THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS- Introduction
In Matthew 12:40 Jesus prophesies that He would be dead “three days and three nights.” The fact of the matter is he was dead for only two nights and one full day.
THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS- The Facts
Let’s look at the record. Jesus died on a Friday afternoon and rose from the dead early Sunday morning. The inescapable conclusion is that Jesus was literally dead for only two nights and parts of three days — no more than about 40 hours.
THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS- Making a Bigger Problem
On the surface, this seems to contradict Jesus’ statement in Matthew 12:40 that He would be dead “three days and three nights.” To deal with the problem some Christians have created a bigger problem, they’ve concluded Jesus died on Thursday and rose on Sunday, or died on Wednesday and rose on Saturday. However, there is virtually no possibility of this view fitting what the Gospels really say. The Gospels agree that Jesus died and was buried late on the day before the Sabbath — that is, on Friday — and rose on the day after the Sabbath, or on Sunday [Matt. 27:62; 28:1; Mark 15:42; 16:1; Luke 23:54; 24:1; John 19:31, 42; 20:1].
THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS- Ancient Idioms
Now, the real problem is that most of us are unfamiliar with ancient, and especially Jewish, idiomatic ways of speaking. In fact, in the Gospel of Matthew, besides the expression “Three days and three nights” in Matthew 12:40, we also find the expressions “after three days” and “on the third day” [16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 27:63,64; cf. 26:61; 27:40]. The Jews understood all three of these expressions synonymously. In their terminology part of a day was counted as an entire day.
THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS- Need to Be Discerning
From this alleged contradiction we can see that some ways of explaining a Bible difficulty just create bigger difficulties. We need to be careful not to be so worried about resolving an apparent contradiction that we create an even larger one. In addition, the Bible does not always speak in the same way we would. We need to learn the idioms and figures of speech which are used in the Bible if we are to avoid misunderstanding what it really says.
THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS- Conclusion
These are just some of the important lessons to be learned from Matthew 12:40. Of course the real lesson is that Jesus rose from the dead, and that because He lives, we too shall rule and reign forever and ever. On “Three days and three nights,” that’s the CRI Perspective. I’m Hank Hanegraaff.