All Bible texts are from the King James Version.
"For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Matthew 12:40
From this one text some people try to prove that:-
- Jesus was crucified on Wednesday and rose Saturday afternoon.
- That Christ being in the grave for 72 hours was the only sign that would prove His Messiahship.
- If Jesus did not fulfil this sign of being in the grave for 72 hours, He was an impostor, and we are without a Messiah.
1. Jesus was crucified on Wednesday and rose Saturday afternoon.
The people who promote a Wednesday crucifixion say that there was a ceremonial sabbath on the Thursday of the week Christ was crucified, and that they have traced it back through the old Jewish calendars to ‘prove’ their point. They say that this is the sabbath spoken of in the Bible that began just after Jesus died, not the weekly Sabbath.
To see whether these things are so we will first go back to the old testament to see what feasts and ceremonial sabbaths would be celebrated around the time of the death of Jesus.
"In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD's passover.
And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.
In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.
But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. . . .
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:
And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it." Leviticus 23:5 - 8, 10, 11.
On the 14th day of Abid was the Passover, 15th of Abid was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread which was a ceremonial sabbath, and the 16th of Abid was the Wave Sheaf or First Fruits ceremony.
Now let us confirm from the Bible that this is the time of year that Christ died.
"Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover? . . .
Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve." Matthew 26:17, 20.
"And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover? . . And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover." Mark 14:12, 16.
"Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed." Luke 22:7.
"Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." John 13:1.
Most Christians should know that all the above texts relating to the Passover meal was where Christ shared with His disciples shared the “Last Supper.”
This being so we should then find that the next day was a ceremonial sabbath. Which is exactly what we find in John.
"The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away." John 19:31.
When a ceremonial sabbath or holy convocation fell on the weekly Sabbath, that sabbath was called a high day, or an especially sacred Sabbath as some modern translations put it.
Now let us go through the Gospels to see the order of the days from the crucifixion to the resurrection of Christ.
"And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? . . .
Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost
And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; . . . .
Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, . . .
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. . . .
Then said Jesus unto them (Mary Magdalene and the other Mary), Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done." Matthew 27:46, 50, 51, 62; 28:1 - 4, 10, 11.
"And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? . . .
And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. . . .
And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,. . .
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. . .
Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils." Mark 15:34, 37, 42; 16:1, 2, 9.
"And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. . . .
And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.
And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid.
And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.
Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.
And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus." Luke 23:46, 54 - 56; 24:1 - 3.
"When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. . . .
There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.
The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him." John 19:30, 31, 42; 20:1, 2.
Looking at all the evidence from the Bible it is clear that there were only 3 days from and including the day of the crucifixion, to and including the day of the resurrection.
Day 1 - Christ died at the time of the evening sacrifice, 3 pm, on the preparation day before the Sabbath of the commandments, Friday, with an earthquake, and was placed in the tomb before sunset.
Day 2 - Christ rested in the tomb for the high Sabbath.
Day 3 - Christ rose on the first day of the week, Sunday, just before sunrise with another earthquake. At this time there was also a resurrection of martyrs who went into the city and appeared to many (Matthew 27:52, 53.).
It is worth noting that the women had prepared spices and were going to anoint the body of Christ on Sunday morning. If Christ had died on Wednesday, there is no way that they would want to open the tomb on Sunday, let alone try to anoint His body as it would have smelt because of decay. This is what Martha said of her own brother Lazarus.
"Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days." John 11:39.
2. That Christ being in the grave for 72 hours was the only sign that would prove His Messiahship.
Let us have a look at what was acutally said by Jesus.
"For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.
But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Matthew 12:37 - 40.
Who was the one sign for? The unbelieving Jews. But was this the only sign that the Jew had? NO! In their very midst Jesus had healed the sick, made the lame to walk, the blind to see, cast out devils, raised the dead to life and forgave sins, all of which only God can do, and the Jews were not ignorant of any of these things. They were also well acquainted with the prophecies in the Old Testament, the sanctuary services and the feasts which all pointed to the Messiah. Some of these prophecies were:-
"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." Micah 5:2.
"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate." Daniel 9:24 - 27.
"For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth." Isaiah 53:2 - 9.
If Christ had not fulfilled these prophecies how then did Simeon and Anna in the Temple (Luke 2:25 - 38) and the wise men from the east (Matthew 1 & 2) recognise Jesus Christ as the Messiah? Simply because He did fulfil all the prophecies and signs relating to the Messiah, of which there are many.
3. If Jesus did not fulfil this sign of being in the grave for 72 hours, He was an impostor, and we are without a Messiah.
The first thing to look at here is, how long does the Bible say that Jonah was in the belly of the fish?
"Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." Jonah 1:17.
The Bible tell us 3 days and 3 nights, not 72 hours as some people would like us to believe.
The second thing to look at is, how does the Bible count days? To answer this question I will ask another question. How many days are there in a week? Seven, according to the Bible. There is no day 0, the first day spoken of is day 1. Also in the Bible times, part of a day was considered a day. Here are a few examples.
- "And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.
Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem." Luke 13:32, 33.
Here we have from Jesus own lips, what he meant by ‘third day’. We have today, tomorrow and the day after that being the third day.
- "And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed." Genesis 17:12.
"And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised." Leviticus 12:3.
"And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father." Luke 1:59.
A Hebrew baby boy was circumcised when he was eight days old or on his eighth day.
Today we use the same terminology if we use a medicine. If you have to take it for 3 days, you include the day on which you started that medicine as day 1.
- "And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria, and besieged it.
And at the end of three years they took it: even in the sixth year of Hezekiah, that is the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken." 2 Kings 18:9, 10.
Here we read that Shalmaneser besieged Hezekiah for 3 years. This started in the 4th year of Hezekiah’s reign and went till the 6th year. This shows that it was counted as:- 4, 5, 6 inclusively.
Thirdly, the Bible says that ‘even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us’ (1 Corinthians 5:7) and that He was ‘the Firstfruits of them that slept’ (1 Corinthians 15:20 - see also verse 23).
If we go back to the feast which we read about at the beginning of this article we see that the passover lamb was slain on the 14th of Abid, and the third day, the 16th of Abid, the Wave Sheaf or Firstfruits was presented to God. Jesus DID fulfil all of this prophecy.
- By dying 3 pm Friday afternoon - (Luke 23:44-56).
- By resting in the tomb during the hours of the weekly Sabbath.
- By raising from the dead Sunday morning just before sunrise - (Mark 16:9).
- By presenting Himself to His Father on Sunday as the Firstfruits - (John 20:17).
© S. D. Goeldner
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