Diagram 019 – Forty Days Back From Ascension
Surprisingly, it is the ascension of Jesus which provides the detail regarding the day of the week for the crucifixion and resurrection. The first chapter of Acts provides the vital clue which unlocks other scriptures regarding the timing of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Acts 1:3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
For 40 days Jesus presented Himself alive, being seen by the apostles and many others, and these 40 days are important because the day of His ascension was a Sabbath.
Acts 1:12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey.
On the same day as the ascension, the disciples journeyed back to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. The text states it was a Sabbath day’s journey. Why does Luke (the author of Acts) divulge this information? That the distance from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem is a Sabbath day’s journey? It can only be because Luke wanted the readership to know that the Apostles had not broken the rules of the Sabbath (by walking too far when returning to Jerusalem). Note that A Sabbath day’s journey is about six furlongs and is the Jewish ‘maximum legal distance’ allowed for travel on a Sabbath.
The problem for Luke was that he had already recorded the ascension place of Jesus as ‘Bethany’ in his earlier gospel statement of Luke 24:50:
Luke 24:50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.
Bethany was over twice the distance allowed for a Sabbath day’s journey because (as stated in John’s Gospel), Bethany was fifteen furlongs from Jerusalem:
John 11:18 Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:
Luke, therefore, in the Book of Acts, was fine-tuning the ‘ascension location’ to the nearer Mount of Olives, which was in the district of Bethany, rather than the coarser (yet correct) description of ‘plain’ Bethany (of Luke 24:50). On a Sabbath, the ‘Bethany’ ascension statement would have offended his Jewish readership and Luke wanted to clarify the shorter distance because Bethany was about twice as far from Jerusalem than the ‘Mount of Olives’. The side effect of this detail is the magnificent revelation that Jesus ascended to heaven on the Jewish Sabbath, or a Saturday!
This refining of the ascension location also fits well with Luke’s intention to write an orderly (Luke 1:3) and accurate account.
This is critical information and unlocks the day of the week of the resurrection of Jesus. Resurrection day is therefore known by simply counting back 40 ‘days of the week’ from ‘ascension’ Saturday or Sabbath. Not including the day of ascension this count leads to the earliest day of resurrection from the Friday death of Jesus, as being a Monday!