The Good Friday-Easter Sunday tradition is among the most popular in the Christian world. Did Jesus Christ rise from the grave on Sunday morning? Had He been there for three days and three nights? He said this was the only sign He was the Messiah! Does this fit with the tradition of a Friday crucifixion near sunset and a Sunday sunrise resurrection? Much more is at stake here than meets the eye.
Since no one saw Jesus rise, we must examine the only available authority on this miraculous event—the Bible! The apostle Paul wrote, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thes. 5:21).
While most accept popular traditions without proof, including everything Easter, true followers of Jesus want to know what He says.
What proof did Christ offer that He was the Messiah? The Pharisees challenged Him on this point and He answered: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah: for as Jonah 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. 12:39-40).
This is plain. Could Jesus then be in the grave less than three days and three nights—three complete 24-hour periods? Can 72 hours fit between late-day Friday and early Sunday morning? Why do so few question this only sign Jesus said He would give that He was the Messiah? Could He have been wrong on this single proof and still have been the Messiah?
Consider what is at stake in Jesus’ statement. If He failed His only sign, then He is not our Savior and nothing He said can be trusted. In effect, if His prophecy did not come to pass as He foretold—exactly!—then He must be considered a false prophet—a fraud who should be ignored—meaning mankind has no savior!
Do not confuse the Resurrection itself with the question of how long Jesus would be in the grave before rising. This length of time was the test of His sign—not the actual Resurrection.
While it is embarrassing to watch so-called “Bible experts” try to explain away Jesus’ obvious meaning, they really have no choice. Think! If His sign remains intact, the Good Friday-Easter Sunday tradition would be exposed as groundless—and therefore false!
Many Bible commentaries leave one nearly breathless in astonishment in how they assert that three days and three nights, in the Greek language, can mean three periods of time—day or night. Friday night, Saturday day and Saturday night are supposedly these three “periods.”
At least some are honest enough to acknowledge the Friday-Sunday tradition is, in fact, only half the length of time—36 hours—Jesus said He would be in the grave.
Can we know for certain or must we speculate on the definition of a day or the meaning of a night? Does the Bible leave this open to interpretation—with one man’s opinion as good as another?
The book of Jonah records, “And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jon. 1:17). Most scholars acknowledge that this Hebrew phrase must mean a 72-hour period. In short, there is no room for any “approximations of time” theories in the Hebrew.
Jesus said His time in the grave would be “as Jonah” (Matt. 12:40). “As” means comparison. In other words, just like Jonah was in the fish for three entire days, Jesus was to be in the grave for three entire days. This comparison prohibits “negotiating” the meaning of the Greek—as many do—since the Hebrew phrase can only mean three full days!
Let’s ask. Did Jesus understand the length of a “day” or the length of a “night”? Of course He did! Notice His question: “Are there not 12 hours in the day?” (John 11:9).
To learn much more, you will want to watch my World to Come broadcast “Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection—Not Friday, Not Sunday!” After watching it, you will have to admit that a popular tradition—the fiction of a Friday Crucifixion and Sunday Resurrection has crashed in a heap!