Read Jonah 1:17, Jonah 2:1-10 and Matthew 12:38-41
Three Days and Three Nights
The principle question before us this morning is: Was Jesus in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights? According to tradition, the Lord was crucified on Friday; this has become known throughout the Christian world as “Good Friday.” If this theory is correct, then the statements of our Lord are incorrect.
Mark 8:31 “and after three days rise again.”
Matthew 27:63 “this deceiver said while he was yet alive, after three days I will rise again.”
1 Corinthians 15:4 “And that He was buried, and that He rose again according to the Scriptures on the third day.”
Jonah 1:17 “And Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish.”
In the face of such clear statements, the “Good Friday” theory is impossible. There is not a shred of biblical evidence to support it. The assumption that a part of a day counts for a whole day is taken from the Talmud and is not found in the Bible. If Jesus died on Friday, at 3 pm, He was dead for three hours on Friday, all day Saturday, and a few hours on Sunday. This is supposed to be three days and three nights? In actuality it was one day and two nights.
How can we believe this when Jesus Himself said, “three days and three nights?”
The Jewish day began at sundown and ended at sundown. This rule was laid down in Genesis 1:5, which says, “The evening and the morning were the first day.” The weekly Jewish Sabbath began at sundown, at 6 pm Friday evening, and closed on Saturday evening at 6 pm.
This brings us to another startling thought: If Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, He rose on our Saturday night. When the women came to the tomb very early in the morning, it was yet dark, the sun had not risen, but Jesus was already resurrected, and the tomb was empty. We learn from this that Jesus was not resurrected at sunrise, but arose early on the first day, which is our Saturday night. It began at 6 pm.
In order for the words of Jesus to be correct, He must have been crucified on Wednesday. He died on Wednesday at 3 pm and was buried about sundown that same evening and remained in the tomb until Saturday evening and arose at the conclusion of the Sabbath, which ended at 6 pm Saturday. Only in this way can we understand the Words of the Lord Jesus, that like Jonah, He would be in the heart of the earth for “three days and three nights.”
There yet remains the important question: Where did the tradition of Good Friday originate? It all started with a misunderstanding of the statement that the day following the crucifixion was to be the Sabbath (see Luke 23:54 and Mark 15:42). It does not say which Sabbath. Leviticus 23 shows that Israel kept seven Sabbaths during their ceremonial year.
The question now is: Which Sabbath was it that followed the crucifixion? John 19:14 tells us that it was the preparation of the Passover. John 19:31 tells us that “Sabbath was a high day.” It was not the common weekly Sabbath, but it was the Passover Sabbath, which was the greatest day in the calendar of Israel.
During the week in which Christ died, there were at least three Sabbaths. One was Thursday, the fourteenth of the month, the Passover Sabbath. The second was Friday, the fifteenth of the month, which was the Unleavened bread. The third was Saturday, the sixteenth of the month, the weekly Sabbath. Jesus was in the grave during these three Sabbaths. See Matthew 28:1. “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week.” “As it was getting dark.” It is suggested by some that the word translated “Sabbath” is plural and should read “In the end of the Sabbath days.” In the end of the three successive Sabbath days, Jesus arose. This was the Resurrection.
“Salvation is of the Lord.” Immediately, when Jonah recognized and conferred this, he was saved. This is where salvation begins. Man must lay aside all his own efforts and works and come as a poor sinner and confess that salvation is of the Lord. When Jonah confessed, God immediately spoke to the fish and he was deposited, safe and sound, on dry land. When a sinner makes his confessions and abandons all hope of saving himself, God steps in and places us in Christ, a place of perfect safety.
Exodus 14:13 - “Salvation is of the Lord.” See also Psalm 40.
Psalm 3:8 - “Salvation belongeth to the Lord.”
Luke 19:9 - “This day is salvation come to thy house.”
Acts 4:12 - “Neither is there salvation in any other.”
2 Corinthians 6:2 - “Behold, now is the day of salvation,”