Solving the Three Day Three Night Mystery

Holiday Leftovers

Commentary by Jack Kelley

From the 6th hour until the 9th hour darkness came over the land (Matt 27:45).

Some have suggested that a solar eclipse caused this mid-afternoon darkness. But a solar eclipse occurs when the moon gets between the earth and the sun blocking the sun’s light. Since Passover occurs when the moon is full, and since the moon always presents the same face to us, a solar eclipse would have been impossible. The moon was on the wrong side of Earth. This period of darkness was given as a sign by God and promised 750 years earlier. “In that day”, declares the Sovereign Lord, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the Earth in broad daylight. I will turn your religious feasts into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day” (Amos 8:9-10).

Who’s In Charge Here?

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His Spirit (Matt 27:50).

Pilate was surprised when he was told that Jesus had already died (Mark 15:44). Crucifixion was a slow and painful death actually caused by asphyxiation and frequently took days. That’s why the Jews asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by breaking the prisoners’ legs (John 19:31). Broken legs would prevent them from transferring their weight from their arms to their feet to relieve the pressure on their chests so they could take a few deep breaths to clear their lungs. When the guards went to do this they discovered that Jesus was already dead.

Earlier Jesus had told them, “No one takes it (my life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from My Father” (John 10:18). Even in death, He was firmly in command. The soldier, seeing that Jesus was already dead, pierced his side with a spear instead of breaking His legs. This violation of his orders fulfilled 3 more of the hundreds of Messianic prophecies. “They will look upon me, the one they have pierced” (Zech. 12:10), “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers Him from them all. He protects all his bones not one of them will be broken” (Psalm 34:19-20) and “It (the Passover lamb) must be eaten inside one house: take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones” (Exodus 12:46).

What Did You Do Last Weekend?

At that moment the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people (Matt 27:51-53).

The temple curtain was a woven tapestry nearly 40 feet tall and in some places up to 18″ thick. It separated the Holy of Holies, where God dwelt, from the rest of the Temple. No flimsy veil, it was supernaturally torn from top to bottom.  This was to indicate that the death of Jesus had solved the sin problem that had separated man from God since the Garden and the way was now clear for man to approach God directly and survive in His Presence. Formerly only one person could pass through the curtain, the High priest, and only on one day of the year, Yom Kippur, and only after extensive ceremonial preparation. When he did, a rope was tied around his ankle so his body could be pulled out in case some past or present behavior of his displeased God requiring his death. (Since there is no record of this ever happening, I guess the High Priests were very attentive to their preparation.)

But now no appointment is necessary and no other intercessor is required. No heavenly schedule is too crowded for you to come bursting unannounced into the throne room of the Creator, crawl up on your Father’s lap, and hear Him say, “My precious child, take all the time you need and ask Me anything you want.” In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephe. 3:12).

Many have wondered what Jesus did during the 3 days and 3 nights His body was in the tomb. The Bible gives us 2 clues. From 1 Peter 4:6 we learn that “for this reason the gospel was preached even to those who are dead so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.” And Peter also taught that “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit through whom He also went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built” (1 Peter 4:19-20).

Before the cross all who died went to a place the Jews called Sheol and the Greeks called Hades. The words mean “abode of the dead.” In the story of the rich man and Lazarus we get the clearest glimpse of this place (Luke 16:19-31). It contained 2 areas; one for the righteous, called Paradise or Abraham’s bosom, and one for the unrighteous where our concept of Hell originates. Apparently Jesus went to both, announcing to the righteous that their faith had saved them (1 Ptr. 4:6) and to the unrighteous from Noah’s time to confirm that Noah was right and they should have listened to his admonitions and accepted his offer of sanctuary (1 Ptr. 4:19-20).

When the priests came to the Temple on the morning of Firstfruits, they brought sheaves of grain from the spring harvest beginning that morning and dedicated the harvest to the Lord by presenting a “wave offering”, waving the sheaves back and forth before the altar (Lev. 23:11). When Jesus came out of the grave that morning He brought with Him some of the holy people who had died in faith that a coming Redeemer would save them. This was His wave offering, a sample of the harvest of souls that was beginning that morning and continues to the end of the age. These are the ones mentioned in Matt 27:51-53.

Three Little Words

In John 20:1-9 there are three uses of the word “saw” that we miss completely reading only the English, but in the Greek they are very instructive. John and Peter were running toward the empty tomb, having been told by Mary Magdaline that Jesus was gone. John got there first and “saw” (blepo – observed) the strips of linen in the tomb. Then Peter arrived and “saw” (theoreo – earnestly inspected) them too as well as the burial cloth. Then John went into the tomb and “saw” (eido – undertsood) and believed. But neither had understood from Scripture that this would happen.

That evening Jesus stood among them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22) and then according to Luke 24:44-45 He recounted everything that was written about Him in the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms. Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. They are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14).

Even after sharing food, lodging and intimate companionship with the Lord of the Universe for 3 years, the disciples’ natural minds were not capable of understanding the Mission of the Messiah until He gave them the Holy Spirit.  In fact, when the Lord caught up with two of them on the road to Emmaus, He called them foolish and slow of heart to believe what the prophets had spoken (Luke 24:25).  It was the day of His resurrection, but before they received the Holy Spirit that night. Think about that the next time you laugh at them for being so dense at times.

And the next time you try to debate religion with an unbeliever, remember that until you believed by faith and received the Holy Spirit (Ephe 1:13) you were just as stubborn as the person you’re confronting. Stop trying to persuade, coerce, or scare people into the Kingdom and start loving and praying them in instead. It works a lot better. 06-30-03

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