Sign of Jonah: Three Days and Three Nights

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 wonder 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 you interpret the days, the hours, the times, the kingships or even the traditions.  Yet, Yeshua’s own words 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 may be more effective to work backwards from Yeshua’s Resurrection and the Sabbath, to Unleavened Bread, to Passover in order to understand the timing of the events.  All ‘days’ go from evening to morning as established by God in Genesis’ days of 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).

The timing surrounding the resurrection is recorded in Matthew 28 and Luke 24.   On the first day of the week, after the Sabbath, before dawn, some women found Yeshua’s tomb empty.  It wasn’t until AFTER the Sabbath that the women found the grave empty because they rested according to the commandment regarding the Sabbath day.   Only the seventh day Sabbath command comes before the ‘first day of the week.’

“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).

“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).

Before the light of day on the first day of the week, Yeshua must have risen from the grave because he was not there.   In other words,  during the hours between Saturday’s sunset (ending of Sabbath) and Sunday’s sunrise, Yeshua rose from the dead.  There is no specific time given for his resurrection so for sake of explanation, let’s say the seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday) ended at a 6:00 p.m. sunset.  It is possible that at 6:01 p.m., the beginning of the first day of the week, Yeshua rose from the dead.

“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 the same terminology as the Feast of Firstfruits found in Leviticus.  The Feast of Firstfruits involved the waving of a sheaf of grain on the ‘day after the Sabbath’ or the first day of the week (Sunday).  In agreement with the LORD’s appointed times, the evidence in the gospels, and the explanation in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Yeshua rose from the dead as a firstfruits on the day after the Sabbath, during Unleavened Bread.

Sabbath: Big ‘S’ or little ’s’

In Leviticus 23, when Yahweh gave His ‘appointed times’ to the Israelites, the first festival mentioned is Sabbath.  It is the only day or ‘appointed time’ that Yahweh called  ‘Sabbath’ as He gave all of the other festivals specific names: Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Firstfruits, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets and Feast of Tabernacles.  Though several of the festivals commanded ‘no regular work’ like the seventh-day Sabbath, Yahweh did not call them ‘Sabbath’.   It is only when Yahweh’s ‘appointed times’ became designated as ‘sabbaths’ that confusion with days and times began.

For example, Leviticus 23:15 outlines the timing of the Feast of Weeks or  Pentecost, “From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks.”

If the context of this verse is read with the Sabbath being the seventh-day weekly Sabbath given only 12 verses earlier, then the counting would begin on the ‘day after the Sabbath’ or ‘the first day of the week’ (Sunday).  Counting this way would allow for Feast of Firstfruits to consistently fall on a ‘first day of the week’ which has tremendous prophetic significance for the Resurrection.

However, the counting becomes very confusing when the first day of  a festival like Unleavened Bread is referred to by traditional Judaism as a ‘sabbath’.  Depending on which day of the week the Unleavened Bread ‘sabbath’ falls and the ‘day after that sabbath’,  counting off  seven weeks changes yearly and gives no recognition to the Feast of Firstfruits.  Also according to tradition,  some ‘sabbaths’ are rated ‘higher’ than others; some weekly Sabbaths more important than others when they fall during a festival week.  Though these delineations may not be departing from God’s commands to keep the appointed times, it does cause confusion and disunity between the Jews and the Body of Messiah regarding timing especially when it comes to celebrating the resurrection of Yeshua of Nazareth. 

Yeshua followed many traditions of men because he lived among men.  However, when those traditions nullified the commands of God, he refuted them and taught the correct view of the command.  It would follow that if a tradition nullified the ‘appointed time’ of a feast, Yeshua would celebrate it correctly.

Three, Two, One – Unleavened Bread

“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, let’s use 6:00 p.m. as the beginning time for each day.  Day 1 would be 6:00 p.m. Saturday evening to Friday evening (Sabbath, Day 3 Unleavened Bread).  Day 2 would be 6:00 p.m. Friday evening to Thursday evening (Day 2 Unleavened Bread).  Day 3 would be 6:00 p.m. Thursday evening to Wednesday evening (Day 1 Unleavened Bread).   From this timeline, Yeshua would have been put in the grave sometime BEFORE 6:00 p.m. Wednesday evening which began the first of the prophesied three nights and days  in the tomb. (Note: By being put in the tomb before 6:00 p.m., three days and three nights would have him rise just before the Sabbath day ended.)

The first day of Feast of Unleavened Bread was and is considered ‘a sabbath day’.  In the year of Yeshua’s death,  this Feast would begin, according to the three days outlined above, on Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m.  Before it began at sunset, the day was called the Preparation Day.   It was on Preparation Day  that Yeshua’s body was removed from the cross.   He needed to be buried before the start of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, ‘a special sabbath’ which began at sunset, the 15 day of the first month.

Yeshua was buried as the ‘unleavened bread from heaven’ that he spoke about in John 6.  He was wrapped in linen and put 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).

According to the timeline being developed, the Lord’s Passover on the ’14 day of the month’ would begin at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday evening and last until  6:00 p.m. Wednesday evening when Unleavened Bread began.  After sunset, between twilight on Tuesday evening and complete darkness, the Passover memorial meal would be 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).

According to Luke 22:15, Yeshua had a great desire to celebrate his last Passover seder with his disciples.   This Passover was an ‘appointed time’ in Yeshua’s  life and he had to fulfill its purpose. 

It is important to remember that the Passover celebrated by Yeshua was only a memorial to the Passover that occurred in Egypt.  No one was putting on sandals and carrying staffs.  No one was preparing for a great flight into the wilderness.  No one was outside their door sacrificing lambs and putting blood on their doorposts.   Israel was no longer a people enslaved by Egypt and they celebrated their freedom with a traditional meal called a seder.

The Passover seder included four cups of wine and unleavened bread.  During this seder Yeshua would turn the focus from the past to the present and future.  He used one cup of wine to offer a marriage covenant to his disciples.  As they shared the cup of wine together, they became his betrothed bride.   With the second cup of wine, he took the unleavened bread and explained the bride price would be his broken body and blood.   His death would be ‘the death of the firstborn’ and his blood would bring in the new covenant promised by the prophet Jeremiah. 

Matthew records that ‘when evening came Yeshua reclined with his disciples’. He talked with his disciples and his words are recorded in Matthew 26, Mark 14 , Luke 22, John 14-16.  After the meal, they went out to the Mount of Olives.  Yeshua prayed.   He asked that the final cup of Passover 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 arrive in the darkness with the high priest.  They arrest him,  take him to the Sanhedrin and to Pilate.  Before sunrise, Peter denies Yeshua three times.  The crowds want him 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 first month, (Tuesday evening to Wednesday evening) were completed.  Yeshua gives up his spirit with the words “It is finished.”  The Passover’s final Cup of Completion, the death of the Lamb of God, was poured out at the exact same time the priests were offering the last Passover sacrifice at the Temple before sunset on Wednesday.

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life” (Matthew 27:51-52).

A Little More Confusion

“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 start at the same time, Yeshua would have celebrated the actual dates and appointed times of Passover and Unleavened Bread no matter what the traditions.  Even though unleavened bread was eaten at Passover, the two ‘appointed times’ have  different timings and purposes.

The LORD’s Passover was the fourteenth day of the first month.  It began in the evening at twilight and lasted until the next evening.  Historically, the Israelites did not kill the Passover lamb and then suddenly leave Egypt.  They had to wait throughout the night for the ‘death of the firstborn’ until the next day when they prepared to leave Egypt.   On the fifteenth day, Israel left Egypt.

“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).

There are those who say that Yeshua could not celebrate Passover AND be the Passover sacrifice at the same time, however, there were evening, morning and afternoon sacrifices every day.   At the evening sacrifice of Passover, he celebrated the 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 quickly buried before the evening sacrifice that began the Feast of  Unleavened Bread.

Because our calendar differs from the Biblical calendar, Passover falls on a different day each year.  This means that there needs to be a way to figure out when to celebrate the most significant event of all time, the Resurrection of Messiah on the Feast of Firstfruits.  Obviously, the Feast of Firstfruits must come after Passover and, according to Scripture, it has to fall on a ‘first day of the week’ after the weekly Sabbath.   So, if Passover falls on a Thursday, the following Sunday will be the Feast of Firstfruits because there is a weekly Sabbath between the two.  If Passover falls on the Sabbath, an entire week must pass before celebrating Feast of Firstfruits.

The Three Days and Three Nights Unfold

In the year that Yeshua died, was buried and then resurrected,  he celebrated the Passover (fourteenth day of the first 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 in late afternoon Wednesday at the exact time of the final Passover sacrifice.    He was buried  before the sun set while it was still the preparation day for Unleavened Bread, a sabbath.

Wednesday evening to Saturday evening, the first ‘three nights and three days’ of Unleavened Bread,  his followers mourned.  A Roman centurion pondered why he felt the earth shake and knew at that moment that Yeshua was truly the Son of God.  Mockers who had seen the sign, “The King of the Jews”  were wondering why many who had died were walking around Jerusalem.    Peter and John and the rest of the disciples went into hiding for fear of their own lives.  The women who followed Yeshua went home grieving.  They prepared spices knowing they had to wait until after the Sabbath to 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 Messiah, it was a long three days and nights.  It seemed like an eternity.

After resting on the weekly 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 a 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 in the distance.  It was the Feast of Firstfruits.    After a long, confusing, heart-wrenching week of Passover, and then 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 were so excited they wanted to touch their Rabbi, but he needed to return to his Father.    The women obeyed his command and went to the disciples with the amazing news that ‘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 weeks began.  What could possibly happen on the Feast of Weeks?

©2004 Tent Stake Ministries (For hard copy and more teachings like this, read Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.)

Yeshua’s Last Week Chart

2 Responses to “Sign of Jonah: Three Days and Three Nights”

  • EliyahuK says:

    It’s good you are looking into this, as I myself have for many years, due to the confusion you point out is there. Many are making several errors concerning these things, here is a list of the false premises people are making. 1) the phrase “first (day) of the week” contains three errors in each occurrence. These errors lead to the presumption that it means ‘sunday’, and they naturally concluded that the day he died was not before the weekly Sabbath, which in fact it was (Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:31). Next they are not familiar with Shabbat haGadol (John 19:31), what it is, when it occurs, and what it’s purpose is. Next is the presumption that the day of the wave sheaf offering is a feast, which it is not. Nowhere in the Torah is any feast other than feast of weeks called the feast of “firstfruits” (Ex 23:16;34:22).
    Compounded with these known errors is the fact that Messiah said many times that he would rise on the THIRD DAY of the week. The feast of Unleavened Bread is always the third week of the first month of the year, and it is the THIRD Day of the third week of Aviv (Nisan; 1:17) that he rose. This is Aviv 17, and the three days and three nights mentioned in (Matthew 12:40-41) quote from John 1:17, preceded it (Aviv 14,15,16) being the days Yeshua’s body was in the tomb. As Aviv 15 is the first day of Unleavened Bread, and Aviv 14 is the day the lambs are killed, it was the Sabbath followed by the first day of the feast. Yeshua died on the 6th day, no other, and rose after three days and three nights, on Aviv 17. This is the only chronology that fits all of Scripture, and all others must adjust to it, or be found guilty of preaching a false gospel that brings a curse Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Cor. 15:1-4.

    • Yahulia says:

      Thank you for reading the article that I wrote to disprove a Good Friday to Easter Sunday death and resurrection of Messiah. There are many different ways to interpret three days and three nights according to Scripture. My interpretation was using a 24-hour period not 1 hour of one day being a full day. Also, Yeshua said ‘on the third day’ not specifically ‘the third day of the week’.

      The Feast of Firstfruits was given in Leviticus as one of the ‘mo’edim’ which are referred to as Feasts though it seems that you already understand that it is an ‘appointed time’ not specifically a designated feast. Some even consider Yom Kippur a ‘feast day’ and it’s a day for denying oneself, and another ‘appointed time.’ As for the Sabbath HaGadol, that is merely a tradition of men making the Sabbath during a feast week ‘more special’ than a regular Sabbath. As I mentioned in the article, God never called the first day of Unleavened Bread a sabbath, tradition did that so I do not include or consider either the first day or the last day of Unleavened Bread as the aforementioned weekly Sabbath. I believe that the ‘first day of the week’ after the Sabbath that the women rested according to the command at the time of the resurrection as just that, the first day of the week we call Sunday or Yom Rishon that falls after the weekly Sabbath.

      I appreciate that you took time and thought into this but I ask that you simply pray for those who are trying to understand that Jesus didn’t celebrate a catholic holy week, but a Jewish season known as Passover, Unleavened Bread culminating in his resurrection and his ascension to offer himself as our Firstfruits offering. The most important aspect of the discussion is that Yeshua rose from the dead (according to the ‘sign’ he gave) as the Firstfruits of the resurrection giving us all hope in being resurrected as well.

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