Posts Tagged ‘crucifixion’

The Fish that Fried Good Friday

Good Friday will soon be here , the day most Christians choose to remember that Jesus Christ went to the cross of Calvary to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world. Truly the most important thing is THAT He died for us and rose again the third day and that we can have eternal life as a free gift through faith in Him. However, there is something “fishy” about Friday. Jesus said in Matthew 12:40 “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.” This verse plainly says that Jesus would be “three days AND three nights” in the grave. If you count from Friday to Sunday morning, you just cannot come up with three days and three nights, even if you use “New Math.” The following is a non-traditional explanation.

The fish is not the only part of this scaly problem. In these verses, Matt 26:18; Mark 14:14; Luke 22:8-15, the Bible plainly states that Jesus ate the passover with his disciples before he was captured but in John 18:28, it says that the Jews refused to go into Pilate’s palace because they did not want to be unclean and thus miss out on eating the passover, a meal they should have already eaten the day before, the same day that Jesus ate it.

Traditionally, the problem of the three days has been explained this way. The Jews had a tradition that any part of a day counted as the whole day. In the words of Rabbi Elazar ben Axaryah, “A day and a night are an Onah, and the portion of a Onah is the whole of it.” Onah is the Hebrew word for a portion of time. This neatly explains all the verses that speak of “three days,” like Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34; Matt 27:63; John 2:19. It also takes care of verses that refer to “the third day,” Matt 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 27:64; Luke 9:22; 13:32; 18:33; 24:7,21,46;Acts 10:40; and 1Cor 15:4.

It gets fishy when you throw Matthew 12:40 into the mix. William Graham Scroggie in his book “A Guide to the Gospels” stated, “When the number of nights is stated as well as the number of days, the expression ceases to be an idiom and becomes a literal statement of fact.” Jesus was to be in the grave “three days AND three nights.” We can’t just throw this fish back.

The time element is also bothersome. There was a lot of activity between the time that Jesus actually died and the time that His resurrection was discovered. There was dialog between the Jews and Pilate about removing the bodies from the Cross. The thieves’ legs were broken. The centurion talked with Pilate about the death of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathaea met with Pilate and requested the body of Jesus and at some point went to the market to buy linen. Nicodemus took time to acquire 75 pounds of ointments for the burial and later met up with Joseph to retrieve and embalm the body. The women went to the market and bought the raw material for spices which they later prepared at home by cooking them. This is a partial list of the twenty different events that took place. All of them took time. If Jesus was crucified on Friday, there would only be about three hours to accomplish it all. Remember, no work could be done on the Sabbath and the markets would be closed.

So, how do we solve the problem of the fish? The answer is in John 19:31. Now it was the day of preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. (John 19:31 NIV)

Jesus died on Passover the 14th of the Jewish month of Nisan, it was the preparation day of the Sabbath. John is the only writer that points out that this Sabbath was a “special Sabbath.” The KJV reads ,”…for that sabbath day was an high day.” The fact is that the 14th could be any day of the week and the day following the 14th was always a Sabbath since it was the 1st day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:4-7). To add to our confusion the Jews marked their days from Sundown to Sundown instead of using the Roman calendar. So, using the Roman calendar to aid in our understanding, Jesus ate the passover meal with his disciples on Tuesday evening which to the Jews was the beginning of the 14th. He was crucified on Wednesday the 14th and died around 3 P.M. Joseph and Nicodemus negotiated for His body and He was taken from the cross, wrapped in a single piece of linen cloth ( grk – sindon – Matt 27:59 singular) and laid in the tomb all before sundown. Thursday was the special Sabbath. The women and all concerned had a full day to recover a little bit from the shock of the events that occurred on Wednesday. On Friday, Joseph returned to the tomb and replaced the single piece linen with proper burial bandages (grk – othonia John 19:40 plural) using a separate piece for Jesus’ head. This was when the 75 pounds of ointment were used. The women had time on this day to cook up their spices. At some point, the tomb was sealed and the guard was set. Saturday was the regular Sabbath and every one rested again. Early Sunday morning the women took their spices to the tomb and found it empty on the 1st day of the week.

This explanation solves the problem of the fish in Matt 12:40, and it allows enough time for all the events to take place. Traditionally Saducees dined on the 14th and Pharisees dined on the 15th, which could explain the Jews concern about being unclean. There were also several other special meals during the Passover week that had this requirement.

So… Big Deal… the whole world celebrates Good Friday. Why should we even worry about it. Some skeptics are quick to point out the apparent contradictions in time. Others try to say that Jesus didn’t really die but only swooned on the cross. The “three days and nights” buries that idea. As Christians we should study carefully and have an answer for every man that asks us the reason of the hope that is in us. (1Pet 3:15) Also, when asked for a special sign of his authority, His burial and resurrection is the only sign that Jesus gave. We should know how to properly explain it even though we enjoy our Good Friday celebrations.

Matthew 12:40 “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.”

Passover Chart

Christ was Crucified on Wednesday.