Therefore since we have a great high priest how has passed through the heavens – Jesus the Son of God – let us hold fast to the confession.

Hebrews 4:14

After Christ was buried and the sun set on Friday, except for a statement about the priests stationing a guard around the tomb, the story of Jesus’ death is silent until Sunday morning. Luke mentions that the disciples rested since it was the Sabbath, and Christ also rested from His work. For the second time in history God had finished completing a work on Friday and rested on the Sabbath. The first Sabbath rest of God was at creation, after six days of creative work God rested on the Sabbath (Genesis 2:2). He rested not out of fatigue and exhaustion, but because His work of creation had been completed. We may say that He rested out of respect for His creation that He had brought into existence.

Now following the crucifixion we see again that God the Son is resting on the Sabbath from His work completed on Friday. As on the cross Christ cried, “It is finished!” He announced that the sacrifice had been paid in full, His earthly mission completed. And He rested from His work. One may argue that Christ was exhausted, that was how crucifixion brought about death, but after death Christ was no longer tired, just as we believers will not be tired after our own deaths. The Sabbath Day following the death of Christ serves in a similar way to the Sabbath of creation – to call attention to the completed work of Christ for our salvation, to come to a full stop, we might say, so that it can be recognized that the payment was made in full. It seems that for just a few hours all of heaven looked at the sacrifice of Christ and recognized in unison that it was sufficient for our salvation.

The Apostles’ Creed states that Christ descended into hell, taking a hint from Ephesians 4:9, and intricate theologies have been framed around the necessity of Christ also suffering in the fires of hell for our sins. Apart from the Ephesians passage, however, except for an equally difficult passage to understand, 1 Peter 3:18-20, about Him preaching to those who died in the days of Noah, the Bible remains silent on the matter. If it was necessary for Christ to suffer in hell for our sins then that is where He went. All that was required He accomplished.

But the transaction had an end to it. His suffering came to an end. Christ paid the price in full, and rested from His work for our salvation. If you have ever made the last payment on something you know the relief that comes with having done so. Accounts are settled, nothing more is due.

What confidence this gives to the confessor. We come now boldly before the throne of God, not in our own name, nor in our own payment of atonements, not in our good works or our promises of better performance in the future, not even in the name of our sorrow, but in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, crucified for our sins. He is the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, and this means ours, yours and mine.

Think of the most difficult matters of your life for God to forgive. The “seven deadly sins” give us a simple panoramic view of our typical weaknesses: pride, gluttony, sloth, lust, envy, wrath, and greed. We can let the Spirit search us entirely for there is an answer from God for every need we have for cleansing and for growth: the cross of Christ.

Let God search you this evening. Let His Spirit examine your heart and your soul, not just your actions but your values and inner thoughts. Let the blood of Christ be applied wherever you have failed. Humbly accept that this is the only way you can be acceptable to God: through your faith in the sacrificial death of Christ Jesus for your sins. Agree with the Spirit about whatever He points out to you and with the conviction He will bring assurance that you can be completely forgiven and cleansed.


Lord, we come before You both boldly and humbly, admitting our weaknesses, confessing our faults, and trusting that on Calvary the price was paid for our sins. Amen.

  1. Henry David Penner
    August 24th, 2015 at 04:47 | #1

    I have a question: It says in the scriptures that Christ was in the grave for three days. Since the Jewish day starts from sundown to sunrise; If Christ was crucified on Friday he could not have been in the grave for three days. It would have had to have been on Thursday in order for the days to match. Please send a comment

  2. August 27th, 2015 at 22:05 | #2

    Thank you, Henry, for your question. Many people have over the centuries given detailed explanations for this matter. I refer you to the Christian Apologetics and Research Center’s website. They give a good explanation to this.

    I quote:

    How Long Was Jesus Dead in the Tomb?

    Matthew 12:40 and Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1

    1. Three days and three nights
    1.1. (Matthew 12:40) – “for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

    2. Less than three days and three nights
    2.1 (Matt. 28:1) – “Now after the Sabbath [SABBATHS -PLURAL], as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.”
    2.2 (Mark 16:2) – “And very early on the first day of the week, they *came to the tomb when the sun had risen.”
    2.3 (Luke 24:1) – “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared.”
    2.4 (John 20:1) – “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene *came early to the tomb, while it *was still dark, and *saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.”

    The Jewish day was measured from sun down to sun down. If Jesus was in the grave for three 24 hour periods, then He could not have been raised on the third day because the third day had not yet been completed. He would have to be raised on fourth day for three 24 hour periods to have been completed, and that wouldn’t make sense to then say He was raised on the third day. So, what is going on?

    The solution is simple when we learn that according to Jewish custom any part of a day, however small, is included as part of a full day.1 “Since the Jews reckoned part of a day as a full day, the ‘three days and three nights’ could permit a Friday crucifixion.”2 This phenomena is exemplified in scripture in the book of Esther. “Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way,” (Esther 4:16 ). Then, in Esther 5:1 it says, “Now it came about on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace in front of the king’s rooms, and the king was sitting on his royal throne in the throne room, opposite the entrance to the palace.” We can see that even though the three days and nights had not been completed, Esther went in to see the King on the third day even though she said to fast for three days and nights. We see that “on the third day” is equivalent to “after three days.”

    Additionally, Mark 8:31 says, “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Yet, 1 Cor. 15:4 says, “and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Also, Luke 24:5-7, “and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.'” Here we can see that “after three days” is equivalent to mean “on the third day.”

    Therefore, we can see that because of the Jewish usage of counting any part of a day as the whole of the day, the term “three days and nights” is idiomatic and not literal.

  3. August 27th, 2015 at 22:08 | #3

    Also Grace Communion International, on their website, has a good explanation:

    I quote:

    How Long Was Jesus in the Tomb?

    The Gospels tell us that the day on which the women discovered that Jesus’ tomb was empty was Sunday morning. The Gospels say that the women came to the tomb “at dawn on the first day of the week” (Matthew 28:1), “very early on the first day of the week” (Mark 16:2), “on the first day of the week, very early in the morning” (Luke 24:1), or “early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark” (John 20:1). The women came to the tomb around dawn on the “first day of the week” (or Sunday), and found it empty. It appears from these accounts that Jesus was raised sometime during the early hours of Sunday morning.

    The question remains: On what day of the week was Jesus crucified and buried in the tomb? Those who believe Jesus was crucified on Wednesday refer to Matthew 12:40. This verse has Jesus saying: “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.” Proponents of a Wednesday crucifixion say that this statement means Jesus was exactly three days and three nights – or 72 hours – in the grave. Thus he was buried near sunset Wednesday evening and resurrected Saturday evening.

    However, if we read the 20 other places in the New Testament in which Jesus and the apostles refer to the length of time he would spend in the tomb, we would be forced to conclude that they do not teach a literal three-day stay in the tomb. You may check the following verses where the length of time between Jesus’ death and burial, and his resurrection, is mentioned: Matthew 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 26:61; 27:40, 64; Mark 9:31; 10:34; 14:58; 15:29; Luke 9:22; 13:32; 18:33; 24:7, 21, 46; John 2:19, 20; Acts 10:40; 1 Corinthians 15:4. In 20 places indefinite expressions such “on the third day he will be raised” are given as the length of time between these events.

    Those who believe in a Wednesday crucifixion disregard the inexactness as to time in these passages and interpret them by Matthew 12:40 in a literal manner, as exactly 72 hours. But this line of reasoning creates a contradiction. For example, Matthew, who used the phrase “three days and three nights” to refer to the length of Jesus’ burial, also has him saying: “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life” (17:23, emphasis ours).

    Taking the phrase in 12:40 “three days and three nights” as denoting exactly 72 hours creates an internal problem with 17:23 in the Gospel of Matthew. Here’s why. The elapsed time between being killed and then rising “on the third day,” as described in 17:23, is longer than the time between rising after being buried, as discussed in 12:40. Yet, 17:23 uses an expression (“on the third day”) that implies a shorter period of time – if we demand that Matthew 12:40 (“three days and three nights”) must be a literal 72 hours. For something to occur “on” the third day is for it to happen in less time than at the point when three literal days have passed. But Jesus was killed some time before he was buried. How, then, could the time between his death and resurrection be “on the third day” (or less than three literal days) but the time between his burial and resurrection be after three days or 72 hours?

    Therefore, to demand that the phrase “three days and three nights” must be taken literally as a 72-hour period creates a contradiction within the Gospel of Matthew. The 72-hour theory also causes Matthew to be in conflict with what Mark, Luke, John and Paul say about the duration of time between Jesus’ death and burial, and his resurrection.

    Yet, proponents of a Wednesday crucifixion still say that we should take Matthew 12:40 literally. Their view is that Jesus said he would be resurrected after three days and three nights in the tomb, and that is how we should read him. But, must we or should we take Matthew 12:40 literally?

    Perhaps the source of the confusion over Matthew 12:40 occurs precisely because we try to read it in a literal fashion, as though it referred to a time period of exactly 72 hours. What we may be doing is reading our modern views of time exactness into an ancient figure of speech that didn’t contain it, or imposing our sense of precise time-telling on the ancient Jewish sense. In fact, Matthew 12:40 may be consistent with and reflect the way people thought of time in their day, not in our era.

    Are there any biblical examples where “after three days and three nights” may not mean exactly 72 hours? Yes, 1 Samuel 30 is an example. The account in this chapter is about David and the Amalekites, and certain events in the village of Ziklag. Verse one tells us that, “David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day” (emphasis ours throughout). Upon arriving at Ziklag, David encountered an Egyptian, the slave of an Amalekite. He told David, “My master abandoned me when I became ill three days ago” (verse 13). The account also says that the Egyptian had not eaten or drunk for “three days and three nights” (verse 12).

    “On the third day” is not necessarily three full days. In fact, it would be less than 72 hours. “Three days ago” is equally vague, as it could be less than three full days. Yet, this time is equated with “three days and three nights.” It’s certainly possible, or even probable, that we are not dealing with a full 72-hour period here. “Three days and three nights” could be an idiomatic expression that refers to parts of three days. 1 Samuel 30 indicates that “three days and three nights” was an expression that did not necessarily mean a full 72 hours. Other examples where variants of the expression “three days” are used includes the following passages: Genesis 42:17-18 (“for three days” = “on the third day”); 2 Chronicles 10:5, 12 (“three days later” = “in three days”) and Esther 4:16–5:1 (“for three days” = “on the third day”).

    Do we lose anything meaningful about Jesus’ death and resurrection if Matthew 12:40 is an inexact reference to the time lapse between these two events? The New Testament references mentioned above are inexact as measured by our time-telling standards, but they still establish the fact that Jesus was in the tomb for a long enough period of time that there would be no question he was dead. Being in the tomb parts of three days, perhaps about 36 hours (which a Friday crucifixion-Sunday resurrection would allow) is enough to demonstrate this.

    However, proponents of a 72-hour burial say that how long Jesus was in the tomb was the sign that he gave of his messiahship. But is this true? While the apostles referred in a general manner to the length of time Jesus was dead and buried, they never used the chronological measurement as the proof. They used such expressions as “after three days” or “on the third day,” but they did not attempt to prove an exact length of time. The apostles spoke of the resurrection itself, not the length of time, as the proof that Jesus is the Messiah. It stands to reason that the fact of Jesus’ death and resurrection is what demonstrates him to be our Savior. Whether Jesus was in the tomb two days, three days or ten days has no bearing on the issue of his messiahship.

    If we remember that the phrase “three days and three nights” is an expression of the disciples’ culture, rather than scientific exactness, then we should have no problem with understanding Matthew 12:40. The “sign” that Jesus gave was not the length of time that he would be in the tomb, but it was the fact that he would die, be buried and be raised to life. We need not be concerned about the exact time Jesus was in the tomb, for our salvation does not depend on that. What is important is that Jesus died and was resurrected to become our Savior (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

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