“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” (Matthew 12:40).
Many people raise questions about the three days and three nights of Yeshua’s death, burial and resurrection. Let’s face it, Friday night to Sunday morning is not three days and three nights no matter how one interprets the rendering of days, hours, times, kingships or even religious tradition. Yet, Yeshua’s prophesied that he would be in the grave three days and three nights –– no less, no more.
Creating a Timeline
Using Scripture along with the Feasts of the LORD is the perfect way to determine when Yeshua died, was buried, and rose from the dead. To create the timeline, it is more effective to work backwards from Yeshua’s Resurrection to the Sabbath to Unleavened Bread and to Passover. All ‘days’ are rendered from ‘evening to morning’ as established by God at creation. The sunset time of 6:00 p.m. is an arbitrary time that I chose to make my timeline, and may not have been the actual time of sunset in the year that Yeshua died and rose from the dead.
The Resurrection – The Feast of Firstfruits
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell the people of Israel, After you enter the land I am giving you and harvest its ripe crops, you are to bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you will be accepted; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath’” (Leviticus 23:9-11).
“But the fact is that Messiah has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have died” (1 Corinthians 15:20).
Paul says that Yeshua is “the firstfruits of those who have died” using similar terminology as the Feast of Firstfruits found in Leviticus. The Feast of Firstfruits included waving of a sheaf of grain on the “day after the Sabbath” or “the first day of the week.” In fulfillment of God’s ‘appointed times,’ the evidence in the Gospels, and the explanation in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Yeshua rose from the dead as the Firstfruits on ‘the day after the Sabbath.’
Because our modern-day calendar differs from the Biblical one, Passover will occur on a different day of the week each year. Using the time sequence from the Scriptures, the Feast of Firstfruits must come after Passover, and it has to fall on a ‘first day of the week’ after the weekly Sabbath. If Passover falls on any other day of the week except Sabbath, the following ‘first day of the week’ will be the Feast of Firstfruits because there is a weekly Sabbath between the two. If Passover falls on the Sabbath, then Firstfruits is the following week.
Day After the Sabbath
“After Sabbath, toward dawn the first day of the week, Miriyam of Magdala and the other Miryam went to see the grave” (Matthew 28:1).
The details surrounding the empty tomb are recorded in Matthew chapter 28 and Luke chapter 24. On the ‘first day of the week,’ after the seventh-day Sabbath and before dawn, some women found Yeshua’s tomb empty. It wasn’t until after the seventh-day Sabbath that the women found the tomb empty because they “rested according to the commandment” (Exodus 20:8-11)
“On the Sabbath, the women rested, in obedience to the commandment; but on the first day of the week, while it was still very early, they took the spices they had prepared, went to the tomb, and found the stone rolled away from the tomb!” (Luke 24:1).
Sometime before dawn on ‘the first day of the week,’ Yeshua rose from the dead because he was not in the tomb. In other words, during the hours between Saturday’s sunset ending the Sabbath and Sunday’s sunrise, Yeshua rose from the dead. There is no specific time given for his Resurrection so for sake of explanation, I will say the seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday) ended at a 6:00 p.m. sunset. It is possible that at 6:01 p.m. at the start of ‘the first day of the week,’ Yeshua rose from the dead. However, it is also possible that he rose at 5:59 p.m. moments before the weekly Sabbath ended.
Sabbath: Big ‘S’ or little ’s’
In Leviticus 23, when God gave His ‘appointed times’ to the Israelites, the first Feast listed is the seventh-day weekly Sabbath. It is the only ‘appointed time’ that He called ‘Sabbath’ –– all of the other ‘appointed times’ were given specific names: Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Firstfruits, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, and Feast of Tabernacles. Though several of the commanded Feasts included ‘no regular work’ like the seventh-day Sabbath, God did not call them ‘sabbaths.’ When Judaism began referring to God’s ‘appointed times’ as ‘sabbaths,’ confusion with the timing of the holy days began.
For example, Leviticus 23:15 gives the timing for the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), “From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks.”
If this verse is understood as the Sabbath being the seventh-day weekly Sabbath given only 12 verses earlier, then the counting of seven full weeks would begin on the ‘day after the Sabbath’ or ‘the first day of the week,’ Sunday. Counting from the ‘day after the Sabbath’ would allow for the Feast of Firstfruits to consistently fall on the ‘first day of the week’ which has tremendous prophetic significance for the Resurrection.
However, when the first day of another Feast like Unleavened Bread is referred to as a ‘sabbath,’ everything changes. Depending on which day of the week the Unleavened Bread ‘sabbath’ falls, counting from the ’day after that sabbath’ makes the day of Firstfruits change yearly leaving no connection between the Feast of Firstfruits and Yeshua’s Resurrection. Also according to Jewish tradition, some ‘sabbaths’ are considered ‘higher’ than others; some weekly Sabbaths more important when they occur during a festival week. Though these delineations may not be departing from God’s commands to keep His ‘appointed times,’ it does cause confusion between the celebrations of the Jews and the Body of Messiah regarding the Resurrection of Yeshua.
Yeshua followed many Jewish traditions because he was Jewish and lived as a Jewish man. However, when those traditions nullified the commands of God, he refuted them and taught the correct view. It would follow that if a Jewish or even Christian tradition nullified the ‘appointed time’ of a Feast, Yeshua would fulfill it correctly. When it comes to the timing of the Feast of Firstfruits, Scripture should be used over Jewish tradition.
Unleavened Bread – Day 3, Day 2, Day 1
“In the first month on the fifteenth day of the same month is the festival of matzah (Unleavened Bread); for seven days you are to eat matzah (unleavened bread). On the first day you are to have a holy convocation; don’t do any kind of ordinary work. Bring an offering made by fire to Adonai for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; do not do any kind of ordinary work” (Leviticus 23:6-8).
Counting backwards from the time of the Resurrection, we need three nights and three days for grave time.
Once again, I will use 6:00 p.m. as the sunset time for beginning each day.
Day 1: 6:00 p.m. Saturday evening to 6:00 p.m. Friday evening. This would be the seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday), Day 3 of Unleavened Bread, and Day three in the tomb.
Day 2: 6:00 p.m. Friday evening to 6:00 p.m. Thursday evening. This would be Friday, Day 2 of Unleavened Bread, and Day two in the tomb.
Day 3: 6:00 p.m. Thursday evening to 6:00 p.m. Wednesday evening. This would be Thursday, Day 1 of Unleavened Bread, and Day one in the tomb.
Using this time sequence, Yeshua would have been put in the tomb sometime before 6:00 p.m. Wednesday evening which began the first of the prophesied three nights and days in the tomb (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday). By being buried in the tomb before 6:00 p.m., three days and three nights would have him rise sometime before the end of the seventh-day Sabbath. It was only after the Sabbath, and the command to rest, that Mary and the others went to the tomb and found it empty.
In the year of Yeshua’s death, Unleavened Bread, called a ‘sabbath,’ would have begun, according to the three days outlined above, on Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m. Before sunset, the daytime hours of Passover were also known as Preparation Day for Unleavened Bread. It was on this Preparation Day of Unleavened Bread that Yeshua’s body was removed from the cross. He needed to be buried before the start of the ‘sabbath’ which began at sunset on “the fifteenth day of the month.”
Yeshua was placed in the tomb as the unleavened, sinless bread from heaven. He was wrapped in linen and buried in the tomb of a rich man from Jerusalem. He was in the tomb for the first three nights and days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
“There was a man named Joseph, a member of the Sanhedrin. He was a good man, a righteous man, and he had not been in agreement with either the Sanhedrin’s motivation or their action. … This man approached Pilate and asked for Yeshua’s body. He took it down, wrapped it in a linen sheet, and placed it in a tomb cut into the rock, that had never been used. It was Preparation Day, and a Sabbath was about to begin” (Luke 23:50-54).
“In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, between sundown and complete darkness, comes the Lord’s Passover” (Leviticus 23:5).
Using the same time sequence, “on the fourteenth day of the month,” Passover would begin at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday and end at sunset 6:00 p.m., Wednesday. After sunset on Tuesday evening, the Passover meal was celebrated.
“He [Yeshua] replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My ‘appointed time’ is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house’” (Matthew 8:29).
Yeshua eagerly desired to celebrate this Passover with his disciples (Luke 22:15). This specific Passover was God’s ‘appointed time’ for Yeshua fulfill his purpose as the Lamb of God.
The Passover celebrated by Yeshua was only a memorial to the Passover that occurred in Egypt. No one put on sandals or carried staffs. No one prepared for a great exodus from Egypt into the wilderness. No one went outside their door to sacrifice a lamb and put its blood on the doorposts. Israel was no longer a people enslaved, and they celebrated their freedom with a traditional meal called a seder. Matthew records, “When evening came Yeshua reclined with his disciples” (Matthew 26:20).
After the Passover seder, Yeshua and his disciples went to the Mount of Olives. Yeshua prayed. He asked that the final Passover cup be removed, but submitted to the will of His Father. While his disciples slept, he prayed for all who would believe in him through the testimony of his followers. Soldiers arrived in the night’s darkness with the high priest. They arrest him, take him to the Sanhedrin, and eventually to Pilate.
Before sunrise of Passover ‘day,’ Peter denies Yeshua three times before the shofar blast bringing the priests to prayer. The crowds cry out for Yeshua to be crucified. Yeshua is beaten, bruised, mocked, and condemned to death. He goes to Golgotha where he is nailed to the cross and dies quickly without having any of his bones broken.
The events of “the fourteenth day of the month,” Tuesday evening to Wednesday evening, were completed. Yeshua gave up his spirit at the exact same time the Levite priests were offering the last Passover sacrifice at the Temple before sunset on Wednesday. Yeshua’s final words, “It is finished.”
Some teach that Yeshua could not celebrate Passover and be the Passover Lamb on the same day; however, every day, there was an evening, morning, and afternoon sacrifice. At the evening sacrifice, Yeshua celebrated the Passover seder with his disciples. By the morning sacrifice, he had been arrested, judged, and condemned to death. By the final afternoon sacrifice, he had walked to Golgotha, been nailed to the cross, and died. He was buried quickly before the evening sacrifice that began the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Two Feasts with Matzah
“On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’” (Matthew 26:17).
Though this verse suggests that Passover and Unleavened Bread begin on the same day, Yeshua would have celebrated the dates and times of His Father’s Feasts as given in Torah, apart from Jewish tradition. Even though matzah was eaten at Passover and Unleavened Bread, the two ‘appointed times’ have different dates, memorials, and purposes.
Historically, the Israelites did not kill the Passover lamb and then suddenly leave Egypt three hours later. They had to wait throughout the night for the ‘death of the firstborn.’ In the morning, they plundered the Egyptians and prepared for their exodus. On “the fifteenth day of the month,” they left Egypt so quickly that they had no time for their bread to leaven.
“Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. From the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month until the evening of the twenty-first day, you are to eat matzah” (Exodus 12:17).
The Year of Yeshua’s Death and Resurrection
In the year that Yeshua died, was buried, and resurrected, he celebrated the Passover at sunset on “the fourteenth day of the month” with his disciples on a Tuesday evening. Tuesday, during the night, he prayed for his disciples and those who would believe in him through their testimony. He sweat drops of blood and submitted himself to death. He was arrested before sunrise, beaten, hung on a cross, and died late afternoon Wednesday at the exact time of the final Passover sacrifice. The Temple curtain was torn in two; many who saw the events of the darkened sun and earthquake, knew he was the Son of God. He was taken from the cross and buried in the tomb during the Preparation Day, for a ‘sabbath’ of Unleavened Bread.
Wednesday evening to Saturday evening, the first three nights and three days of Unleavened Bread, his followers mourned. A Roman centurion contemplated the earth shaking and the idea that Yeshua was truly the Son of God. Mockers who had read the sign, “The King of the Jews,” were wondering why many of the ancients who had died were walking around Jerusalem. Peter, John, and the rest of the disciples went into hiding for fear of their lives. The women who followed Yeshua went home grieving. They prepared spices knowing they had to wait three days until they could prepare Yeshua’s body. The soldiers anxiously guarded the tomb hoping no one would steal the body. All Israel rested on the seventh-day Sabbath day according to the command. For the followers of Yeshua, it was a long three days and nights.
After resting on the seventh-day Sabbath, before dawn on the first day of the week, as the time for waving the sheaf in the Temple approached, several women went to the tomb. They carried spices and walked through the garden wondering who would roll away the huge stone. They could hear the whoooosssshhhhhhh of the sheaves being waved back and forth by the priests at the Temple nearby. It was the Feast of Firstfruits. After a long, confusing, heart-wrenching week of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and a seemingly endless Sabbath, could they endure another ‘appointed time’ of God?
“Yeshua said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Whom are you looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you’re the one who carried him away, just tell me where you put him; and I’ll go and get him myself” (John 20:15).
“Yeshua said to her, “Miryam!” Turning, she cried out to him in Hebrew, “Rabbani!” (that is, “Teacher!”) “Stop holding onto me,” Yeshua said to her, “because I haven’t yet gone back to the Father. But go to my brothers, and tell them that I am going back to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:15-17).
The sorrow of the women turned to joy at seeing Yeshua risen and alive; they wanted to touch their Rabbi, but he needed to return to his Father. The women ran to the disciples with amazing news –– “He is Risen!” While the priests in the Temple waved the firstfruits grain offering, Yeshua went to his Father and offered himself as the Firstfruits of those who are raised from the dead. The counting of the 50 days until the next ‘appointed time,’ the Feast of Weeks, began.
©2010 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved. No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article, please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.