Did Jesus Really Stay Dead For 3 Days Before Easter?
I don’t know if you are like me. But I always like to ask all the “why”, “how”, “what” and “when” questions that come with Christianity. One of those “how” questions I asked for a long time was about Easter.
How could Jesus have stayed dead for 3 days if Easter says he was crucified on Friday evening and resurrected on Sunday morning? The math was not adding up
By my calculations, that seemed less than 72 hours if I go by the words of Jesus on the expected timeline for Him to stay dead.
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
So, what happened here?
Working Back From The End
One thing was very clear from the scriptures. The disciples discovered that Jesus had risen from the grave the day after Sabbath – the first day of the week.
This means that Jesus rose either late at night on the Sabbath or in the wee hours of the first day of the week.
Let’s all agree that Sabbath day means Saturday and the first day of the week would mean Sunday – keeps everything straight in our heads.
If we work back 72 hours, that does not take us to Friday. It takes us further than that.
How do we pinpoint the exact day?
When The Sabbath Is Not Saturday
I think we have always assumed that when the Bible talks about Sabbath, it is only referring to Saturday.
Actually, the law of Moses makes provision for 7 special Sabbath rests outside Saturday. They were tied to the celebration of special events which mark the key festivals that God had told the Israelites to keep.
This means during the week of a special sabbath rest, there would be two sabbath days – Saturday and the day of the special Sabbath rest. The Jews typically call these special sabbath rests High Sabbaths.
You can read Leviticus 23:1-44 for the whole list of Sabbaths rests.
How The Special Sabbath Works
One of the celebrations that got a special Sabbath was the Passover feast.
Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. This leads to the fifteenth day of the month which kicks off the Festival of Unleavened Bread and for seven days the Jews must eat bread made without yeast. The seventh day is a High (special) Sabbath and they are required to hold a sacred assembly and do no work. Lev 23:4-8.
Obviously, since it is a calendar date, it wouldn’t always fall on Saturday. You could, therefore, have a High Sabbath and Saturday back-to-back
Did Jesus Really Stay Dead For 3 Days
Since we know Jesus was crucified during the Passover festival, there must have been special sabbath hidden in there.
We can take the guesswork out and just read what John has to say
Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down – John 19:31
Bingo, we have the answer.
Jesus was crucified the day before a special Sabbath. This means He probably wasn’t crucified on Friday.
If we walk back 72 hours from either Saturday night or wee hours of Sunday, we probably land on Wednesday evening.
So, crucifixion happened on Wednesday evening – 3 days and 3 nights dead would mean resurrection happens at the timing that we all think about most of the time.
Right after a regular Saturday Sabbath
Does This Change Anything About Easter
For folks who are fastidious about exact days, this probably means a lot to them.
But Paul helps us address this matter
Therefore, do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. Col 2:16
Knowing this fact about the exact date of Jesus’ crucifixion does not change my convictions.
My faith is based on Jesus dying and rising not on knowing the date He died and rose.
Knowing this information helps me to give an informed answer about the events surrounding when He died.
Asking Questions About Faith
I am not afraid to ask questions about my faith
Adrian Rogers once said – A faith that hasn’t been tested can’t be trusted.
The Christian faith has stood the test of centuries of questioning. So, I am confident that my questioning will only lead me to a deeper faith in God
You shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. And even doubts.
God is able to keep you and your faith
Your faith will be stronger for taking your questions to God