At the time of the beginning of the writing of this article, Passion Week has come and gone. The earth has been rotating on its axis at about 1,000 miles per hour, speeding east to west, and has brought Sunday to the areas of the Pacific Ocean that are “just west” of the international date line. Sunday’s sunrise will grace Auckland, New Zealand at 6:33 A.M., which will be about 17 hours before dawn’s first light is seen in the central time zone of the USA. In our study, which began a week ago, we saw Christ triumphantly entering Jerusalem on a donkey. This particular Sunday will dawn with a surprise for many saddened followers of Christ. The women return to his burial tomb, “at first light.” Their plan is to complete the preparation of the lifeless body of Christ for His Burial. But! Christ is not in the tomb where the women last saw Him, “dead!” Instead of seeing the dead body of Christ, they are shocked by the vision, and the statements, of two angels; “He is risen!” (Luke 24:6).
The Bible makes it clear that Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week, Sunday (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2,9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1,19). Jesus’ resurrection is most worthy of being celebrated (see 1 Corinthians 15). While it is appropriate for Jesus’ resurrection to be celebrated on a Sunday, the day on which Jesus’ resurrection is celebrated should not be referred to as Easter. Easter has nothing to do with Jesus’ resurrection on a Sunday. (See more of this discussion by clicking onto the following link: https://www.gotquestions.org/Easter-Sunday.html)
Author’s note. “Resurrection Sunday” is the correct term for the day that Christ resurrected from death. Easter relates to a pagan festival. See “Easter” in Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Also see “Don’t Say Easter” in my post, 115, https://equippingblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/12/115-the-jewish-prophet-jonah-a-glimpse-of-passover/ See also https://www.gotquestions.org/Easter-Sunday.html
Passion Week’s Lead Up To Resurrection Sunday
John 12:1-11, Saturday, Christ in Bethany
John 12:12-13, Christ Enters Into Jerusalem, Palm Sunday
Luke 19:28-44, Palm Sunday, The triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem
Luke 19:45-48, Monday, Christ curses the fig tree and cleanses the temple
Luke 20:1-21:38, Tuesday, Christ’s debates with the religious leaders. The Olivet Discourse
Luke 22:1-6, Wednesday, The entry into Judas Iscariot by Satan
Luke 22:7-53, Thursday, The Passover meal and betrayal of Christ by Judas
Luke 22:54-23:55, Friday, The crucifixion of Christ
Luke 23:56, Saturday, Sabbath Rest
Luke 24:1-53, Resurrection Sunday
Note. Our salvation comes from the finished work of Christ on the cross.
John 19:30 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” Then bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
Scriptures in this study are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, and gathered from Bible Gateway. The Bible Gateway link is https://www.biblegateway.com/ Bible Gateway has basic and expanded (Bible Gateway Plus) study notes. Whenever scripture passages are lengthy, in this study, a link will be provided to show those verses.
Clarifying a prophecy of Christ
There has been a matter of confusion and misunderstanding, not to mention disagreement, about the day of the crucifixion of Christ. The prophecy by Christ, as related to an incident in the life of the Jewish Prophet Jonah will be discussed, thereby clearing up the matter.
Let’s consider the verse.
Jonah 1:17 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
17 Now the Lord had appointed a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the fish three days and three nights.
The controversy: “three days and three nights.”
Comment. MacArthur Study bible. 1:17 a great fish. The species of fish is uncertain; the Heb. word for whale is not here employed. God sovereignly prepared (lit. “appointed”) a great fish to rescue Jonah. Apparently Jonah sank into the depth of the sea before the fish swallowed him (cf. 2:3, 5, 6). three days and three nights. See note on Matt. 12:40.
Comment. Reformation Study Bible. 1:17 three days and three nights. Jesus referred to the Book of Jonah in order to communicate truths regarding His own message and mission (Matt. 12:38–41; 16:4; Luke 11:29–32). He speaks of the “sign of the prophet Jonah” not only with reference to the three days and three nights that Jonah was in the fish (Matt. 12:39, 40), but also with regard to the efficacy of Jonah’s preaching. Without benefit of a miraculous sign, the Ninevites recognized Jonah’s message as one with divine authority, and they responded in repentance.
The prophecy of Christ:
Matthew 12:40-41 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah’s proclamation; and look—something greater than Jonah is here!
The controversy: “three days and three nights.”
The confusion: Christ was crucified on Friday afternoon and buried prior to sunset. Christ was alive early on Sunday morning. When we consider “three days and three nights,” in today’s world we can look at our Timex, Bulova or Rolex, and come to the conclusion that “there is no way” that seventy-two hours elapsed between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. Of course, culture enters into the conversation.
Words of Christ, “the third day,” relating to His resurrection.
Luke 9:22 New International Version (NIV)
22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
In 9:22, Christ uses the words, “the third day.” Such wording removes”seventy-two hours” from the conversation. Other verses that also state, “the third day,” in the same context are: Matthew 16:21, 17:23, 20:19, 27:64. Luke 18:33, 24:7, 24:21, 24:46. Acts 10:40. 1 Corinthians 15:4.
Consider the words of the seminary instructors, concerning Matthew 12:40.
Reformation Study Bible. Matthew 12:40. three days and three nights. An emphatic way of saying “three days.”
The New American Commentary. Craig L. Blomberg, Author. Matthew 12:40. “Three days and three nights” represents a Semitic idiom for any portion of three calendar days.”
Holman New Testament Commentary. Stuart K. Weber, Author. Matthew 12:40. By Jewish reckoning, a part of a day was considered to be a whole day. And it was common Jewish idiom to refer to even a part of a day as “a day and a night.”
The Bible Knowledge Commentary. An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, General Editors. Matthew 12:40. The Son of Man would be in the heart of the earth for “three days and three nights.”The Jews reckoned part of a day as a full day.
The Moody Bible Commentary. Matthew 12:40. The THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS causes some concern since Jesus only spent Friday and Saturday night in the tomb. But, Jewish people regarded even a part of a day as “a day and a night.” (see 1 Sam 30:12-13; 2 Chr 10:5, 12; Est 4:16; 5:1).
Ryrie Study Bible. Matthew 12:40. three days and three nights. This phrase does not necessarily require that 72 hours elapse between Christ’s death and resurrection, for the Jews reckoned part of a day to be as a whole day. Thus, this prophecy can be properly fulfilled if the crucifixion occurred on Friday. However, the statement does require an historical Jonah who was actually swallowed by a great fish.
Holman Christian Standard Bible. Matthew 12:40. Re: Jonah 1:17: His prayer compared his experience to being in a grave. Thus, Jonah’s experience was analogous to Jesus’ resurrection of being interred for three days. Since Jesus’ resurrection occurred on Sunday, some may have argued that the reference to three days and three nights requires a Thursday or Wednesday crucifixion. However, 1 Samuel 30:12-13 suggests that “three days and three nights” could be idiomatic for a span of time that covered all of one day and parts of two others. Thus, Jesus’ interment late on Friday and His resurrection early Sunday counts as three days.
MacArthur Study Bible. Matthew 12:40. three days and three nights. Quoted from Jon. 1:17. This sort of expression was a common way of underscoring the prophetic significance of a period of time. An expression like “forty days and forty nights” (see note on 4:2) may in some cases simply refer to a period of time longer than a month. “Three days and three nights” was an emphatic way of saying “three days,” and by Jewish reckoning this would be an apt way of expressing a period of time that includes parts of 3 days. Thus, if Christ was crucified on a Friday, and His resurrection occurred on the first day of the week, by Hebrew reckoning this would qualify as 3 days and 3 nights. All sorts of elaborate schemes have been devised to suggest that Christ might have died on a Wednesday or Thursday, just to accommodate the extreme literal meaning of these words. But the original meaning would not have required that sort of wooden interpretation. See note on Luke 13:32.
Luke 13:32 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
32 He said to them, “Go tell that fox, ‘Look! I’m driving out demons and performing healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will complete My work.’
MacArthur Study Bible. Luke 13:32 today and tomorrow, and the third day. This expression signified only that Christ was on His own divine timetable; it was not meant to lay out a literal 3-day schedule. Expressions like this were common in Semitic usage, and seldom were employed in a literal sense to specify precise intervals of time. See note on Matt. 12:40. be perfected. I.e., by death, in the finishing of His work. Cf. John 17:4, 5; 19:30; Heb. 2:10. Herod was threatening to kill Him, but no one could kill Christ before His time (John 10:17, 18).
The conclusion: When we consider the words of Luke 23:54-56, and the above discussions that show the cultural usages of “three days and three nights,” we can see that the dead body of Christ was placed in the tomb on Friday afternoon, and was raised from death on Sunday morning.
Scriptures in this study are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, and gathered from Bible Gateway. The Bible Gateway link is https://www.biblegateway.com/ Bible Gateway has basic and expanded (Bible Gateway Plus) study notes. Whenever scripture passages are lengthy in this study, a link has been provided to show those verses.
About Dr. Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Th.D., Ph.D., Deceased (Editor, Ryrie Study Bible)
About Dr. John F. MacArthur (Editor, MacArthur Study Bible)
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