Was Jesus' resurrection day a Sunday?
The story of Jesus' resurrection is well-known by Christians and by many others. It is commonly believed He died on a Friday (now celebrated as Good Friday) and that He was resurrected the following Sunday (now celebrated as Easter Sunday).
However, there is controversy over whether this timetable fulfills the scriptural prophecy found in Matthew 12:40, when Jesus 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."
By our modern method of counting days, Jesus would have been in His tomb from late Friday afternoon until early Sunday morning. Even counting Friday and Sunday as full days, that would mean He was interred for three days and two nights at most. This is important because in Matthew 12 Jesus specifies that His resurrection in three days and three nights will be the only sign that He is the Messiah.
Many biblical scholars stand by the Friday and Sunday dates, saying that it was common among Jews at that time to consider any part of a day to be the entire day and night. But others say there may be confusion over whether the "Sabbath" referred to in Scripture as the day after Jesus crucifixion means Saturday or whether it could have been an "annual" Sabbath that happened to occur that same week.
This would make it possible that Jesus was crucified and buried on a Thursday, or even on a Wednesday with His resurrection coming Saturday night - as Jewish tradition considers the next day (Sunday) to begin at sunset on Saturday.
It is interesting there appears to have been no dispute over the timing immediately following Jesus' death. Surely His disciples knew as well as anyone how long He had been in the tomb.
There are really two alternatives, assuming Jesus is the son of God. He either fulfilled the prophecy exactly as written, remaining in the grave for three days and three nights, or He chose not to fulfill the prophecy.
To see why He might have done the latter, consider how Jesus chided Pharisees for their nit-picking support of the laws and covenants of the Old Testament even in the face of outlandish miracles. His challenge to them, and to all of us, was to exercise faith in Him - not in some "proof" He offered up.
How tragic it would be if the old-guard Jews of Jesus' time failed to recognize Him as the Messiah because he was only dead for two days before being resurrected! But even more tragic if He actually was dead for the full three days and nights and they failed to recognize that because they had hardened their hearts to the truth.
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