Was Jesus in the Grave Three Days and Three Nights? Here’s How It Adds Up

In Matthew 12:38-41, we read about how some of the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign that he really was who he said he was: the Messiah. Jesus responded that only one sign would be given to them: the “sign of the prophet Jonah.”

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.

Here’s the problem: If Jesus died on Good Friday and rose on Easter Sunday, that doesn’t add up to 3 days and 3 nights. At most it adds up to 2.5 days and 2 nights.

So… does that mean that Jesus didn’t stay in the grave long enough to fulfill his own prophecy?

Nope. Jesus really was in the grave three days and three nights, which is why the early Christians also taught that he was raised on the third day (Acts 10:40, 1 Corinthians 15:4). Let me explain how it adds up, but be prepared: it’s going to change the way you think about “Good Friday.”

Some Basics to Start With

  1. The Jewish calendar is lunar (based on the cycles of the moon), whereas the Roman calendar (which we use) is solar (based on the rotation of the Earth around the Sun). As a result, they don’t always correspond, hence the reason why the date of Easter changes every year. Today in Western Christianity, Easter is celebrated on the Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon. For more on why the date of Easter changes each year, click here.
  2. We tend to think of the new day beginning when we wake up, but in the Jewish mindset, the new day begins at sunset. So, when the sun sets on Monday, it is not considered Monday evening, it is considered the beginning of Tuesday.
  3. We know that Jesus resurrected on a Sunday, “the first day of the week” (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2,9; Luke 24:1)

What is a “Sabbath”?

The word sabbath means “rest,” and it refers to a holy day when no work is to be done.

Every Saturday is a sabbath, but there are other sabbaths as well – also known as “special Sabbaths.” Some of these “special Sabbaths” are celebrated on a specific calendar date, no matter what day of the week that date falls on – kind of like how we in the USA celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July, and we observe that holiday no matter what day of the week it falls on.

In John 19:31, we read this about the day when Jesus was crucified:

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders 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.

The special Sabbath referred to here was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a holiday which is always observed on the 15th day of Nisan according to the Jewish calendar.

According to Leviticus 24:4-14, there are three special holidays in the month of Nisan: Passover (the 14th of Nisan), the Feast of Unleavened Bread (15-22 of Nisan) and the Feast of First Fruits which was held on the Sunday following the Passover.

Let’s Sum This Up

Jesus actually died on a Thursday. Friday and Saturday were both sabbaths: Friday was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Saturday was the weekly sabbath.

Jewish Month of Nisan

How can we be sure that this is what happened?

Several decades ago, the London Royal Observatory took on the challenge that since they could theoretically identify the position of the planets and start on any date in history, to figure out if around the time of Jesus there was such a time when Passover fell on a Thursday. Since the Jewish calendar is lunar, there is always a full moon on Passover, so this is pretty easy to figure out. Not surprisingly, there were several years around the time of Jesus when this took place. It’s really not that uncommon – just like how Christmas falls on a Tuesday every few years.

Even More Interesting…”Coincidences”?

According to Exodus 12:1-13, God told the Israelites that they were to select the Passover Lamb on the 10th day of Nisan. They were to examine it from the 11th to the 13th to make sure it was without blemish, and they were to sacrifice it on the 14th.

If the 14th was Thursday – and Jesus was crucified on “the day of Preparation” (Matthew 27:62, Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, John 19:31) which was the day when Passover began and the celebration began with the eating of the Passover meal (Jesus and his disciples then would have eaten the last supper Passover meal on Wednesday evening). Then what this means is that when Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, that was on the 10th of Nisan – the day when the Passover lambs were to be selected!

Furthermore, remember that the Sunday after Passover was the Feast of First Fruits (Leviticus 23:9-11) – which means that Jesus resurrected on the Feast of First Fruits. This is what Paul the Apostle is making direct reference to in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, where he says:

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

So there you have it:

Jesus was indeed in the grave for three days and three nights. It really wasn’t that much of an anomaly, but it resulted in two sabbaths back to back – something which regularly happens every few years.

So “Good Friday” was actually on Thursday, “Maundy Thursday” was actually on Wednesday, and “Holy Saturday” was actually two days long.

However, it is incredible to see how God orchestrated and prepared for this to happen as it did for thousands of years before it happened. In reality, the Bible tells us that God had planned this whole thing out from eternity past (see Revelation 13:8) – and all of it so that you may have life in His name by believing! (John 20:31)

Note: this post draws largely from the work of Jack Kelley, “Solving the Three Day Three Night Mystery” 

19 thoughts on “Was Jesus in the Grave Three Days and Three Nights? Here’s How It Adds Up

      1. I could be wrong, but this looks very similar to the post by Jack Kelley and you have also included his wife’s graphic – so, any chance you could footnote that and give them credit.
        Just a thought.

  1. It is the metaphor of the 12 disciples and the Son of God, aka, the 12 disc, the 12 posts of apostles of the Sun of God.

    That is why easter is always refer back to the planetary movement of the Sun and moon.

    The 1st sign is Aries, the Lamb of God, the head, that controls the 11 parts of the body. It is period of celebration after the Sun crosses the March Equinox every year, away from the death of winter. Lamb is specifically chosen instead of sheep as the metaphor, because the people born in this period are child-like, and the season of Spring is full of activities, it is the beginning of spring, the start of the period where people sow their seeds and reap it in the month of Virgo.

    That is why Matthew 18:4
    “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

    Why child? It is refering to the head, Aries, the 1st sign. That is why we metaphorically say “He is the head of the sales department” or “He is the head of the company”, the no 1. The lamb of God, not the sheep. Lamb is young child of sheep.

    All ancients texts describe in metaphor. When you say, “It is raining cats and dogs”, it is NOT literally having cats and dogs raining from the sky. It means raining heavily. When you say, “Hold your horses”, it is not literally grabbing or holding a horse. It means to stop being impulsive and observe the situation before making a decision.

    But what literalists have done is corrupting the truth by understanding it literally.

    Why do they always carrying or sacrificing lamb at this period or replacing it with turkey for convenience? They have lost its way by sacrificing animals unnecessarily. It is a metaphor. When the Sun transit between 21st March and 19th April, Aries, the lamb of God is sacrificed. It is not literal sacrifice.

    It is a metaphor of the Ram, the zodiac Aries aka, Arise, where, the 30 degree Aries is attributed to Sun on March Equinox as well as Arise at 6am to 8am or 7am to 9am, depending on your geographical location.

    No animal sacrificed required. In fact the people who were working at the ancient churches and temples were all vegetarian. They raised their beautiful Christos oil right up to their head to awakened their mind.

    Ra is the Sun in ancient Egypt. That is why we use words like RAys, RAdiant, RAinbow, RAising, rising and right. It is refering that the archtype, metaphor & the meaning of the Sun.

    It is all happening worldwide as well. Sri Rama is held on every year on the 15th of april on many Asian countries, while Songkran, the Water festival in Sankrit means passing, is to signify the cleansing and celebration on every 13th April till 15th April before the Sun passes into the tropic of Cancer for 6 months in Spring and Summer. See the path of the Sun in any Analemma photos, that shows the figure 8 of the Sun in the sky. Just google it.

    In fact, Easter will ALWAYS be held on the first Sunday after the 1st Full Moon, and on or after the march/vernal equinox. It is astrological. If it us not astrological, then why Easter follow the phase of the moon? The bible is pure metaphor and stories of the astrological understanding, just like any other worldwide. Wake up & learn the truth.

    The kingdom of God is refering to the Animal kingdom, the zoo, the ZOdiac. It is called Mazzaroth in your bible. Sunset is refering the metaphor of Set-an as in Satan in darkness. The opposition of Ra, the Sun is Set in ancient egypt. Google it. While, SunRise is attributed to Ra, the Sun, the Raising, the Rising, the right path of the Sun that moves from left to right always.

    It is clearly astrotheology. Time to wake up. That is why when you or your parents write a will, it cannot be changed. The will of God is the “wheel” of God, the wheel of the zodiac, where your characters, habits and temperament don’t changed. It can only be reduced or increased, minimized or expanded, revealed or hidden, based on your on “wheel” written in the Zoodiac, in the sky, the heavens.

    Go and think. Why Nissan has its logo of the RAising Sun on the horizon, on the 1st month of Nisan of the ecclesiastical year in Jewish calendar around March & April? Aries, the Lamb of God, the head, the no 1 in the zodiac sign.

    What I comment is just the tip of the iceberg as there is no way to write a complete library here in a comment. All of us need to wake up collectively. Check out the works of Bill Donahue & Santos Bonacci and open your mind to understand.

    1. Yep, that’s just about the wackiest thing I’ve ever read. How about instead of wild speculation about astrology, you just study the scriptures? Btw: there neither is nor ever has been anything called “Astro-theology”.

  2. Why then do we continually use the word Easter which doesn’t have anything to do with death and resurrection of Christ but pagan in itself?

  3. nice explanation but isn’t 1 day still missing, in the grave (the way jews calculate) friday night / day friday, saturday night / day saturday , sunday night / resurrection morning to you hence 3 nights and 2 day?

  4. Shalom. It seems to me that you are missing something here … something that seems very obvious to me, and many others. To step back, I had to look at this timing as if I had not been taught anything about good friday or sunday sunrise. The wording seems to say that His body was in the ground before the High Sabbath … the first day of Unleavened, as you mention. This would be Wednesday night/Thursday day. They then rested on the that High Sabbath. The next day was the weekly preparation day … what is known as Thursday night/Friday day. This is when the ladies prepared the spices. They then rested on the weekly Sabbath … Friday night/Saturday day. At the end of the Sabbath, when the first day of the week was dawning or beginning, they went to the grave and found it empty. This would have been Saturday night, not Sunday morning. Having lived in Israel, it is similar today. People rest on the Sabbath but as soon as the Sabbath is over, everything busts loose on Saturday night. I can not fathom that these people would wait until morning, when the Sabbath was over Saturday night. So, count with me … Wednesday evening to Sabbath evening is exactly three days and three nights … just as the Messiah said.

    1. Tom, you make a good argument. However, the text of the Gospels says that it took place on the morning of the first day of the week (Sunday). Here’s what it says:
      “And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.” (Mark 16:2)
      “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.” (Luke 24:1)

      1. You’re correct. I put too much emphasis on when they came to the tomb, based on modern activities. The point we all agree on is that the Messiah had risen before they got there. I still can’t see how you can get three days and three nights if He was killed on Thursday afternoon/evening. The end of Friday afternoon/evening would be one full day. The end of “Sabbath” afternoon/evening would be two complete days. The end of Sunday afternoon/evening would be the third day. What you are saying would only be two days and two nights, or am I missing something?

      2. 1) Thursday (day and night), 2) Friday (day and night), 3) Saturday (day and night).
        Don’t let your (correct) insight that Jews consider a day (such as the Sabbath) to begin at sunset to take away from the simple reading of 3 days and 3 nights.

      3. Thank you for your response. But you are saying that He wasn’t in the ground during the day of Thursday. If he was put in the grave at the end of Thursday day, 72 hours later would be the end of Sunday day. In addition, if Friday and “Saturday” were both sabbaths, you don’t have a preparation day that the ladies prepared the spices … after resting on the sabbath.

      4. The problem is that he couldn’t be in the ground on Thursday, with a “High Sabbath day” … a prep day … and then the weekly sabbath day. Counting backwards, that would have him in the ground at the end of Wednesday day. Believe me, many people have had to work through this … myself included … and have come to different conclusions.

  5. Nisan 10 is lamb selection day which corresponds to Jesus triumphal entry on what we call Palm Sunday. That put Nisan 14 on Thursday. That means both Fri and Sat were a Sabbath. Luke 23:56 doesn’t read well with no time except Sat evening after sundown to prepare the spices and so forth for Jesus’ body.

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