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[Matthew 12]  I may step on a few toes today, but that’s not my intention.  After we’re finished, if there are any questions, I’ll be happy to talk to anyone.  But, do you remember when you first learned that Santa Claus isn’t real?  Well, many things that you “know” about Easter aren’t real either.  We’re going to look at a few of these from the Bible, and hopefully glean a better understanding of the events surrounding our Lord’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

Now, I’m not just talking about things such as the Easter Bunny, or eggs, which are both symbols of fertility and were involved in the worship of the pagan goddess Oestre (from which we get our word “estrogen”).  Many pagan religions believed that the world hatched from an egg, and a rabbit (actually, a hare) is a good symbol for fertility for obvious reasons.  Early church fathers timed Easter in such a way that it coincided with the pagan festival celebrating the goddess Oestre.  Perhaps it was for good reason, perhaps not; speculation runs rampant on the subject.  I don’t know if they set the date when they did for self-preservation out of fear of persecution or out of compromise to the pagans to try to embrace all religions; I don’t know if it was practicality or ecuminicism.  But, We need to look beyond all of that.

As I mentioned a moment ago, even the name “Easter”, comes from a pagan goddess.  Does that mean we need to quit calling it Easter?  Well, I certainly don’t think of the pagan Goddess when I say “Easter”, any more than I think of the astrological implications of the name “Sunday”, or of the Germanic god Woden, when I say “Wednesday”.  But, I think it’s important to know the origins of the word.

In the early part of the first century, hope for a Messiah burned in the hearts of the Jews.  Prophecies in the OT, all proclaimed this promised Savior.  Different views about the Messiah were common.  Some thought he would be a great prophet; others expected Him to be a great warrior like King David who would overthrow the Romans and reestablish the glory of Israel.  Basing their beliefs on certain prophecies, many knew that the time was at hand.

It was during this time of great expectation that swelling crowds gathered to hear a young preacher cry out to his countrymen to repent and return to God.  His message was so powerful that it prompted some to think that he was the Messiah who had been promised.  He answered them that he was not the one, but was the one who was sent to prepare the way for him.

The brief ministry of John the Baptizer pointed to one who was born of humble origins, who was named Jesus.  Jesus’ ministry was supported and authenticated by signs and wonders.  His divinity was accepted by some and rejected by others.  Some came only to be fed (John 6:26-27).  Others simply came to be entertained by the miracles.  No one had seen such miracles, nor heard one speak as this teacher from Nazareth.  Some of the people began to say that Jesus was the son of David, which is a term for the Messiah.

What is the sign of the true Messiah?  Speculation as to the true identity of Jesus seemed to be a popular topic of conversation according to the Scriptures.  But, no matter whom they thought He was, most of the religious leaders viewed him as a threat to their positions of power.  One day, a group of them tossed out a challenge to Him:  “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”

Were they asking for proof of His divinity, or were they just asking for more miracles to titillate their senses?  To a Jew, healing of leprosy should have been sign enough.  Leprosy was considered an act of the finger of God, and curing such could also only be performed by a direct agent or action from God.  Perhaps, they were simply trying to protect their positions, and were hoping that they were wrong and He would trip himself up.  No matter the reason they were seeking for a sign, the godly are more impressed by truth than by signs.  Signs are emotional, and as such are only for the weak in faith, and false signs easily deceive people such as that.

[Matthew 12:39-40]  How many people who profess to follow Jesus today have really thought about what these two verses say?  Have you?  Why was this one sign so important?

The One we worship as the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God, said that the only outward, visible sign of His genuineness as the Messiah was that as Jonah was three days and three nights inside of the sea-monster (the word used could be whale, fish, leviathan, or sea-monster), He would be entombed in the bowels of the Earth for three days and three nights.

Jesus was saying that he would die, yet remain dead for only a short, but specific period of time.  These two facts together would prove that He is the true Messiah.  As a part of this sign that would prove his identity, He specified precisely the length of time that He would remain dead.

Does God do anything halfway?  No, he completes his promises in such a way that there can be no doubt of them.  Think about the Law:  He only held his disciples to the standard of observing the spirit and intent of the law.  The Law was not intended to be a burden to men; it was intended to ease their burdens.  Man had perverted the Law in such a way that it became a burden.  Yet, Jesus upheld the law entirely, both in intent and the letter of the law, of both God and man.  There can be no doubts.  Right?

Three days and three nights comprise a total of 72 hours.  Yet today, it is almost universally believed that Jesus died and was buried on late Friday afternoon, and was resurrected early Sunday morning.  Now, if that were true, then based on His own words, the only sign of His authenticity as Messiah had failed miserably.  No matter how you look at it, there is no way that you can fit three days and three nights between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning.

Jesus made many prophecies concerning his death, burial, and resurrection.  Matthew 16:21 says, “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”  Matthew 17:22-23 says, “And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.”

[Mark 8:31]  Here, Jesus states explicitly that His resurrection would occur after or at the end of three days.  Not after one day, or one and a half days, or two days, but after three days.  So, Jesus must have been resurrected just as the third day was ending, which was three days and three nights after He was placed in the tomb.

This is the only way that the prophecies could be consistent.  Are they consistent?  If not, the Bible is worthless, because Jesus is a flawed Messiah.  But, the prophecies are consistent.  When some of His followers came to the tomb early on Sunday morning, the angels told them that He was no longer there.  Matthew 28:6 tells us, “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”

When Peter was teaching the first Gentiles called into the Church, he taught them that Jesus was the Messiah, He was put to death, and He was raised from the grave the third day.  [Acts 10:37-40]  Why was it necessary that Peter add “the third day”?  Peter was simply confirming that Jesus indeed had fulfilled the sign of Jonah!  Years later, Paul affirmed not only the resurrection of Jesus, but also that it was on the third day.  You can find that in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, which says, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve.”

Does “three days” or “the third day” mean parts of three days?  Does it mean Friday night, all day Saturday and Saturday night, and Sunday morning?

The expression “three days” is used as a Hebrew idiom to mean any part of three days.  It’s just a common way of reckoning, just as years are when you say how old you are.  If I say I’m going somewhere and returning on the third day, I could leave this evening at 5 PM, and arrive back the day-after-tomorrow at 8 AM, and that would fulfill what I said.  But, to the Jews, when the number of “nights” is stated in addition to the number of “days”, then the expression is no longer just an idiom.  It’s a literal statement of fact.  Three days and three nights is three days and three nights!

Is it possible to fit three days and three nights between late Friday afternoon and Sunday morning?  No, it’s not.  We have a serious timing problem here.  The traditional view of a “Good Friday” burial and an “Easter Sunday” resurrection cannot be reconciled with Jesus the Christ’s own statements about how long He would be in the tomb, and they can’t both be correct.

What does Colossians 2:8 teach us?  Beware [take heed] lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”  Why do most churches assume and teach that Jesus died and was buried on Good Friday?  Traditions of men!  That’s simply what most people have always been taught.  We need to be careful of that.  But because that’s what they’ve always been taught, they assume that’s what the Bible teaches.

The Scriptures do say that He was buried on the preparation day, which was the day before a Sabbath.  On the preparation day, cooking and housecleaning were done; this was on the day before a Sabbath, in preparation for the Sabbath.  The weekly Sabbath, as we all know, falls on Saturday, the seventh day of the week.

Now, we have to remember also, according to the Biblical reckoning, days begin at sunset.  So, all weekly Sabbaths start Friday evening at sunset.  [Mark 15]  When does Mark 15 tell us that Jesus was entombed?  [Mark 15:42-46]  This passage tells us clearly that Jesus was entombed late in the afternoon on the “preparation day”, just before Sabbath began at sunset.

But, there are two kinds of Sabbaths.  What many people don’t think about is that the Sabbath spoken of here was not the weekly Sabbath day, which begins Friday at sunset and lasts until Saturday sunset.  [John 19:31]  Here, the apostle John tells us specifically, that the day on which Jesus was crucified immediately preceded a special Sabbath, and not just a regular weekly Sabbath; it’s called a “high” day or a “great” day.

This Sabbath, we see from Scriptures, was “a high day”.  In addition to the weekly Sabbaths, God also commanded seven Holy Days, or annual Sabbaths (Leviticus 23), most of which could fall on different days of the week.  Sometimes, the annual Sabbath could also fall on a weekly Sabbath.

Jesus the Christ, like the Passover lamb that was killed to spare the ancient Israelites from the angel of death, was slain on the preparation day for the Passover.  The Passover is observed on the 14th day of the first month of the Hebrew calendar.

The Jews were rushing to finish the burials of the condemned men before the annual or high Sabbath began at sunset.  This preparation day was the day before the Passover.

The day after Passover begins the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is also an annual or high Sabbath.  There was more than one Sabbath that week.  Now, don’t take my word on this, this is proven by the statements in the Bible regarding Mary Magdalene and the other women, who planned to put more spices and ointments on the body of Jesus, having been unable to do so because He had been entombed in such a hurried manner.

[Mark 16:1]  We see in this passage that after the Sabbath was over, they bought spices.  Since it was unlawful to buy, sell or work on the Sabbath, the women had to wait until the Sabbath was past before they could purchase more spices.  (Luke 23:54-56 tells us that they observed the burial, then went home and prepared spices before the Sabbath; this does not preclude their purchasing more spices after the Sabbath, which would be Saturday evening after sunset to us, nor is it certain that we are discussing the same women, although that is probable.)  It’s like when my wife goes to the grocery store and buys stuff.  But, later in the evening she realizes that she didn’t get enough eggs, so she goes back the next day.  So, they rested on the weekly Sabbath, and then bought more spices after sunset, intending to put them on His body early on Sunday morning.

When we compare the different Gospel accounts, the true sequence of events becomes clear.  The women prepared some spices on Wednesday evening (by our reckoning) before sunset, and then they purchased more spices after sunset on Saturday in order to put them on His body on Sunday morning.  But, if he were in the ground three days, what about the intervening day?  What about Friday?  Why did they not anoint his body then?

Let’s take a close look at the chronology of this event.  We know that on Sunday morning, when the women went looking for Him, Jesus was already gone from His tomb.  (He didn’t arise on Sunday morning by the way we reckon time today.)  So when did these events take place?

We know from Scriptures that Jesus was born before Herod the Great died.  By our current calendar, Herod the Great died in about 4 BC.  Because he had all children less than two years of age put to death, based on what the Magi told him, we know that Jesus would have been born in about 5 BC.  Since our calendars (both Gregorian and Julian) have a 1 BC and a 1 AD, but no year zero, and Jesus entered the public ministry at the age of 30, and served about three years before his crucifixion, we can assume that he was crucified in about 29 AD.  The Perpetual Calendar from the Encyclopedia Britannica shows that in 29 AD, the Passover fell on a Thursday (Wednesday evening by our reckoning).  Therefore, the Feast of Unleavened Bread began on Friday (Thursday evening), and followed by the regular weekly Sabbath (Friday evening until Saturday evening).

[Luke 23:44-46] tells us, “And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost (spirit)”

Between the ninth hour (3 PM) and sunset on Wednesday, Joseph of Arimathea (who had not agreed with the counsel on condemning Jesus) and Nicodemus (both disciples of Jesus) asked for permission to remove His body from the cross and put it in a tomb, which was nearby.  (John 19:38-42)

By the way we reckon time today, Jesus was crucified on Wednesday, and placed in the tomb before 6 PM.  He arose from the grave some time after 6 PM on Saturday, which would be early Sunday morning, the first day of the week, according to Jewish time keeping.  This explanation fits Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 12:40 that He would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  Nothing else fits.  John 20:1 tells us, “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.”  He was already raised!

Jesus said He would be “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”.  If He were buried in the late afternoon, then He must have been resurrected at around the same time three days and three nights later.  Joseph and Nicodemus placed him in the tomb in the late afternoon on Wednesday, just before the sun went down for.  Three days and three nights later would have been at approximately the same time of day, just as the sun went down and evening came.

This places the resurrection on Saturday around sunset, not on Sunday morning, by our reckoning.  As we just saw, when Mary went to the tomb while it was still dark on Sunday morning, He was already raised!

Jesus would have been buried on Wednesday evening, and raised about the same time, three days and three nights later.  This fits perfectly with the three nights (Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) and the three days (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday).  This is the only time frame that fits within Jesus’ proclaimed sign of how long He would be in the tomb.

As we have seen, this fits perfectly with all the details recorded in the Gospels.  The sign was fulfilled, just as He said it would be.  But, does Jesus ever do anything in any way that isn’t perfect?  [Mark 16:1:  Salome is Jesus’ half-sister and the mother of John the Baptizer; Sabbaths, not Sabbath.]  Not only did He spend three days and three nights in the Grave, but also it was three complete Sabbaths.  He did no work on those Sabbaths, just as the law commands.  He wasn’t raised until they were completed.

The tradition of a “Good Friday” crucifixion and an “Easter Sunday” resurrection, as we commemorate them today, are proven from the Bible to be nothing but traditions of men, without foundation in Biblical fact.  Which will you believe:  A man-made myth, or the only sign that Jesus announced would be proof that He was who He said He was?  As far as I can tell, the complicated method for setting the date for Easter, pretty much prevents the possibility of even celebrating on the correct day ever!

Does that mean that I think we need to quit celebrating Good Friday and Easter Sunday?  Not necessarily.  But, we do need to remember that’s not the way it happened.  If we wanted to celebrate it on the correct days, this year, Passover is on the 26th, if I’m not badly mistaken.  But, we’re not bound by the law.

Turn to [Exodus 31] to close.  The Lord gave the weekly Sabbath for the benefit of man, not as a burden.  But, man has twisted it just like everything else into a burden.  [Exodus 31:12-18]  The weekly Sabbath was given as a perpetual covenant between God and Israel.

Jesus was crucified on Wednesday, and entombed on Thursday, according to the Jewish calendar.  That Thursday was a high Sabbath; it was the Passover.  Christ is our Passover and He shields us, just as the little Passover lambs shielded the firstborn children in Egypt.  Remember, the Passover is just for the firstborn, not all the children.  It’s about position.  Jesus died for all, but the Bible tells us that His blood was shed for many.  He died that all might be saved.  We’re saved by His death, but we’re sanctified by His blood.

The second day in the tomb, beginning Thursday evening, was a high Sabbath; it was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  This feast represents cleanness; you had to sweep all the leaven or impurities from your house.  1 Corinthians 5:6-7 says, “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us,” and Galatians 5:9 says, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”  Leaven represents Phariseeism, or the traditions of men, as opposed to the laws of God.  Sort of like the traditions surrounding Easter.

The third day in the grave, from Friday evening until Saturday evening, was a weekly Sabbath, which was given as a covenant to man, as a type of the coming Kingdom rest of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

He rested in the heart of the Earth for three Sabbaths, and that completely and utterly fulfilled the sign of His authenticity, that He would spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  The Bible tells us that when He died, his body was in the grave, His spirit went to be with the father, and His soul went to hell (Sheol).  In all three He rested, and all three are represented in the three types of Sabbaths that are represented here.  It’s complete:  Body, soul, and spirit.

But even those nearest to Him lacked faith or maybe they lacked understanding.  The women were headed to rub spices on His body on Sunday morning, even though He said that He would be raised.  Perhaps they thought He simply meant that He would be resurrected in a spiritual sense, but that’s not what He said.  They were unbelieving; they lacked faith.

I know we could go on and on, discussing the implications of the feasts and such, but this is enough for now.  Thank you for bearing with me.  I hope that this has been a blessing to you, and not too confusing.  We need to have complete faith, and not suffer from unbelief like those in His life often did.  He has given us everything we need to have that kind of faith; we just have to exercise it.  Let go and let God.  That’s my prayer for us all.