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The fulfillment of the sign of Jonah

Jonah spent 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of a great fish
Jonah spent 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of a great fish
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

A number of passages in the New Testament mention that three days would pass from Jesus’ death until His resurrection. Here is one of them:

But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas 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 12:39-40).

And the fulfillment is shown in the conversation between Cleopas and Jesus (now resurrected) when traveling on the road to Emmaus:
And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive (Luke 24:20-23).

Yet the traditional belief that Christ died on Friday before sunset and was resurrected on Sunday morning gives an interval that consists of only a few hours on Friday, all of Saturday, and part of Sunday morning before dawn – a total, perhaps, of a day and a half, certainly not three days and three nights. This discrepancy is normally explained by counting each part of a day – part of Friday and part of Sunday – as a full day. But Sunday daytime can’t count because John 20:1 says:
The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

And even if you could count Sunday morning as a “day,” you still only have 2 nights.

Okay, back to two Sabbaths in the week from the article Jesus crucified the day before a high Sabbath. On what days of the week would they have occurred? Looking at the verses already seen, they can be determined. Since the women visited the tomb on the first day of the week and Cleopas said that occurred on the third day since Jesus’ crucifixion, Sunday can be counted as the third day. The second day was a Sabbath because it was a Saturday. That only leaves the first day as a possibility for the high Sabbath – the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which would have been Friday. And that means Jesus was crucified the day before, which was a Thursday. That logic results with:

Thursday, Jesus Crucified and buried. Preparation day. 14th Nisan
Friday, Jesus in the tomb. First day of Feast of Unleavened Bread – high Sabbath. 15th Nisan
Saturday, Jesus in the tomb. Regular Sabbath. 16th Nisan
Sunday, Jesus Resurrected before sunrise. 17th Nisan

There is no other way this can work. A Friday crucifixion gives 2 days and 2 nights. A Wednesday crucifixion gives 3 full days and 3 full nights, but that means the empty tomb was revealed and the conversation on the road to Emmaus occurred on the fourth day. A Thursday crucifixion gives 3 days (Thursday before sunset, Friday, and Saturday) and 3 nights (Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday night). No prediction ever said Jesus had to be in the grave a full 72 hours.

So in the year of Christ’s crucifixion, there was a double Sabbath – the high Sabbath day, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, fell on a Friday and the regular Saturday Sabbath was the next day.

The article Doctrines that creep in: Palm Sunday was on a Sunday demonstrated that the Lord’s Triumphant Entry was on the previous Saturday. Since His Triumphant Entry was on Saturday and He entered Jerusalem 5 days before the feast, then that also means the crucifixion day had to be Thursday.

A crucifixion on Thursday is the only day of the week that works with all Biblical accounts of the crucifixion. Jesus was in the grave “three days and three nights.” From Thursday just before sunset to Sunday just before sunrise includes three days and three nights. The third day after Thursday is Sunday. Thursday explains why all of the gospel writers used the plural form, “Sabbaths.” And, a Saturday Triumphant Entry means a Thursday crucifixion.

If all of this is correct, the chronology for Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection would look like this on our modern calendar with a new day beginning at midnight:
Friday: Jesus and His disciples enter Bethany and then to Simon the Leper’s home.
Saturday: Jesus makes His Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem. He returns to Bethany after sunset.
Sunday: Jesus curses the fig tree and drives the moneychangers out of the Temple.
Monday: The disciples marvel that the fig tree is withered away.
Tuesday: Jesus teaches in the Temple (as He did throughout these days).
Wednesday: The disciples prepare for the Passover meal. Passover begins at sunset. Jesus and His disciples eat the Passover meal and He institutes the Lord’s Supper.
Thursday: This is Passover day also known as the Preparation Day mentioned in John 19:31 – the day before the high Sabbath. Jesus appears before Pilate and is crucified. He dies in the afternoon before sundown. His body is removed from the cross and placed in the tomb. The women prepare their spices, then rest
Friday: This is a high Sabbath day: the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the Pharisees go to Pilate to get the guard for the tomb as recorded in Matthew 27:62-66.
Saturday: This was a regular weekly Sabbath day, different from the high Sabbath day on Thursday. All rested and did no work during the day. That evening after sunset, the women buy additional spices.
Sunday: Jesus is resurrected. An angel opens the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene and other women go to the tomb.

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