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In answer to the challenge of the Scribes and Pharisees: "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You" Jesus responded: "...no sign will be given…except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth'" (Matthew 12:38-40).
The only sign Jesus gave to prove He was the Messiah was that He precisely specified the length of time He would remain dead. Three days and three nights is a total of 72 hours. Yet today it is almost universally believed Jesus died and was buried on late Friday afternoon and was resurrected early Sunday morning. If this is correct, then, based on Christ’s own words, the only sign of His Messiahship has utterly failed—for there are not three days and three nights between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning, but only one day and two nights!
Jesus repeatedly told His disciples His death would last three days and nights, to be followed by His resurrection. "And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again" (Mark 8:31). See also Matthew 16:21 and 17:22-23). The traditional view of a "Good Friday" burial and an "Easter Sunday" resurrection cannot be reconciled with Jesus Christ's own statements about how long He would be in the tomb.
The Companion Bible explains "three days" or "the third day" does not mean parts of three days—Friday night, all day Saturday and Saturday night, and Sunday morning: "The fact that 'three days' is used by Hebrew idiom for any part of three days and three nights is not disputed; because that was the common way of reckoning… But, when the number of 'nights' is stated as well as the number of 'days', then the expression ceases to be an idiom, and becomes a literal statement of fact" (1990, appendix 144).
One reason most churches teach Christ died and was buried on Good Friday is that the Scriptures say He was buried on "the preparation day," the day before a Sabbath. Mark 15:42-46 tells us Jesus was entombed late in the afternoon on the "preparation day," just before the Sabbath began at sunset. But the Sabbath referred to here was not the weekly Sabbath day, which begins on Friday at sunset and lasts until Saturday sunset.
The Apostle John specifically tells us the day Jesus was crucified immediately preceded a special Sabbath, an annual Holy Day, not the regular weekly Sabbath. "Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should 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" (John 19:31).
In addition to the weekly Sabbaths, God commands seven Holy Days or annual Sabbaths (see Leviticus 23) to be observed, most of which can fall on different days of the week. A number of commentaries and Bible helps agree John is here referring to one of these annual Sabbaths rather than the weekly Sabbath.
Jesus Christ, like the Passover lamb that was killed to spare the ancient Israelites from the death angel, was slain on Passover day (read John 19). The Passover is observed on the 14th day of the first month of the Hebrew calendar. The next day begins the seven-dayFeast of Unleavened Bread. The first day of Unleavened Bread, the 15th of Abib, is an annual Sabbath (Leviticus 23:5-7). The Jews were rushing to finish the burials of the condemned men before the annual Sabbath began at sunset. The "Preparation Day" referred to in Mark 15:42 and John 19:31 was the day before the Holy Day that began the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
There were actually two Sabbaths that week—an annual Sabbath "high day" and a regular weekly Sabbath day. This is proven by the statements regarding Mary Magdalene and the women, who planned to put spices and ointments on Christ's body. In Mark 16:1, we read they purchased the spices "when the Sabbath was past”. But then in Luke 23:54-56, we are told they prepared the spices and fragrant oils and then rested on the Sabbath.
The women had to wait until the annual Sabbath was past before they could purchase the spices. They did this on Thursday evening or early Friday. There was not enough time to both buy and prepare the spices plus put them on Christ's body, so they rested on the weekly Sabbath after purchasing and preparing them, intending to put them on His body early Sunday morning. (To see these events spelled out day by day, see the chart in the next article for the accurate chronology of these events.)
In the year A.D. 31, the year Jesus was crucified, the Passover fell on a Wednesday, April 25, with the first day of Unleavened Bread following on the next day, Thursday. Our Saviour died shortly after 3:00 p.m. on Passover day, Wednesday afternoon (Luke 23:44-46). Between the ninth hour (3 p.m.) and sunset on Wednesday, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus asked for permission to remove and wrap His body and put it in a tomb which was close by (John 19:38-42 and Luke 23:50-55).
When Mary went to the tomb on Sunday morning, "while it was still dark", Christ's body was not there. He wasn't resurrected at sunrise on Sunday morning. Before sunrise His body was already gone (John 20:1-2). Jesus Christ said He would be "three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40). If He were buried in the late afternoon on Wednesday, then He must have been resurrected at around the same time three days and nights later. This places Christ's resurrection on Saturday around sunset—not on Sunday morning!
This perfectly fits with the three nights—Wednesday night, Thursday night and Friday night—and the three days—Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The tradition of a "Good Friday" crucifixion and an "Easter Sunday" resurrection are without basis in fact. So which will you believe—a man-made myth, or the only sign that Jesus announced would be proof that He was who He said He was?
The Good News magazine (Mar-Apr 2013)