Did Jesus Rise on the Sabbath? Answered & Explained

We all want to connect with the historical Jesus a bit more. Concerning the resurrection of Jesus, several questions come to mind:

What day did Jesus rise?
Did Jesus rise on the Sabbath?
If it was on the Sabbath, what significance does it bear?

What if I told you it depends?

Jesus ultimately rose on Sunday. But depending on your definition of when the Sabbath is, either Saturday or Sunday, answers the question of whether he rose on the Sabbath. For most Christians who practice Sabbath on Sunday, yes. For most of Judeo history where Sabbath starts on Friday evening to Saturday evening, no, he didn’t.

Let’s dive deeper to understand.

The Passages Which Describe Jesus’ Resurrection Timing

To fully understand the timing of the resurrection, we have to understand 3 pieces of data: 1) when Jesus died 2) When Jesus said he would rise and 3) When Jesus actually rose again

When Jesus Died

Wikipedia is right in saying that

All four Gospels agree to within about a day that the crucifixion was at the time of Passover, and all four Gospels agree that Jesus died a few hours before the commencement of the Jewish Sabbath, i.e. he died before nightfall on a Friday.

Here are the passages that demonstrate this:

Matthew 27:62

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate

Mark 15:42

And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath,

Luke 23:54

It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. 55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.

John 19:31

Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away

As you can see here that there is harmony between all four gospels that Jesus rose on Friday.

When Jesus said he would rise again

The piece of information to understand is when Jesus said he would rise. It was common theme that Jesus suggested that it would be three days before he would rise.

This is an allusion to Jonah who was in the belly of the fish for 3 days and 3 nights.

Here is Jesus explaining to his disciples the timing of his resurrection:

Matthew 12:40

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

So by simple math we count 3 days from when Jesus died. The only question is, is it 3 chronological days or is 3 literally days.

When I say 3 chronological days, I mean 72 hours. That would put Jesus’ resurrection happening on Monday.

When I say 3 literally days, that would include the counting of days, which would be Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

Thankfully, the writers of the gospel make it clear by describing in exact terms of when Jesus rose.

When Jesus actually rose

Let’s look at the harmonic passages which describe Jesus’ resurrection as to relate to weekly timing:

Mark 16:1-2

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.

Luke 24:1

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus

Matthew 28:1

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 

John 20:1

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

As you can see here all of them have harmony in regards to the timing of Jesus’ resurrection. They all say the first day of the week and secondarily, to add clarity, Mark and Matthew add that it was after the Sabbath.

This is a big clue as to when Jesus was resurrected. The only question is… when is the Sabbath?

But…when is the Sabbath?

For most Christians, because our worship service is on Sunday, we tend to associate Sundays as the Sabbath.

However, for most of Judeo history, Sabbath was actually from Friday afternoon until Saturday afternoon.

Hear what Jewish writer Abraham Heschel writer has to about Sabbath.

There are really two kinds of Shabbat experiences: those of the fall and winter months, when the Sabbath begins around four o‘clock on Friday afternoons and ends around five o’clock on Saturday, and those of the spring and summer, when the Sabbath starts at eight or eight-thirty and ends at nine o’clock or even later. In the winter months, our Friday nights continued long after dinner as my parents sat at the table, drinking tea and reading. During the spring months, the long Shabbat afternoons became the peaceful and quiet focus of the day.

Heschel, Abraham Joshua. The Sabbath (FSG Classics) (p. 6). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.

Heschel wrote an amazing reflection piece on Sabbath that I would recommend (Link on Amazon) for greater reflection on Sabbath from a Jewish perspective.

If this is true, then Sabbath ends on Saturday evening.

Read about When is the Sabbath and Does it Matter?

If that is true, then according to the language in Mark and Matthew, after the Sabbath, would imply that the timing here is Sunday morning.

This is most likely why Christians have fixated their day of worship on Sunday morning.

Did Jesus Rise on the Sabbath?

Jesus died on Friday.

He promised that he would rise in 3 days. We determined that it would be 3 counting days, not chronological days.

Then Jesus rose on a Sunday. The gospel writers are all harmonious in their explanation of when Jesus rose.

That means that Jesus did not rise on the Sabbath in the traditional Jewish understanding of Sabbath.

But if we’re understanding this as Christians, then, yes, Jesus rose on the Sabbath. But since his resurrection did not happen on the Jewish Sabbath, we cannot impart theological connection between Sabbath and Jesus’ resurrection.

Phil’s Encouragement: Remember the resurrection

Regardless of whether Jesus was resurrected on the Sabbath, I pray that you would remember the resurrection.

Eph 1:19-20 says something amazing:

19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.

What he’s saying is that the power that raised Jesus from the grave is the same power that lives in us.

My hope is that you won’t get bogged down in the details of Jesus’ resurrection as much as enjoy its power in your life. It’s a power that raises dead things to life.

His presence in our lives is utterly amazing!

Going Deeper

My joy and the aim of this site is to help readers go deeper in their Christian faith.

In case you didn’t know, I am writing a book on the Sabbath as I believe it is one of the most critical practices a Christian can practice in order to grow in their walk with God.

Let me know if you have questions about Jesus’ resurrection or Sabbath in the comments below!

Phil Chan
Phil Chan
Phil has been writing for over 15 years. His passion is to help people see God and to live a life that matters.

1 comment

  • In the Geneva Bible of 1599, this translation in Ezekiel 2 indicates the term “Son of man” is referred to as Ezekiel, a human made of dust and ashes. In Matthew 12:40 in the King James Version “Son of man” is shown with a capital letter “S”. In this same verse in the Geneva Bible of 1599 “son of man” is shown with a lower case “s” which may indicate Jesus is referring to a human made of dust. This difference could determine how we interpret who Jesus was referring to when he said “son of man”. God called Ezekiel “son of man” several times. Ezekiel was a human, a prophet. Jesus came as God’s Prophet to the Jewish nation and he quoted language from the old testaments scriptures. In Ezekiel 2 God the Father called the Jewish people a wicked, adulterous and rebellious generation and Jesus called the Jewish people the same in Matthew 12 as well. After Jesus healed a demon-possessed man who was blind and dumb, the Jewish rulers had the audacity to ask Jesus to show them a “sign” to prove He is the Messiah. Jesus said NO and the only sign Jesus would give them was the sign of Jonah was 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the whale and so shall the “son of man” be 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth. I believe Jesus was referring to Lazarus as this “son of man” and not Jesus himself in this case. Lazarus was buried in the earth 3 days and 3 nights which equals a total of 4 days. Jesus waited 4 days on purpose to make sure Lazarus was dead, buried and was decaying after being in the earth for 3 days and 3 nights. Lazarus decayed because Martha said “he stinketh”. Jesus performed this miracle to help a rebellious and stubborn Jewish nation believe He is their long awaited Messiah. No one else in their history had ever performed such a miracle. I believe this was the “SIGN” Jesus promised to show them when they asked him to show them a “sign”. When the Jewish leaders found out that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, they plotted to kill Jesus and Lazarus in order to stop more Jewish people from believing in Jesus as the Son of God. The corrupt rulers of the Jewish nation were political and wanted a warring Messiah. One of the greatest signs Jesus performed would be his very own resurrection from the dead. Jesus did not let the evil non-believing Jewish leaders see this awesome “SIGN” of him in his resurrected glorified body. According to the scriptures, the disciples and some of his followers saw Jesus after the resurrection in his glorified body. Jesus’ body did not see decay. (see Acts 13:36-37). According to my human calculations and timeframe, Jesus was only 3 days and 2 nights in the grave. Jesus died and was buried on Friday on Passover on Day 1. On Day 2, Jesus was still in the grave on the Feast of Unleavened Bread. On Day 3, Jesus rose early Sunday morning (The Lord’s Day) on First Fruits. All 3 days were important Jewish Feast Days. Therefore, when Jesus say he will rise in 3 days, it was the same as saying Jesus rose on the 3rd Day or Day 3. Jesus spoke the same language as his Father did in Ezekiel 2. God said, Ezekiel (who is a “son of man”) speak to these dry bones and the bones stood up. Jesus spoke to the dead bones and body of Lazarus and the Holy Spirit lifted Lazarus up from the heart of the earth. Both these instances were ordained by God to help the Jewish people believe that God sent the prophet Ezekiel and God sent his Son, Jesus to the Jewish people for the purpose of bringing life to the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jewish people claimed they believed in the prophets like Moses, Elijah, and Solomon and others whom they had not physically seen but read about them in the scriptures. Therefore, they should have believed that a greater prophet was in their midst because no other prophet ever cast out demons and healed the sick and raised a dead man who was dead for 4 days. Some people believed in Jesus after seeing these miracles but most of the Chief priests and Leaders of the Law rejected Jesus because they wanted a Messiah who would overthrow the Romans in their time. They were wicked and an adulterous generation just like Jesus said they were. I think the way the words “Son of man” was capitalized in the King James Version created confusion in the church world as to who Jesus was talking about when he said the “son of man” would be 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth like Jonah was in the belly of the whale for 3 days and 3 nights. Jesus informed the Jewish rulers who rejected him, they committed an unpardonable and unforgiveable sin when they called Jesus a worker of Beelzebub, the Devil when Jesus cast out demons, and opened blinded eyes and healed a man to speak (see Matt. 12:24). Jesus said they could be forgiven if they said evil about a human who is a “son of man” (see Matt 12:32) but they will not be forgiven for blaspheming or speaking evil against the Holy Spirit. God the Father, and Jesus who is God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are all ONE. When a person rejects, Jesus they reject the TRINITY and there is no forgiveness for this sin. Jesus was a fully human being that felt pain, hunger, thirst, compassion, temptations and death but yet sinless. Jesus was also 100% God in the flesh. Other reference scriptures: Luke 3:54, Acts 13:29, Mark 15:42-43
    Please let me know your comments after reading this interpretation of the 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth. Thank You Jean

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