Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How Long In The Grave?


Theodore H Epp

Pic. Credit: awakenthebride d32-news
It is possible to be so caught up in the discussion of when Christ died that we overlook why He died.
A question that I am frequently asked is, “Was Christ crucified on Friday?”  If so, how could He be in the grave three days and three nights and arise on Sunday”?

The question can be answered from the Word of God.  But before we do that, we need to be reminded that we are not to be judged by the days we keep (see Colossians 2:16).  Some regard one day holy and some another.  We should be careful about legalism on this point.

First, notice a few verses from Matthew 12.  certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered (Jesus) saying, “Master, we would see a sign from thee” (v. 38) They wanted a sign to know that Jesus was truly Christ, the Messiah who was coming.

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 Jonah” (v. 39).  What was the sign of the prophet Jonah?  “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the son of the man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (v. 40).  So Jesus gave them a sign.

If Jesus had not been in the heart of the earth three days and three nights, He would not have been the Messiah.  Jesus said that by this sign, they could tell whether it was true or not.  And the Pharisees and the scribes understood that to be so, for in Matthew 27: 63,64 we read that on the day after the crucifixion and burial, the chief priests and Pharisees came to Pilate and said, Sir, we remember that, that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, after three days, I will rise again.  Command therefore, that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day,  lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people He is risen from the dead, so the last error shall be worse than the first.

Whereas the scribes and Pharisees wanted to prove their point – that He was not the Messiah – they unknowingly become the very proof that He was.  For they set a guard there, and the guard was the proof that He rose on the third day and that He was not stolen.

Now this is where the conflict of thought comes.  Because we read in the scriptures that Jesus died on the day before the Sabbath, and the Sabbath is always Saturday, it has been presumed that He died on Friday.  However, something very important has been overlooked.  Namely that the Israelites had seven different feasts during the year; and in these seven feasts, they always had a High Sabbath (s special Sabbath) which could be on any day of the week.  The day did not make any difference, but it had to fit into the particular feast that they were keeping.  When it came to the Feast of the Passover, there was a preparation day before Passover, which was Wednesday.  Following this was a High Sabbath, the height of the Passover Feast, which was on Thursday.  Then there was a Friday in between, and then came the regular Sabbath – the  weekday Sabbath.  After this, of course came the first day of the week.  Having that in mind, the answer is very simple.

The Passover lamb, in Jewish history, was always slain on the night before the High Sabbath.  And in the case of Israel, it was slain on that Wednesday night before the High Sabbath on Thursday.  Jesus was the real Lamb to be slain, and all types had been pointing to Him.  He, therefore, also had to be slain on the same day (Wednesday) that the lambs were slain for the regular Passover.  Thus, Jesus was  slain on Wednesday, just before the high Sabbath.

Sometime during the evening, Joseph of Arimathaea came and asked for the body of Jesus, that He might be buried.  Sometime after Jesus died at three in the afternoon, maybe in the early part of the Sabbath evening.  Joseph came and took Jesus and buried Him.  So Jesus went into the grave – it could have been six O Clock in the evening, which was the end of Wednesday and the beginning of the High Sabbath.

Now, note Matthew 23:1,2 “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher.  And behold, there  was a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven , and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.”  So,  evidently, even before the sun rose on that first day, Mary Magdalene and Mary came to see the sepulcher.  They came there wondering how they would roll the stone away.  As they stood nearby, there was an earth quake as the angel descended from heaven, rolled the stone from the door and sat upon it.  When did he roll the stone away?  He did it while to women were there.  Is that when Jesus arose?  No, that is not what the Bible says.  There was no stone that could keep Jesus in the grave.  But somewhere between six o’ clock on the Sabbath day and this morning, Jesus rose – possibly after the Sabbath.  The only ones who saw Him were the soldiers who were watching the door at the time. Jesus did not have to have the stone rolled away for His resurrection; but the angel rolled it away and said to the women,  “come and see that He is not here.”  So then Jesus definitely was in the grave three days and three nights.

Let me emphasize again Colossians 2:16.  we are not to judge one another on the basis of which day we are commemorating, because that is not the real issue.  THE REAL ISSUE IS CHRIST.   What I have explained here simply proves that Jesus is the Messiah, according to the Scriptures, and history will corroborate this.  But though some have chosen Friday (and we call it Good Friday) as the day of the death of Jesus, this does not mean that we cannot take that day to remember it.   I have no problem with that for the day does not make any difference.  The fact remains, though, that Jesus died and rose again and was in the grave three days and three nights.  Along this line, some people have felt that it is wrong to observe Easter as a memorial to Christ’s resurrection because of its pagan historical associations.

I would say that on Easter we remember the death of Jesus Christ.  Make it a real thing.  Do not make Easter a time to parade new clothing or to emphasize Easter rabbits, eggs and so forth.  Rather, make it a time to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He is the one whom we honor—it is not the day, but it is Jesus Christ.  So let us thing of Christ. CL

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