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Three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

The Passion Week - Lesson #9

Day 7,8 & 9 – The Sign of Jonah


For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  Matt 12:40, see also Luke 11:29


Since much of the message of Jesus life, death, and resurrection is tied to prophetic fulfillment, I have real problems with interpreters who minimize or rationalize this prediction.  I want three full days and three full nights in the tomb.


“The Sign of Jonah”


As the sun set on Wednesday evening, the official Passover Feast and the 1st day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread simultaneously begin.  Since Jesus is in the tomb, the Gospel writers don’t say very much about this period.  There are, however some notable scriptures and events.


Day 1 – Wednesday evening to Thursday evening


The main Passover meal is now ended.  The leaders now feel free to enter the Praetorium and speak with Pilate.  No one does ordinary work according to the scriptural imperative.


On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work” Leviticus 23:5-7


“The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again. So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first." "Take a guard," Pilate answered. ‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.’” Matthew 27:62.


Day 2 – Thursday evening to Friday evening


The women prepare spices (between the two “Sabbaths”)

“Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” Luke 23:56  


The women would not have had time to prepare spices before the sun went down on Wednesday evening and the High Sabbath / Passover began.  They most likely prepared spices on Friday and rested on Saturday “in obedience to the commandment.”


Day 3 – Friday evening to Saturday evening


When was Jesus raised from the dead?  The prophecy of the Sign of Jonah suggests that Jesus be raised from the dead just before dark at the end of the Sabbath (Saturday).  However, there were no human witnesses. From a scriptural point of view, I find no prophetic significance to a Sunday morning resurrection.  Given our chronology, it contradicts “on the third day” which ended just before dark at the end of the Sabbath. A Sunday resurrection would push it into the 4th day.


What about those other people raised from the dead?

“The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” Matt 27:53



This puzzling verse is not puzzling at all from a Jewish perspective.  The priests, just before the sun set on the Day of Preparation, would go over to the Mount of Olives and tie off bundles of barley.  On the Day of Firstfruits, these bundles of barley were then cut and harvested, taken over to the temple and offered as a first fruits “wave offering.”  Matthew is simply telling us that Jesus too had a First fruits offering to God.  Firstfruits are presented on the “8th day” or the 1st Sunday after Passover.  Jesus had to remain ceremonially clean until he offered this “wave offering” and his priestly duties were complete. This fulfilled the Law in terms of “First fruit offerings.”  This explains:


Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me for I have not yet returned to the Father.  Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” John 20:17


And yet he says later  - after the Firstfruits had been taken to heaven:


“Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.”  John 20:27


“The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer.” Hebrews 8:1


Apparently the thief on the cross received a special deal.


"I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

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