Pop quiz: How many days was Jesus in the tomb?
a) One and a half
c) Three or
d) This is a trick question so I will first read the article and then decide.
Your average “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” contestant would pick “three days final answer” without blinking. Everyone knows Jesus rose on the third day. But that’s not the question. How many days was he actually in the grave? The answer is one and a half days. Or three, depending on if you are a modern Swiss watchmaker or a 1st century Jewish gospel writer.
Put on your Swiss horologist cap for a moment: Jesus died on Good Friday at about 3pm (see Luke 23:44, which calls the time of death at the ninth hour after sunrise). Joseph of Arimathea lays him in the tomb before sundown, and the women interrupt their plans to embalm the body because the Sabbath begins at dusk on Friday. These ladies arrive at the empty tomb at the crack of dawn on Easter Sunday. So that makes for about thirty-six hours or so that Jesus was in the tomb.
An echt Swiss engineer would balk at guesstimating, but if you and I were to round “thirty-six or so hours” off to how many days, we’d probably settle for “a day and a half” or at most “two days.” Right?
Now, let’s say our watchmaker has his quiet time in Matthew 12 before bedtime. He wouldn’t have a good night’s rest after reading Jesus predict, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”(Matt 12:40).
Let’s just fess up: Jesus was not in the tomb three days and three nights. So what gives?