Good Friday–Easter Sunday: It Doesn't Fit With the Bible!

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Good Friday–Easter Sunday

It Doesn't Fit With the Bible!

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In Matthew 12:38, we read where some of the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign to prove He was the Messiah. “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you,” they told Him (New International Version).

But Jesus responded that the only sign He would give was that of the prophet 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” (Matthew 12:40).

Traditional view doesn’t fit

But how can we fit “three days and three nights” between a Friday afternoon crucifixion and entombment just before sundown and a Sunday morning resurrection at sunrise? This traditional view allows for Jesus to have been in the tomb for only a day and a half!

Some believe that Christ’s statement that He would be “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” does not require a literal span of 72 hours or even close to that. They reason that any part of a day, even just a few minutes, can be reckoned as a whole day.

Thus, since Jesus died in the afternoon and was entombed just before sunset, they think the closing few minutes of that Friday constituted the first day, Friday night was the first night, Saturday was the second day, Saturday night was the second night, and a few minutes at dawn on Sunday morning made up the third day.

But where, then, is the third night? Even if a few minutes of daylight late on Friday and another few on Sunday morning constitute “days,” this interpretation fails to explain how only two nights—Friday night and Saturday night—can somehow be the three nights of which Jesus spoke.

In fact, Scripture is plain that Jesus had already risen before Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early Sunday morning, arriving “while it was still dark” (John 20:1-2). So in reality, no parts of Sunday could be counted as a day, as Jesus was already resurrected well before the break of dawn.

Jonah 1:17, to which Jesus referred, states specifically that “Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” We have no biblical basis for thinking that Jesus meant only two nights and one day, plus part of another day. If Jesus were in the tomb only from late Friday afternoon to early Sunday morning, then the sign He gave that He was the prophesied Messiah was not fulfilled.

So which is it? Is something wrong with Christ’s words, or is something wrong with the traditional view of when and how long He was in the tomb?

Let’s carefully examine the details from the Gospels. When we do, we uncover the real story of how Jesus’ words were fulfilled just as He said!

Two Sabbaths mentioned

Notice the sequence of events outlined in Luke 23. Jesus’ moment of death, as well as His hasty burial because of the oncoming Sabbath that began at sundown, is narrated in Luke 23:46-53. Luke 23:54 then states, “That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near.”

In Jewish society of that time, heavy cooking and housecleaning were done on the day before a Sabbath in preparation for it. Thus the day before the Sabbath came to be called “the preparation day” or simply “the preparation.” The biblical Sabbath falls on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. According to Bible reckoning, days begin at sunset (Leviticus 23:32; compare Genesis 1:5, Genesis 1:8, Genesis 1:13), so all weekly Sabbaths start Friday evening at sundown.

Based on these facts, many people have assumed that it is the weekly Sabbath mentioned here, and that Jesus was therefore crucified on a Friday. But two types of “Sabbaths” are mentioned in the Scriptures—the regular weekly Sabbath day, which fell on the seventh day of the week, and seven annual Holy Days (listed in Leviticus 23), Sabbaths that could—and usually did—fall on days of the week other than the regular weekly Sabbath day.

Was the day after Jesus was crucified a weekly Sabbath, or one of these annual Holy Days?

John 19:31 clearly states that this approaching Sabbath “was a high day.” This term does not refer to the weekly Sabbath (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset), but in this context to the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, one of God’s annual Holy Days (Exodus 12:16-17; Leviticus 23:6-7). A number of Bible commentaries, encyclopedias and dictionaries will confirm that John is not referring to the weekly Sabbath here, but rather to one of the annual Sabbaths.

According to the biblical calendar, in that year this high-day Sabbath fell on a Thursday (meaning it began on Wednesday night at sunset). We can confirm this by looking at the details in the Gospel accounts—which show us that two separate Sabbath days are mentioned.

Luke 23:55-56 tells us that the women, after seeing Christ’s body being laid in the tomb just before sundown, “returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils” for the final preparation of the body.

They would not have done such work on a Sabbath day, weekly or annual, since it would have been considered a Sabbath violation. This is verified by Mark’s account, which states: “Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices [which they could not have purchased on a Sabbath day], that they might come and anoint Him” (Mark 16:1).

The women had to wait until this Sabbath was over before they could buy and prepare the spices to be used for anointing Jesus’ body. Then, Luke 23:56 tells us that, after purchasing and preparing the spices and oils on Friday, “they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment”—which means they had to have acquired the spices before that Sabbath on which they rested. This second Sabbath mentioned in the Gospel accounts is the regular weekly Sabbath, observed from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.

By comparing details in both Gospels—where Mark tells us the women bought spices after the Sabbath and Luke relates that they prepared the spices before resting on the Sabbath—we can clearly see that two different Sabbaths are being discussed here.

The first, as John 19:31 tells us, was a “high day”—the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread—which fell on a Thursday that year. The second was the weekly seventh-day Sabbath.

Sign of the Messiah

After the women rested on the regular weekly Sabbath, they went to Jesus’ tomb early on the first day of the week (Sunday), “while it was still dark” (John 20:1), and found that He had already been resurrected (Matthew 28:1-6; Mark 16:2-6; Luke 24:1-3). Jesus was not resurrected at sunrise on Sunday morning. When Mary Magdalene arrived “while it was still dark” she found the stone rolled away and the tomb already empty!

When we consider the details in all four Gospel accounts, the picture is clear. Jesus was crucified and entombed late on Wednesday afternoon, just before a Sabbath began at sunset. However, that was a high-day Sabbath, lasting from Wednesday sunset to Thursday sunset that week, rather than the regular weekly Sabbath that lasted from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.

While no one witnessed Jesus’ resurrection (which took place inside a sealed tomb), to fit His words and the biblical evidence it had to have happened three days and three nights from Wednesday near sunset until Saturday near sunset—with Jesus leaving His tomb at the end of the weekly Sabbath.

This time line perfectly accommodates three nights (Wednesday night, Thursday night and Friday night) and three daylight periods (Thursday, Friday and Saturday). This is the only time that fits Jesus’ own prophecy of how long He would be in the tomb. And, as we have seen, it fits perfectly with all the details recorded in the Gospels.

We can be assured that the entombment period Jesus gave as proof He was the Messiah was the very duration He foretold.

Because most people do not understand the biblical Holy Days Jesus Christ and His followers kept, they fail to understand the chronological details so accurately preserved for us in the Gospels!


  • Kate
    To continue my thought....He rose at sunset as the weekly Sabbath was closing. But this new day starting was very special. It was the day of Firstfruits. I believe Y'shua met with all those people that were resurrected when He was resurrected. Remember there were tombs that opened up when there was an earthquake? Those people remained dead until Y'shua rose from the grave. He was busy after His resurrection welcoming those risen people. Then He went back to the garden to meet Mary of which you remember the story. After seeing her, He, being THE Firstfruit, took His other Firstfruits to His Heavenly Father and presented Himself and them to the Father. He then returned in the afternoon to walk on the road to Emaus with the two disciples and open up the plan of redemption to them. It all fits like a puzzle. We can trust the exact, direct words of our Savior. When He says 3...He means 3 full days with their nights. Thank you for sharing this.
  • Kate
    Hallelu-Yah for this message. It is so refreshing to read this and understand there are other people that accept the direct words of our Savior. I have two other thoughts to add to your comment. I searched the date of Passover 31 AD and found a short chart on-line. It gives the days of the week for Passover in several years surrounding 31 AD. I have come to accept the year of His death and resurrection was in 28 AD. That year Passover started on Tuesday at sunset which made Wednesday His day of Crucifixion. It would also agree with all the texts in the Old Testament that talk about the lamb that was brought for sacrifice in the Sanctuary was to be of "the first year". I understand this statement means the lamb (that represented the Lamb of God) that was to be sacrificed for each household was to be over one year old but not two years old. Y'shua's ministry was over one year, but not two years long. Then He died on the appointed, set apart, day. He rested in the tomb over the first Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, over the preparation day and then over the weekly Sabbath to rise exactly 72 hours after going into the tomb which would have been right before sunset.
  • jury julayco
    Whereas the burial of Christ took place while it was still daylight on Wednesday afternoon, the correct timeline should be 3 days(Wednesday, Thursday, Friday)and 3 nights(Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday night). The resurrection of Christ occurred sometime in the night before Sabbath (Saturday) morning. Since the women rested on the Sabbath, it was not until early Sunday morning that they discovered that the tomb was empty. Sunday is the day of discovery not the day of resurrection. "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"(Matthew 12:40).
  • Lena VanAusdle

    @jury julayco,
    You are right about Sunday being the discovery day, but you're forgetting that Jesus Christ was placed in the tomb just before sunset on Wednesday. That means that He would have to be resurrected on Saturday just before sunset, not in the morning for there to be a full three days and three nights in the tomb.

  • Tholp1

    If Jesus rose on Sunday morning, when Mary went to visit the tomb after the Second weekly Sabbath was over, while it was still dark, she would have found Jesus' body lying there.

  • Ariaha
    I also know the truth. Unfortunately I have found that others, who claim to follow Christ's example, and claim to be Christians, only do so as long as they do not have to change their actions or way of life to do so. You can show people that Christmas is a pagan holiday, and should not be kept. They will recognize scripture as proof, yet they will still continue to keep Christmas. While armed with the knowledge that to keep this holiday is, abhorred by God and they should be ignoring it. They don't mind insulting God as long as they get to keep their traditions. It is so sad that people put themselves first. Same goes for Easter celebrations.
  • dougt
    I was Baptized with the Holy Spirit in 2005 and since then I have logged a lot of hours of reading scripture and studying other publications. I have known the truth about 3 days and 3 nights for years now but most people have been raised in one denomination or another and have been taught myths or common practices about many things Biblical or Spiritual. It is somewhat difficult to convince them of the truth about things they think they have known or have been practicing all their lives even among the "Born Again" group. Some even know the truth but because their parents and family believe and practice otherwise they just go along with the myths which is not what God would have them do.
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