Jerusalem was always a dangerous place for Jesus, and He didn’t spend much time there. He spent most of His time preaching in Galilee. But He prophesied to the apostles that He would have to go there, where He would be put to death:

From that time, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up (Matthew 16:21).

Jesus first went beyond the Jordan River to the Judean wilderness and Jericho, just north of the Dead Sea. He took His apostles with Him and great multitudes followed Him (Matthew 19:1). He performed miracles there, and of course, the Pharisees showed up to tempt Him. In Matthew 20 we see Him going up to Jerusalem. (Note that in Israel, Jerusalem is always “up,” not because of its elevation, but because it is the Holy City.)

As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and will hand him over to the Gentiles to mock, to scourge, and to crucify; and the third day he will be raised up.” (Matthew 20:17 – 19).

In Matthew 21 we read about Christ’s Triumphal Entry. Jesus Himself arranged for the donkey foal to carry Him into Jerusalem in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9�

Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion!
Shout, daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King comes to you!
He is righteous, and having salvation;
lowly, and riding on a donkey,
even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

The members of the Sanhedrin knew their scriptures and so did the people. This was a brazen statement by Jesus that He was the King of the Jews. The people fully participated and hailed Him as the Messiah. The waving of palm branches is symbolic, a part of Feast of Tabernacles that welcomes the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth and represents final judgment and salvation.

The following day, Jesus cleansed the temple, overturning tables and driving out the money changers and merchants selling temple animals. Still the multitudes sought Him, and still He healed and taught. Children in the temple cried Hosanna to the Son of David, and Jesus testified to the Pharisees that the children spoke the truth. Everything that Jesus did seemed meant to inflame the Jewish leaders against Him:

“Therefore I tell you, God’s Kingdom will be taken away from you and will be given to a nation producing its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but on whomever it will fall, it will scatter him as dust.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he spoke about them. When they sought to seize him, they feared the multitudes, because they considered him to be a prophet. (Matthew 21:43-46).

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel around by sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves (Matthew 23:15).

In Matthew 24 we see Jesus preparing His apostles, giving them prophecies of the Last Days. Matthew 25 begins with Jesus saying that it’s two days until the Passover and they need to make preparations.

If you look at a daily account of the last week in Jesus’ life, Wednesday is empty and Jesus is crucified on Friday. Christians have struggled for centuries to make Friday-to-Sunday work out to be three days and three nights in the tomb.

It doesn’t work, because Christ was crucified on Thursday.

The Thursday Crucifixion

Jesus celebrated the Passover one day earlier than most people in Jerusalem, on Wednesday. When the Passover was originally commanded to be celebrated, it was to last 8 days, but by the time Jesus was born, the Jews had contracted it to 7 days. Jesus, His disciples, and the Essenes followed the old pattern. He was crucified on Thursday and taken down from the cross at sundown for the High Holy Sabbath, the first day of Passover. There were two Sabbath days in a row that year, with the normal Sabbath day, Saturday, the next day.

Jesus left that Wednesday feast to suffer in Gethsemane and to be betrayed and arrested. He was thrust before the Sanhedrin to be tried according to Jewish law. The Law of Moses includes trial law, and the Sanhedrin broke many of those laws when they tried the Savior. The irony must have been profound, since Jesus is the one who gave them that law.

Jesus was then sent to Pilate, to Herod, and then back again. He was presented to the people and then left to the Romans to fulfill the wishes of the Jewish leaders. As for the group of Jews choosing Barabbas over Jesus or yelling “crucify Him,” Caiaphas and his cronies made sure that the crowd was full of their own sympathizers.

Jesus was crucified on Thursday afternoon. Thus, Jesus was crucified at the same time as most of the lambs were being sacrificed in the temple. He was taken down from the cross before sundown on Thursday for the High Holy first day of Passover Week. He was in the tomb a full three days and three nights. He rose the morning of Bikkurim, the Honored Son wave offering, symbolic of the resurrection.