Many believe that Christ’s signs and wonders were given to prove His Messiahship. Not so, according to the Scriptures! Christ said He would give one proof only to substantiate His Messiahship. Here it is: “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” (Matt. 12:38-40). Notice carefully, it was not Christ’s resurrection that was the proof of His Messiahship. Rather, it was the length of time He would be in the grave-three days and three nights! This 72-hour period, Jesus said, is what establishes His claim as the Messiah.
Now this leads to a question. Did Jesus mean He would be in the grave parts of days and parts of nights, or did He mean a full three days and three nights? The correct answer to this question is crucial in examining the Sunday resurrection tradition. Anyone familiar with the Bible knows that a day consists of approximately 24 hours called the “evening” and “morning” (Gen. 1:5). A biblical day begins with the going down of the sun, and ends with the going down of the sun the following evening. A biblical day is approximately 24 hours in length, consisting of an approximate 12-hour period of darkness followed by an approximate 12-hour period of light. Jesus described the length of a day, as opposed to the night, when He said, “. . . Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world” (John 11:9). Biblical days are reckoned from “even to even” (Lev. 23:32). Remember, Jesus said He would be in the grave three days and three nights. Scholars have sought in vain to find either a Hebrew or Greek idiom which would define a biblical day as part of a day only. Both Jonah 1:17, which Jesus quoted when He spoke of three days and three nights, and His statement in Matthew 12:40, are precise and mean exactly what they say. Notice what Jesus stated in Matthew 27:63, Mark 8:31; 9:31, and John 2:18-22.
In Matthew 27:63 Jesus is quoted as saying, “. . . After three days I will rise again.” If we follow the definition of a biblical day, this length of time can only mean that a full 72 hours must be completed. In Mark 8:31 Jesus states that He would be killed and “. . . after three days rise again.” Again, if we are consistent with the Bible definition of a day, this time period has to mean 72 complete hours. In Mark 9:31 Jesus told His disciples that He would “. . . rise the third day.” This length of time has to mean at least 48 hours, but no more than 72 hours. Jesus was asked more than once for a sign-proof of His Messiahship. In John 2:18-21, He replied, “. . . Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Jesus referred to Himself as God’s temple. Again, this could not mean more than 72 hours. These texts make plain that the time period of three days and three nights in the tomb had to be 72 hours, not any less. The fact is: These texts give us the precise time length.
When Did the Crucifixion
and Resurrection Occur?
The traditional view-the Sunday resurrection tradition-teaches that Jesus was crucified on Friday, buried late on that day, and entombed for two nights and one day; that is, all Friday night, all day Saturday, all Saturday night, and then resurrected on Sunday morning. This time period is 36 hours, not 72. Thus, when Jesus spoke of three days and three nights, He did not really mean three days and three nights. Is this true? Some explain it even differently than that. They tell us that on the day Christ was crucified, the first of the three days was from sunrise until noon. At noontime a period of darkness set in until 3:00 PM (Matt. 27:45). The dark period from noon until 3:00 PM should be considered a night. The next day should be counted from 3:00 PM until sunset. Friday night would be considered another night. All day Saturday would be the next day, and Saturday night would be the third night. Thus, we have three days and three nights. This explanation is contrary to the definition of a biblical day. Jesus said He would be in the tomb three days and three nights (Matt. 12:40). A look at the “days” in this scenario makes it plain that Jesus was not placed in the tomb until three of these “days” had passed-sunrise until noon, noon until 3:00 PM, and 3:00 PM until Friday evening. So, “two days” and “one night” must be eliminated from this count. Based on this view, Jesus was in the tomb only “one day” and “two nights”-a view that is certainly contrary to what He said.
The Sunday resurrection tradition is the result of not understanding the events of the Passover week. Most Christians have little knowledge of the Jewish holy day seasons. At the time Jesus was crucified the Jews were about to observe an annual holy day, not the weekly Sabbath. John 19:14 tells us, “. . . it was the preparation of the passover. . . .” This was the term that was used for the Passover itself, as well as the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Passover is described in Numbers 28:16-17. Here we read: “And in the fourteenth day of the first month is the passover of the LORD. And in the fifteenth day of this month is the feast: seven days shall unleavened bread be eaten.” This is describing what has commonly been called the Passover week. The Passover is observed on the fourteenth day of the first month, according to the Hebrew calendar. The fifteenth is the first high Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread. While Jesus was on the cross, John 19:31 tells us, “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.” Since Jesus was crucified on the fourteenth, the Jews were anxious to bury Him before sundown so that they would not be required do any work on the fifteenth. The fifteenth was a high Sabbath day, which occurred two days before the weekly Sabbath. Jesus was crucified on the fourteenth, that is, the Passover day. Therefore, Jesus was crucified in the middle of the week, not the Friday before the weekly Sabbath.
The proof that Christ was the Messiah hinges on the time period He said He would be in the tomb. This time period was three days and three nights. He could not have been entombed on Friday evening and resurrected on Sunday morning to fulfill this claim. Notice, when the women came to the tomb on Sunday morning, the angel told them, “He is not here, but is risen. . . ” (Luke 24:6). The “is” in the Greek text is in the aorist tense. It is a tense that states a fact without any time reference. The text does not, therefore, say that Jesus had just risen. Jesus said He would be in the tomb 72 hours. Since He was entombed just before sundown on the Passover day, the Resurrection would have had to occur just before sundown 72 hours later. Jesus could not have been resurrected in the morning to fulfill this claim.
When was Jesus placed in the tomb? Matthew 27:46-50, Mark 15:34-37, and Luke 23:44-46 tell us Jesus died in the ninth hour of the day, which corresponds to our 3:00 PM. Joseph of Arimathaea requested the body of Jesus just before even (Matt. 27:57). So, it is clear that on the crucifixion day, Jesus was buried after 3:00 PM, but before the sun went down. When the disciples came to the tomb early Sunday morning, a young man clothed in a long white garment said, “. . . Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6). “And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee” (Luke 24:3-6).
If Jesus was resurrected in the evening, 72 hours after He was entombed, and He had already risen on Sunday morning when the women arrived at the tomb, there is only one moment of time that could fulfil His promise. This had to be Saturday just before sundown. The Old Testament points out that there are two high Sabbaths that are seven days apart during the Passover week (Ex. 12:15-16). There is also the weekly Sabbath. Because of the failure to understand these Sabbath days during the days of Unleavened Bread, the assumption has been that the Sabbath mentioned in John 19:31 was the weekly Sabbath. Not so! The Scripture tells us that it was the first high Sabbath day during the Days of Unleavened Bread. This fell during the middle of the week. Counting 72 hours back from Saturday evening, the crucifixion had to occur on Wednesday and the interment just before sundown on that day. The Resurrection, then, occurred just before sundown on Saturday. The Sunday resurrection tradition denies the one sign that Jesus said proves His Messiahship-that He would be in the tomb three days and three nights. Translators have failed to properly render Matthew 28:1. The text should read, “After the Sabbaths, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week. . . .” The proper rendering proves that there was more than one Sabbath during the Passover week.
Four other texts need an explanation. These are Mark 16:1, 9, Luke 23:56, and Luke 24:21. Mark 16:1 reads, “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.” Luke 23:56 reads, “And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.” Notice first of all that in Mark 16:1 the women had purchased ointments after the Sabbath was past. Verse two tells us they came early on Sunday morning in order to prepare Him for burial. The sequence of events is made plain in Luke 23:50-56:
And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counselor; and he was a good man, and a just: (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. 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.”
The women did not purchase spices and ointments on the crucifixion day because by the time the crucifixion and burial had taken place, it was already the high Sabbath day. Therefore, they rested on the high Sabbath day as instructed in Exodus 12:16. This was Thursday. On Friday the women purchased and prepared the ointments. They then rested on the weekly Sabbath. Early Sunday morning they went to the tomb in order to prepare the body of Jesus, but what did they find? They found He had already risen.
Regarding Mark 16:9, the comma behind the word “week” is not found in the original Greek text. The Greek text did not contain commas. Look at this Scripture. It should read: “Now when Jesus was risen, early the first day of the week he appeared first to Mary Magdalene. . . .” The comma should be removed after the word “week” and, if included at all, should be placed just after the word “risen.” This text tells us that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene early on the first day of the week. It does not say He was resurrected early on the first day of the week.
In Luke 24:21 we read: “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.” Since the conversation taking place here is occurring on a Sunday (v. 1), the assumption is that the crucifixion took place on Friday. But notice the expression, “. . . to day is the third day since these things were done.” What things? The seizing of Jesus, His delivery for trial, the crucifixion, and the setting of the watch. The last thing to take place was the setting of the watch which took place on Thursday (Matt. 27:62-66). Three days from Thursday would be Sunday, just as the Scripture shows. Friday would be two days from Sunday. So, Luke 24:21 further shows that the crucifixion did not take place on Friday.
By means of Christ’s resurrection, we have the opportunity for eternal life. Paul wrote: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10). “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. . . . But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:17 20-22). Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father (Heb 1:3), where He acts as our great High Priest and Advocate (Heb. 4:14-16, 1 John 2:1). The true children of God have accepted the sacrifice that was made for them, as well as the only sign He gave to prove His Messiahship-that He would be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights! They know He was crucified on Wednesday and resurrected late Saturday, just before sundown. They know there is no validity to the Sunday resurrection tradition!