Three days and three nights?

Posted: March 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

Each year many observe “Good Friday”, the day they believe that Jesus was crucified. Then “Easter” Sunday will be observed as the day Christ arose from the dead. But was Jesus truly crucified on a Friday and resurrected on a Sunday Morning? And does it really matter? If you believe in Jesus as the Messiah, then it does matter, because the only sign which would be given to prove that He was the promised Messiah is the sign of Jonah. When the Jewish religious leaders asked Jesus for a sign to prove that He was sent from God, Jesus answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 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.” (Matthew 12:38-40, NIV)

It is important to note here that Jesus said, not only three “days” but also three “nights.” That is 72 hours in the grave. Many erroneously assume that because Jesus was crucified on the “day of preparation” that He was killed on “Friday”, the weekly preparation day. Luke Chapter 23 says, “Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” (Luke 23:50-56, NIV) We can read the same account in the other gospels as well, so it is very clear that Jesus was killed and buried on the day of preparation. But how can we get three days and three nights from near sundown Friday to Sunday morning? Friday night would be one night, Saturday would be one day. Saturday night would be two nights and Sunday morning could not even be counted as a day. This reasoning would give us only one day and two nights, not the three days and three nights Jesus gave as His only sign.

Jesus certainly made no mistake so what is the answer to this puzzle? The answer can only be found when we understand which Sabbath is being prepared for observance. There are more “Sabbaths” than just the weekly Sabbaths. They are called “Annual Sabbaths” or “High Days.” These are a part of the annual Festivals commanded by God in Leviticus 23, and are the Lord’s appointed times for assembly and observance. They may fall on any day of the week during the year. The Annual Sabbaths are (1) First Day of Unleavened Bread. (2) Seventh Day of Unleavened Bread. (3) Feast of Pentecost or First Fruits (always Sunday). (4) Feast of Trumpets. (5) Day of Atonement. (6) Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. (7) Last Great Day.

Now with this understanding let us read Leviticus 23:5-7, “The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. 6 On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Festival of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. 7 On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.” (Leviticus 23:5-7, NIV) Notice that this Annual Sabbath follows the Lord’s Passover. Now notice Luke 22:15, “And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15, NIV) After the Passover meal they departed to the Mount of Olives. In Luke 22:47 we find Jesus betrayed by Judas Iscariot and in Verse 54, Jesus was arrested. All this happened on the Passover, the 14th of Nissan. The following morning (still the Passover), Jesus was tried, beaten and sentenced to death by crucifixion. We find in Matthew 27:50 that Jesus cried out with a loud voice and died. Verse 46 of that same chapter tells us it was at the “ninth hour” of the day (Passover), which is 3 in the afternoon. All of this, from the eating of the Passover, to His death and burial, took place on the 14th of Nissan, the Passover.

Joseph, who asked Pilate for Jesus’ body, had until sundown to prepare the body with spices and secure Him in His tomb. Days began and ended at sundown, so sundown would begin a new day, in this case a High Sabbath, the First Day of Unleavened Bread (15th Nissan). This day of preparation mentioned in the Gospels was not to prepare for a “weekly” Sabbath, but the First Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Most Bible scholars agree that Jesus was crucified in 31 A.D. on Passover 14th Nissan, a Wednesday that year (30 A.D. and 31 A.D. both had a Wednesday Passover according to the perpetual calendar) was buried just prior to sundown which would begin the next day, Thursday, 15th Nissan a High Day. Three days and three nights later, near the end of the weekly Sabbath (Saturday), He arose from the dead.

Notice that Luke says, “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” (Luke 24:1-3, NIV) It was early Sunday morning and Jesus was already gone. He was not resurrected on Sunday morning, the tomb was already empty. Fulfilling the “Sign of Jonah”, Jesus was true to His own prophecy concerning Himself. He was in the grave Wednesday Night (1st night), Thursday (1st day), Thursday night (2nd night), Friday (2nd day), Friday night (3rd night) Saturday (3rd day). Thus three full days and three full nights. If He arose on Sunday morning, that would be three days and four nights, thus nullifying the Lord’s own prophecy of His resurrection. If Jesus was put in the tomb just before sundown, then He must have been resurrected from the tomb at that same time of day three days later, which would be near the end of the weekly Sabbath as it was beginning to get dark. At sundown would begin Sunday, the first day it was noticed that He was gone from His tomb. Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday Passover, because He is our Passover Lamb. God always does things on time and at His appointed times. Everything surrounding the first Passover observance in ancient Egypt was foreshadowing Him, the true Lamb to come that would save man from death by giving His own precious life as a sacrifice. As Christians, we no longer observe this very special day as a memorial of deliverance of Israel from Egypt, but as a memorial of the death of our Lord who delivered us from eternal death. Don’t neglect this meaningful memorial.

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