly opposite Jericho, that the LORD commanded Joshua to take Israel across the river, very near Gilgal (just west of the river).
Note the date:
Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth of the first month and camped at Gilgal on the eastern edge of Jericho.
This can’t be a simple coincidence! The LORD was preparing the nation to observe the Passover!
The event and location of the crossing was to be remembered by two simple memorials:
First, the LORD commanded that, during the crossing, 12 men were each to take one stone and place it on the Jordan river bed at that place where the priests stood when the water parted.
Second, Joshua instructed that 12 additional stones be taken from the Jordan from the same location as the first (but a different set of stones) and set them up at their camp near Gilgal.
From what follows (see below), it is inferred that the LORD chose Gilgal to “establish His name” at that time; the Promised Land had been reached and Israel was now almost ready to begin its military campaign to take the land as the LORD had promised!
Before that could take place, however, there was an important matter of unfinished business: the ancient Jews had been careless regarding the command to circumcise their male children who had been born during the 40 years of the Exodus. So, it was now that the LORD commanded Joshua to circumcise all males in keeping with His commandment given centuries before. (Gen 17.9-12)
At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make for yourself flint knives and circumcise again the sons of Israel the second time.” … Their children whom He raised up in their place, Joshua circumcised; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them along the way.
This action had very significant consequences:
Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” So the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.
The name “Gilgal” would serve as a reminder of the LORD’s grace: the nation had been careless, had corrected that carelessness, and as a result the LORD “rolled away” (Heb., Gilgal) their reproach. The nation now, at least ostensibly, was obedient and therefore ready to receive the blessing of the Promised Land.
What followed is the record of the only celebration of the Passover until the time of Hezekiah:
While the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal they observed the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho. On the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year.
[As Deu 16.5-7 teaches, the Passover was to be observed "in the place which the Lord chooses", something which had not yet been done. So why, and how, did Joshua observe the Passover? Did he act solely on his own initiative? No, as this text shows:
When you enter the land which the Lord will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite.
This is exactly what Joshua did.]
There is no record of the Passover occurring again at Gilgal, and no mention by the LORD to Joshua that he should have done so. What follows, however, is likely more complex.
The OT record of ancient Israel is one of essentially unbroken rebellion and obstinance against their LORD, of constant idolatry and “every man doing what was right in his own eyes”. (Jdg 17.6; 21.25) Within that context it is easy to assume that the nation would have forgotten the Passover and therefore neglected it.
But, it is also true that the LORD had not yet chosen a permanent “place for His name”. That event finally occurred during the time of Solomon:
1 Kin 8.28-29
Yet have regard to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplication, O Lord my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which Your servant prays before You today; that Your eyes may be open toward this house night and day, toward the place of which You have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ to listen to the prayer which Your servant shall pray toward this place.
1 Kin 9.1-3
Now it came about when Solomon had finished building the house of the Lord, and the king’s house, and all that Solomon desired to do, that the Lord appeared to Solomon a second time, as He had appeared to him at Gibeon. The Lord said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.
2 Chr 6.5-6
‘Since the day that I brought My people from the land of Egypt, I did not choose a city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house that My name might be there, nor did I choose any man for a leader over My people Israel; but I have chosen Jerusalem that My name might be there, and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel.’
2 Chr 7.16
For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.
However, what is difficult to understand is how Solomon, the one tasked by the LORD with constructing the temple and to whom the statements above were made, did not celebrate the Passover. This fact was noted much later in OT history in the second book of Kings:
2 Kin 23.21-22
Then the king [Josiah] commanded all the people saying, “Celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God as it is written in this book of the covenant.” Surely such a Passover had not been celebrated from the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and of the kings of Judah. (cf., 2 Chr 35.16-19)
[Solomon, though wise, was astonishingly disobedient and careless. He had been warned on several occasions but chose instead to proceed into idolatry. (1 Kin 3.14; 6.11-13; 9.4-5; 11.1-11; 2 Chr 7.17-18) His willful sin resulted in the kingdom being split into the Northern and Southern "halves", the setting up of the idol by Jeroboam, and the eventual destruction of the Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians in ~722 B.C. and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in ~586 B.C.]
The record of OT Israel observing the Passover is sparse; stated differently, Israel keeping the Passover feast appears to have become the exception rather than the rule. There are only three mentions in OT history:
- during the reign of Hezekiah;
- during the reign of Josiah;
- after the return from the Babylonian captivity.
[The following is based on the excellent OT chronology: The Chronology of the Old Testament by Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones, 2007.]
Joshua celebrated the Passover ~1451. This was to be a single event at the LORD’s direction (Exo 12.25) initiating the formal entrance into the Promised Land.
There is no mention of the Passover from the time of Gilgal until the time of Hezekiah.
- Solomon dedicated the temple ~1004; as the text above (2 Chr 7.12) shows, the LORD made it clear that He chose Jerusalem.
- Hezekiah became king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah ~726. Sometime during his reign he celebrated the Passover in Jerusalem. (There is only that single mention of its celebration.)
- Josiah became king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah ~640, but it wasn’t until 18 years later, ~622, that the Passover was celebrated.
Consider how careless the nation had become:
While the first interval is easy to explain (the LORD had not chosen a place for His name), the second interval of ~382 years is nothing less than the national sin of Israel: for nearly four centuries they had not done what they were commanded to do annually.
[There is a mention of the celebration of the Passover during the time of Samuel. (2 Chr 35.18) Nothing else about that event is known, other than it took place at least once. It is important to note that the LORD had not chosen "a place for His name" at that point in time, so it is not known why the Passover was celebrated.]
It’s interesting to note that Josiah re-initiated the Passover following this obviously life-changing event:
2 Kin 23.1-3
Then the king [Josiah] sent, and they gathered to him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem. The king went up to the house of the Lord and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great; and he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord. The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to carry out the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people entered into the covenant.
But, let's step back a few generations to note that the OT Scriptures are silent regarding the Passover until the time of Hezekiah.
2 Chr 30.1
Now Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover to the Lord God of Israel.
The next mention is here, during the reign of Josiah; the account is detailed in 2 Chronicles 34 and 35 (and should be reviewed in depth!). Here, I highlight only the following:
2 Chr 34.29-31; 35.1,17-18
Then the king [Josiah] sent and gathered all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. The king went up to the house of the Lord and all the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests, the Levites and all the people, from the greatest to the least; and he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord. … Then Josiah celebrated the Passover to the Lord in Jerusalem, and they slaughtered the Passover animals on the fourteenth day of the first month. … Thus the sons of Israel who were present celebrated the Passover at that time, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days. There had not been celebrated a Passover like it in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet; nor had any of the kings of Israel celebrated such a Passover as Josiah did with the priests, the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
At first read, the historical account of Josiah appears to contradict the account of Hezekiah: after all, Hezekiah began his reign ~726, while the 18th year of Josiah’s reign would be ~622. Clearly, Hezekiah should be counted among those who celebrated the Passover in clear distinction to the statement of 2 Chr 35.18.
But he wasn’t…
The answer is in the text: there were some problems with Hezekiah’s observance of the Passover.
There are strong indications that it was poorly planned and poorly executed, to the extent that the LORD did not consider it a valid observance.
2 Chr 30.1-4
Now Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover to the Lord God of Israel. For the king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had decided to celebrate the Passover in the second month, since they could not celebrate it at that time, because the priests had not consecrated themselves in sufficient numbers, nor had the people been gathered to Jerusalem. Thus the thing was right in the sight of the king and all the assembly.
There are four noteworthy issues here:
- The event appears to have been planned too late for the people to travel to Jerusalem. Hezekiah’s heart “was in the right place”—mostly—but his execution of otherwise legitimate plans was problematic at best.
- The mere fact that the king and his princes decided to delay the Passover by one month was not an adequate reason; they did not have the authority to redefine the rule the LORD made.
- While the LORD allowed those who could not make it to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover in the second month (because of the exceptional case of long distance), the Passover must still be observed in the first month by everyone else.
- “The thing was right in the sight of the king and all the assembly”; this sounds a great deal like the warning given at the end of Moses leadership (Deu 12.8) and “every man doing what was right in his own eyes") during the dark history of Israel following the death of Joshua until the reign of King David. (Jdg 17.6; 21.25)
The testimony of 2 Chr 35.18 guarantees that the issues 1-4 I just detailed are valid: the LORD did not regard Hezekiah’s observance of the Passover as legitimate because it missed the mark at many levels.
The fact is, nothing like the following (said of Josiah) can be found in the corresponding account of Hezekiah:
2 Chr 34.14,18b,19-21,22-33
When they were bringing out the money which had been brought into the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law of the Lord given by Moses. … And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.
When the king heard the words of the law, he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Abdon the son of Micah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, “Go, inquire of the Lord for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book which has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord which is poured out on us because our fathers have not observed the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book.”
So Hilkiah and those whom the king had told went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, the keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter); and they spoke to her regarding this. She said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Tell the man who sent you to Me, thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am bringing evil on this place and on its inhabitants, even all the curses written in the book which they have read in the presence of the king of Judah. Because they have forsaken Me and have burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore My wrath will be poured out on this place and it shall not be quenched.”’ But to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus you will say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel regarding the words which you have heard, Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,” declares the Lord. Behold, I will gather you to your fathers and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, so your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring on this place and on its inhabitants.”’” And they brought back word to the king.
Then the king sent and gathered all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. The king went up to the house of the Lord and all the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests, the Levites and all the people, from the greatest to the least; and he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord.
Then the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord to walk after the Lord, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant written in this book. Moreover, he made all who were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand with him. So the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. Josiah removed all the abominations from all the lands belonging to the sons of Israel, and made all who were present in Israel to serve the Lord their God. Throughout his lifetime they did not turn from following the Lord God of their fathers.
What a testimony!
Do you see now why the Scriptures declare:
2 Chr 35.18
There had not been celebrated a Passover like it in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet; nor had any of the kings of Israel celebrated such a Passover as Josiah did with the priests, the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
I could state the matter this way:
Hezekiah celebrated the Passover; Josiah CELEBRATED the PASSOVER!
There are only two additional mentions of the Passover in the OT:
- The Jews who returned from Babylon after the captivity celebrated the Passover. (Ezr 6.19-21)
- The Passover will be kept by national Israel during the Millennium. (Eze 45.21-23)
[While I make no attempt formally to prove it here, there is abundant Scripture evidence that the sacrificial system, including the Passover, (Eze 45.21-23) will be reinstated and run concurrent during the Millennium.
I’ll mention only this text (as one of many) to establish this single point:
‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she will be called: the Lord is our righteousness.’ For thus says the Lord, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to prepare sacrifices continually.’”
The One who will sit on the throne is the Lord Christ, the son of David, according to the promise. When He sits on the throne in Jerusalem it is also true that there will be Levitical priests doing their job of performing the sacrifices.]