The Resurrection of Jesus in
Did the resurrection
fulfill the prophecy of Jonah?
by Dr. David
The most significant
prophecy in the Bible concerning the resurrection of Jesus is
known as "the prophecy of Jonah." It is a symbolic prophecy represented
by the three days and three nights that Jonah spent in the stomach
of a great fish (Jonah 1:17).
the prophetic symbolism of this unique event on an occasion when
He rebuked the Pharisees for seeking a "sign" from Him. By a "sign,"
they meant a miracle that would validate Jesus' claim to be the
The Prophecy's Meaning
Jesus took their
word and played with it by telling them that the only "sign" they
would be given would be "the sign of Jonah." Jesus then proceeded
to explain what He was talking
about: "for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the
belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days
and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:38-40)
and distinctly prophesies here, using the example of Jonah, that
He will spend three days and three nights in the tomb before His
resurrection will occur.
like all Messianic prophecies, had to be fulfilled in the life
of Jesus if He truly was the Messiah of God. Jesus emphasized
this point Himself after His resurrection when He told His disciples,
"All things which are written about Me in the law of Moses and
the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." (Luke 24:44)
The Prophecy vs. Tradition
But was the prophecy
of Jonah really fulfilled in the burial experience of Jesus? According
to the traditionally accepted chronology of events, it was not!
chronology places the crucifixion on Friday morning and the burial
on late Friday afternoon. It fixes the resurrection on Sunday
morning. Thus, according to the traditional view, the body of
Jesus was in the tomb only one full day (Saturday) and two full
nights (Friday and Saturday). Jesus said His body would be in
the tomb three days and three nights.
been many attempts to reconcile the problem that is raised here
by the divergence between the prophecy and the traditional view
of its fulfillment, but all the attempts I have read have always
fallen short of producing a true fulfillment of the prophecy.
Jesus said all Messianic prophecy had to be fulfilled in Him,
and I believe He meant every detail of every Messianic prophecy.
Otherwise, it could be argued that He was not the Messiah.
The Source of the Problem
the events in the last week of Jesus' life to see if we can find
some clues that will solve the problem. Perhaps the best place to
begin is with the problem itself. It is rooted in Mark 15:42 where
it says that the crucifixion took place on "the day of preparation
before the Sabbath."
has led most people to assume that the crucifixion took place
on a Friday since the Jewish Sabbath is Saturday. And that assumption
has in turn led to the conclusion that the crucifixion had to
take place in either 30 or 33 AD because those are the only two
years in the general time period of Jesus' death when the day
of preparation (14 Nisan on the Jewish calendar) fell on a Friday.
Peculiarities of the Jewish
A careful study
of Jewish calendar practices will show that the assumption that
the day of preparation in the year of Jesus' death had to fall on
a Friday is invalid! Such an assumption is based upon Gentile ignorance
about Jewish feast days.
What the Gentile
church has failed to recognize over the centuries is that the
first day after Passover (15 Nisan) is a feast day, or "high day"
because it is the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
It is therefore considered to be a Sabbath, regardless of which
day of the week on which it falls. Read Numbers 28:16-18. Verse
18 clearly indicates that the first day after Passover, Nisan
15, is to be observed as a Sabbath - and so it has been throughout
Jewish history to this day.
Now, the Gospel
of John makes it clear that the Sabbath after the crucifixion
was not a regular Sabbath. Rather, it was a feast day Sabbath,
marking the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Consider
the words of John 19:31 - "The Jews, therefore, because it was
the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not remain on
the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked
Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be
Solving the Problem
Again, the point
of all this is that Jesus did not have to be killed on a Friday
in order for His crucifixion to precede the Sabbath because there
could have been two Sabbaths during the week of His crucifixion,
depending on what day of the week the high feast day fell on. If
it fell on Saturday, then there was only one Sabbath. But if it
fell on another day of the week, as it usually does, there would
be two Sabbaths.
Take the year
31 AD for example. In that year the 14th of Nisan, the Passover
day on which Jesus would have been crucified, fell on Wednesday,
April 25th. The next day, Thursday, would have been the high feast
day, and therefore it would have been a Sabbath.
Thus, if Jesus
was crucified in the year 31, He would have been crucified on
Wednesday and buried that evening before the high feast day Sabbath
began. His body would have remained in the tomb for three days
(Thursday, Friday and Saturday) and three nights (Wednesday, Thursday
and Friday), just as He predicted. That means His resurrection
would have taken place on Saturday evening, April 28th. To the
Jew, that would place the Lord's resurrection on Sunday, the first
day of the week, because the Jewish day begins at sundown.
The Crucial Clue
There is a clue
in the Scriptures that the crucifixion week had two Sabbaths. In
Mark 15:47 we are told that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of
James remained at the tomb after Jesus had been buried.
In Mark 16:1
it says that the two of them bought spices to anoint the body
of Jesus after the Sabbath was over. But in Luke 23:56 it says
they bought the spices before the Sabbath and then rested on the
Sabbath before proceeding to the tomb on Sunday morning.
to be only one explanation of the apparent contradiction in these
verses. After resting on the high day Sabbath on Thursday, the
ladies bought the spices on Friday and then rested again on the
regular weekly Sabbath on Saturday before proceeding to the tomb
on Sunday morning. This explains how they could have bought the
spices both before and after the Sabbath. They bought them after
the high Sabbath on Thursday but before the regular Sabbath on
An Amazing Corroboration
fact that also indicates that the resurrection occurred in 31 AD
is to be found in the writings of Josephus, the first century Jewish
historian. He says the last Jubilee that was celebrated in the land
(before the Roman conquest in 70 AD) began in the fall of 27 AD.
most likely marks the beginning of Jesus' ministry, for His ministry
was a symbolic fulfillment of the Jubilee promises. This is indicated
by the scripture that Jesus read in the synagogue in Nazareth
when He launched His public ministry (Luke 4:16-24 & Isaiah
Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach
the Gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to
the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free
those who are downtrodden, To proclaim the favorable year of the
It is commonly
agreed that the ministry of Jesus lasted 3 1/2 years. A launching
date in the fall of 27 AD to coincide with the beginning of the
Jubilee would place His death in the spring of 31 AD - the year
in which the Passover week had two Sabbaths.
A Final Problem
of controversy about the resurrection week concerns the nature of
the Lord's last supper with His disciples. The church has traditionally
taught that this was the Passover meal. But the scriptures clearly
indicate that the meal was eaten the evening before Passover.
crucified on the day of preparation for the Passover. In fact,
He died at three o'clock in the afternoon at the precise moment
that the Passover lambs were beings slaughtered for the Passover
meal that evening (Matthew 27:45-46). Jesus and His disciples
had eaten their last meal together the evening before Passover.
Yet, Jesus referred to His last meal with His disciples as "keeping
the Passover" (Matthew 26:18). So, it must have been a Passover
meal that was celebrated one evening early.
Harold Hoehner of Dallas Theological Seminary has proposed a solution
to this problem. He says there is evidence that the Galilean Jews
reckoned time differently from the Judean Jews. Whereas the Judean
Jews counted a day from sunset to sunset, the Galilean Jews, according
to Hoehner, counted a day from sunrise to sunrise. If this is
true, then Jesus and His disciples, being Galileans, would have
celebrated Passover one evening earlier than their Jewish brethren
in the Jerusalem area. (See "Chronological Aspects of the Life
of Christ" by Harold W. Hoehner.)
A Summary of the Order of Events
1) Jesus and
His disciples ate the Passover meal on a Tuesday evening (April
24th) in the Upper Room on Mount Zion.
Regarding the Death, Burial and Resurrection
of Jesus in 31 AD
2) After the
Passover meal, Jesus and His disciples departed the Upper Room
and walked to the Garden of Gethsemane in the Kidron Valley between
the Old City and the Mount of Olives.
3) Jesus was
betrayed and arrested early Tuesday evening. His various trials
lasted throughout Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.
4) Jesus was
crucified at about 9:00 am on Wednesday morning (April 25th).
At noon, darkness filled the land. At about 3:00 pm Jesus died.
5) Jesus was
buried on Wednesday about sunset.
6) The two
Marys waited until after the high Sabbath on Thursday (April 26th)
to purchase the spices for the anointing of Jesus' body. They
bought the spices on Friday (April 27th) and then rested again
during the regular Sabbath on Saturday (April 28th) before returning
to the tomb on Sunday morning (April 29th).
7) The resurrection
of Jesus occurred on Saturday evening (Sunday by Judean reckoning
of time). The resurrection was discovered on Sunday morning when
the women returned to the tomb.
What Difference Does It Make?
Lest you be tempted
to write all this off as much ado about nothing, let me explain
why I think it is important. Prophecy and its fulfillment validate
Jesus as who He said He was - namely, God in the flesh. Prophecy
and its fulfillment also validate the Bible as the inspired Word
of God. Prophecy must be fulfilled precisely, not approximately.
fulfillment of prophecy regarding the First Coming of Jesus is
our assurance that all the prophecies regarding His Second Coming
will also be fulfilled completely to the last detail. God will
not forget or overlook anything. He is true to His Word. He keeps