When I was a child, Good Friday was always a very serious day. Banks and some places of business were closed from noon until three, kids were supposed to be very quiet during these hours, and I was convinced that the sun never shone on Good Friday afternoon. It was a very serious religious day. The church service was always quiet, the cross was draped in black and sometimes the lights would grow more dim as the service progressed, ending the service in the dark. It was kind of scary. We didn’t understand everything, but we knew we had to be quiet AND serious.
The term Good Friday has evolved over the years. The English phrase “Good Friday” came from the Old German name Gottes Freytag which means “good” or “holy” Friday. In the present time the Germans call the day Karfreigta, which means “Care Friday” of “Friday of Mourning.” Other nicknames include “Black Friday,” (not to be confused with the day after Thanksgiving) or “Sorrowful Friday.” 1 Even when I was very young, I began to question why everyone was so sad about it. It was the day Jesus paid for my sins…a debt that I couldn’t begin to pay. He went to the cross so I didn’t have to go to hell. I thought this should be something to be happy about.
When it becomes a day of mourning instead of thanksgiving, the question comes up “Who is responsible for this death we are mourning?” There are two possible answers: the most common one is the Jews! The term “Christ killers” has been used against Jews for centuries. If you want to get it historically correct, the Jews had no power of crucifixion. It was the Romans who gave the death sentence. (I don’t see anyone blaming Italians.) The second response is more correct — my sin! However, that can cause a problem if Good Friday is a day of mourning for my sins, the focus can become my sin instead of my Savior! Focusing on sin allows the enemy to bring new accusations against us, even for old sins. Why should we spend time meditating on sins that have already been forgiven? In Isaiah 43:25 the Lord Himself says “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” Now, if there are sins we haven’t repented of, mourning is still not the answer….repentance is.
Another problem was the math--I knew even as a child that Jesus said He would be in the grave for three days and three nights. No matter how I counted it out, Friday just didn’t work! Those who chose Good Friday negated the fact that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus were all related to Passover! He couldn’t have died on a Friday.
You might ask, “What’s the difference when we celebrate the Lord’s crucifixion? After all, isn’t the important part the fact that it happened? And besides, we celebrate Christmas, and we know Jesus wasn’t born December 25.”
The connection with the Spring Feasts of the Lord is the answer: Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits. The chart below shows the correct sequence of events regarding the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord during the Biblical month of Nisan from the 14th – 18th.
Separating what has come to be known as Holy Week or Passion Week from the Spring Feasts of the Lord happened in 324 CE; the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox, which is usually March 21. This decision wasn’t made just to keep the date consistent; it was made to remove from the church anything connected to Jews. The basis for moving the date was anti-Semitism! The following is from an article which discusses the Council’s decision.
… And first of all, it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast, we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul….Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd, for we have received from our Savior a different way….and consequently, in unanimously adopting this mode, we desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews, for it is truly shameful for us to hear them boast that without their direction we could not keep this feast… it is our duty not to have anything in common with the murderers of our Lord.2
Apparently the fourth century church forgot something that many today often forget: JESUS WAS A JEW! The Bible was written almost totally by Jewish people. God calls these feasts not the Jewish Feasts, but the Feasts of the Lord.
God was very specific in describing the dates and times of Jesus’ death. Why? He wanted us to see how Jesus fulfilled the Feasts that have been celebrated from the times of Moses. Understanding that Jesus fulfilled these ancient feasts to the exact day and time, would make it almost impossible to deny that Jesus is Messiah.
Passover was so important to God that He made the month in which it occurred the beginning of the year (Exodus 12:2). On the Jewish calendar, a month begins with the sighting of the new moon, so the months don’t directly match the months of our western calendar. The chart below shows the relationship of the calendars.
Overview of Spring Feasts
• The Feast of Passover comes first (Nisan 14) and is followed directly by the Feast of Unleavened Bread (on Nisan 15).
• The Feast of Unleavened Bread is the longest of the three Spring feasts, lasting for seven days.
• After the Feast of Unleavened Bread, comes the Feast of First Fruits, which is celebrated the Sunday following Passover.
• Sometimes all three feasts are collectively referred to as the Feast of Unleavened Bread and sometimes all three are called Passover (Acts 20:6; Luke 22:1).
Let’s look at the details set out in Exodus 12:1-14, 21-27
• On the tenth day each man is to take a year-old lamb without blemish for his household.
• They were to watch over the lamb until the 14th day. It became part of the family for those days.
• The whole congregation are to slaughter their lambs at twilight
• The blood was put on the two doorposts and the crossbeam of the house
• The meal had to be eaten that night (now it is the 15th) with matzot and bitter herbs
• If there were any leftovers, they must be burned in the morning.
• They were to eat it dressed and ready to travel
• This day must be a memorial throughout the generations
On Day 1 of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Nisan 15, the Israelites left Egypt in haste. (Exodus 12:31 – 34, 39).
The Feast of Firstfruits was to take place when they entered the land; it was to occur on the first Sunday after Passover. On this Sunday the priest would wave a sheaf (omer) of green barley of the new harvest before the LORD (north, south, east, then west) as a symbolic gesture of dedicating the coming harvest to Him. As they returned to the Temple with the sheaves, the choir of Levites led the worship music with these words from Psalm 30:1-3– “I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried out to You, and You healed me. O LORD, You brought my soul up from the grave; You have kept me alive…”
Jesus Fulfilled the Spring Feasts
Nisan 10, Lamb Selection Day was what we call Palm Sunday (which probably wasn’t Sunday, but Saturday), Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Up until that day, Jesus had avoided being called king, but on that day, He not only accepted the praise, He deliberately arranged for it to happen. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation. Lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.“ Zechariah 9:9
According to Exodus 12, the people kept their lambs for four days examining them to be sure they were without blemish. What was Jesus doing during those four days? After his triumphal entry on Nisan 10, Jesus spent the next four days in the temple area: the lamb was on display for all to examine. “And in the daytime, He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and stayed on the mountain called Olivet. Then early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him.” Luke 21:37-38
Jesus the Passover meal with His disciples the beginning of Nisan 14. (Remember, that the Jewish day begins in the evening —“the evening and the morning were the first day” from Genesis) The only thing is they didn’t have a lamb at that meal. It was there that Jesus presented Himself as the Lamb. “This is my body given for you; do this is remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19
We know Jesus was arrested after the Passover meal and condemned to die. He was on the cross on Nissan 14 from nine in the morning until three in afternoon, and at the exact time that the Passover lambs were being killed at the temple, Jesus said “It is finished.”
Jesus was buried on Unleavened Bread. Remember there was a rush to get the victims of crucifixion off the crosses before the high holy day…the special Sabbath being the first day of Unleavened Bread (Thursday). If the Sabbath referred to had been a regular Saturday Sabbath, when would the women have had time to prepare the spices they were bringing to the tomb before dawn on Sunday morning? They would have been forbidden to do that work on the Sabbath. The events of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion happened in rapid succession; they couldn’t have planned for it. Friday was the only day they could have shopped for and prepared the spices.
Jesus rose from the dead on First Fruits. First Fruits is always the day after the regular Sabbath after Passover (always a Sunday). “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:20
Summary of the Spring Feasts
• Passover represents our salvation and deliverance by the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus the Messiah. We are justified by trusting in the sacrificial blood of the Lamb of God (Revelation 7:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
• Unleavened Bread represents our sanctification as we rid ourselves of the old leaven of “Egypt” and die to the carnal nature. This is represented by the burial of Jesus and our identification with Him.
• First Fruits represents the resurrection of Jesus our Messiah and our future glorified state as part of the coming harvest of God at the end of the age.
So, I stopped celebrating Good Friday because it doesn’t fit anywhere in the biblical story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. So the question remains: Should we move Easter to line it up with First Fruits? That’s a hard one because it is so ingrained in our culture. I leave it at this–I am always very happy when Resurrection Sunday falls on the day of First Fruits, as it does this year (2022). Even though Passover doesn’t begin until Friday this year (2022), First Fruits is Sunday.
May you have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!
Romans 14:5-6a (NKJV) “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.”
1“Good Friday: History, Origins, Traditions and Rituals” Feb. 4, 2021 by FaithGiant, https://faithgiant.com/good-friday
2“Israel Betrayed: The History of Replacement Theology.” Published by Ariel Ministries in 2019.
Sue Priebe is the Pastor of City of Hope Church in Janesville, Wisconsin, and serves on the Board of Directors for Women of the Word. She is passionate about teaching the Word of God in ways that are relevant and applicable to daily life. She also has a deep love for Israel and travels there frequently connecting with believers there and teaching God’s Word on location.