Three Days and
Good Friday? or Good Wednesday?
I remember several years ago celebrating the feast of unleavened bread with a large group of Sabbatarians who had come out from many different faith backgrounds. In the middle of the one of the speaker’s presentation, he asked the congregation to raise their hands if they believed that the Messiah was crucified on Friday. Not a single soul present lifted their hands accept for my wife and I. “Really Tim?” the speaker asked. “How could you believe that?” Of course I was prepared to give an answer, but would the congregation be patient as I presented the reasons for my faith as I am about to do here? Later, the small congregation I was leading split apart due to the controversy on this very question. It was a rather unforgettable experience and showed me how easily ones influence within a religious community can be easily discredited when one does not affirm to a certain creed or dogma. With so many people abandoning the Friday crucifixion belief, had I been stubbornly in error for holding to this traditional view?
When confronted by the following passage I am about to quote, the Friday crucifixion seems like a difficult concept for a believer to support and explain. Yeshua said “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.” (Mathew 12:40) This is the proof text sited by the Church of God and many other Messianic communities to determine that the Savior spent three full days (otherwise 72 hours) in the grave. Applying simple math to the traditional view of the Friday crucifixion/Sunday resurrection chronology shows us that his time in the grave would roughly amount to 35 hours (Friday evening - 6 PM- to day break Sunday morning -4:40 AM).
But why would it matter (as a point of salvation) whether Yeshua died on Friday or not? Actually it is something very important for every Christian believer to ponder. The credibility of Christ hinges upon the accuracy of not just some, but all of his words. Remember that Yeshua is not only considered the Messiah, he is also recognized as a prophet and his words should be held to the standards given to the prophets as specified in the Law given to Israel. “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of YHWH does not take place or come true, that is a message YHWH has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). So if the prophecy of Matthew 12:40 did not take place in the in the manor specified, then according to the Law, we would have to consider Yeshua to be a presumptuous prophet. So it behooves us to prove whether or not Yeshua had indeed prophesied falsely.
Sometime in the 1850’s, an emerging Sabbatarian community called the Church of God detected the inconstancy in Christ’s words as related to the traditional (Friday/Sunday) view of his three days and three nights prophecy. They sought to reconcile his words and recalculated the time spent in the tomb from Wednesday night to Saturday night , thus fulfilling a 72 hour period. Those resisting this new interpretation; clinging to the traditional Friday/Sunday resurrection view are considered idolaters (Sunday worshipers) and in rebellion against the words of Christ. The doctrine was formulated to show the Christian world it’s error and save it from the practices of what they believe to be idolatry.
Now the Wednesday cucifixionist is right; we must indeed shun idolatry and we should always trust and believe in whatever the Messiah taught. And remember that he specifically said “I will be in the grave for three days and three nights” didn't he? I mean he really did say that right? Well if we read closely his words as they are literally stated in the bible, we find that such words were never spoken at all. In fact, his exact words were “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (not grave). We will find that his actual words become troubling for the Wednesday cucifixionist to explain. Consider the chronological order specified in the prophecy - day followed by night. According to the chronology set forth in the Wednesday crucifixion theory, the Messiah went into the tomb from Wednesday sunset and rose at the close of the Sabbath (Saturday at the conclusion of the day). This represents three nights and three days, not three days and three nights.
And since this is the case, why didn't Yeshua say to his disciples “(for) three nights and three days (I will be) in the heart of the earth? But no! Instead he said three “days” and three “nights”. If we are to take his words literally as the Wednesday cucifixionist demands, we cannot accept the Wednesday theory because the criteria specified in his prophecy were not fulfilled in the proper sequential order. If we take his words literally, we must omit any event commencing in the evening such as the last supper, the long night in prayer at Gethsemane and the trials by the Sanhedrin and the entrance into the tomb. To reconcile the prophecy, we must only set our sights on events that occurred on Thursday morning or afternoon in the efforts to determine what triggered the three days and three nights prophecy.
Let’s now take a look at another passage related to the three day prophecy to get a better understanding of what the time sequence actually entailed. As you will see, the prophecy is actually made up of six specific events occurring within a three day time span. “We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be (1) betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will (2) condemn him to death and (3) will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will (4) mock him and spit on him, (5) flog him and (6) kill him. Three days later he will (5) rise" (Mark 10:33-34).
Now the Wednesday theorist will take exception to this idea saying “The Messiah was prophesying about being placed in the grave (the heart of the earth) for three days.” But is the grave/tomb really the heart of the earth? The word “heart” found in the Greek texts of Matthew 12:40 is pronounced “cor” (G2588). It means the middle/center/or region of thought and feeling. “Cor” represents a place where the center where life exists; completely opposite of the idea of a tomb. There are no instances in the New Testament where the word “cor” was ever used in reference to a grave or tomb. So if “cor” does not represent the grave, then what does this word refer to?
It is important to understand that as a prophet, Yeshua’s teachings were rooted in the Law of Moses and the Prophets. And if we look closely, we can see which scripture his words were drawn from. "This is what the Sovereign LORD says: This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center (taw'-vek) of the nations, with countries all around her”. (Ezekiel 5:5) Note that the Hebrew word “tawvek” and the Greek “cor” both relate to the center of something. Both Ezekiel and Yeshua identify Jerusalem as the center (core) of the earth. Remember that Yeshua said “We are going up to Jerusalem (the center of the nations) and then Yeshua marks off a list of five events that would occur in that city. The prophecy begins when “the Son of Man will was betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law”. We must now determine who it was that betrayed Yeshua into the hands of his enemies.
You would immediately think that the betrayer was Judas, but the timing of Judas’s activities are off as related to the three day/three night prophecy. Judas made a deal with the Chief priests on Wednesday (one day before the prophecy was set to commence) and led the mob to Gethsemane during the evening between Thursday night and Friday (before sunrise). So if it was not Judas who betrayed him, then who did? The Prophecy of Isaiah 53 reveals the identity of the betrayer to us. “Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer” (Isaiah 53:10). This word "betrayed" used in Christ's prophecy has confused many; leading us to believe that the Father was not actively involved in the betrayal of His Son. The English word is translated as "par-ad-id'-o-mee" G3860 in Greek. The Greek word is used later by Paul who said "He who did not spare his own Son, but "gave him up" (par-ad-id'-o-mee) for us all" (Romans 8:32). The Father’s role as the betrayer should come clear to us when considering the imagery and prophetic overtones when Abraham lifted his knife to slay Isaac. Now that we know who the betrayer was, we must determine when and the where the betrayal took place.
The place where the betrayal occurred was in the court of the Gentiles as Yeshua sometime on Thursday. Non-Israelite believers gathered there desiring to speak with him. To this he responded, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). Notice here that Yeshua is referring to some type of event which is about to commence. It is about his “glorification”. The interpretation of Christ's glorification was explained by the Apostle Peter in following text” The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You (the Jews) handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this” (Acts 3:13-15).
The hour when the glorification commenced in the court of Gentiles at Herod’s Temple. It is here that the Messiah reveals something to us that happened deep within his soul “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour” (John 12:27). The hour of trouble had begun in the Court of the Gentiles. From this point onward, the Father would no longer offer His divine hand to rescue Yeshua from his enemies. This, in some strange way, was the initiation point of the glorification of His Son. At this point Yeshua prayed, “Father, glorify your name!" Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." (John 12:28). The end point of this glorification would take place when the Father resurrected His Son from the tomb three days and three nights later.
As you can see, the words of the Son were fulfilled according to the exact manor he specified. We have just not considered the depth we needed to go to determine the meaning of his words. Like Jonah while in the belly of the great fish, Yeshua had no control over his destiny for three days and three nights. All appeared to be darkness before him. He was treated as an unrepentant and rebellious sinner, one who the Father would turn his face from for destruction just as it was prophesied by Isaiah in chapter 53. We can rest assured that the man who was crucified on a Friday and who rose early in the morning on the first day of the week, just before the dawn of day is the Messiah prophesied according to the scriptures.