Wednesday, April 8, 2009
"For just 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 12:40)
I have been asked a few times if Jesus was really in the tomb for three days. By the way we count days and nights, it does not seem to work out. And so after some research, here is the answer:
1) The Jews officially and legally defined a normal calendar day to be from sunrise to sunrise. Although we consider a day to be from midnight to midnight, we usually think of our day as beginning when we rise in the morning. The Jews began their day in the morning. Matthew 28:1 supports this: "Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave" (Matthew 28:1, NASB). We are reading here that the first day of the week (Sunday) began at dawn.
2) The Jews also officially and legally defined a fraction of a day as a whole day (a day and a night). Jesus was crucified on Friday, the very same day he was taken down from the cross and was buried – and so Friday was the first day (considered as a whole day, a day and a night) our Lord spent in the tomb. The next day was the Sabbath (Saturday) which was then the second day. And on then on next day - the first day of the week (Sunday) which followed the Sabbath day (Saturday) which we count as the third day - the day the Lord Jesus arose from the dead. Even if Jesus spent only a small fraction of the first day of the week (Sunday) in the tomb, it was officially and legally counted as a whole day (as if a day and a night).