The length of time Jesus was in the grave was significant at the time He was crucified, and it still is today. Jesus understands the link of night and day counting in His time? As a born Jew (John 11:9) Are there not twelve hours in the day. We must have in mind that the Jewish hourly counting starts from sunset to sunset as in (Gen.1:4-7) God created the day from the night. Thus the Roman time setting starts from Midnight to midnight, which the world is using in accordance with the words of Prophet Daniel that He will change the time and laws of the most High God(Daniel 7:25)
The amount of time Jesus spent in the grave was important to the disciples, to the first century church, and especially to Jesus accusers. The gospel provided insights to the significance Jesus disciples and accuser attached to His prediction of three days and three nights entombment.
First, consider the importance of Jesus accusers attached to his statement that He would rise from dead after three days. Matthew 27:62-64 reports that the chief priest and the Pharisees went to Pilate on the following day following Jesus crucifixion and burial. The requested that a guard be placed at Jesus tomb so one could steal the body and claimed that He had resurrected. They petitioned Pilate, ‘’Sir, we remembered that while He was still alive, that deceiver said, ‘after three days I will rise again’’ Give the order for the tomb to be secured until the third day. Otherwise, His disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that He has been raised from the dead’’ (Matthew 27:63-64).
The Jewish leaders quoted Jesus accurately when they said, after three days I will rise again (v.63), but they went on to ignore the fulfillment of the Jesus sign that they had demanded. Upon hearing the report of the guards who were present at the tomb when the Angel came down and rolled away the stone to reveal an empty grave, the leaders resorted to bribery. They gave the guards a large sum of money to falsely testify that Jesus disciples had taken His body while they were sleeping during the night (28:11-15) .
The second incident in which the period of Jesus entombment of three days and nights held great importance is reported in Luke 24:13-35.
This text tells of two disheartened disciples on their way from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus, on the first day of the week following Jesus resurrection. As they walked along, Jesus join them, but they did not recognize Him.
Jesus asked the men what they were discussing. They replied, Concerning the Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty indeed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priest and the rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified Him.
But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeem Israel: and besides all this, today is the third day since those things were done (vv.19-21)
Critics of the doctrine of Jesus three days entombment often cite this passage as proof that Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday morning. When further examined, however, this difficult text validates Jesus prediction that He would be in the grave for three days and three nights. The statement ‘’Beside all this , today is the third day since these things were done’’(v. 21) Is most important to this study .What is included in the words ‘’Beside all this’’? the two events specifically mentioned in the previous verse(20)- the chief priests handing Christ over to death and His crucifixion- would surely be included’’ Since these things were done’’ of verse 21.It is likely that the two deciples had in mind other pertinent events as well, like the late- day burial of Jesus(Luke 23:53,54) and the posting of guards at the tomb on the following day(Matthew 27:62-66). If so, then the count for ’’ today is the third day since these things were done ‘’ of verse 21, would have begun the day after His crucifixion.
It appeared to these forlorn disciples that their hope in Jesus as ‘’The one who was going to redeem Israel’’ was doomed because of his death on the cross. Their doubts about Jesus’’ Identity were magnified by the fact that they had Jesus predict that He would rise from the dead after three days. Now after that period had expired ,they lacked firm evidence that He had risen. They reported,’’ in addition , some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said He was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see’’ (vv.22-24).
Archibald Robertson explained their reason for disbelief by identifying the Greek phrase triten tauten hemeran agei as an idiom, difficult to translate. He rendered it, “One is keeping this a third day. And he is still dead and we are still without hope.”
Marvin Vincent says of verse 21 of the KJV, “today is the third day.” The best texts omit today. The phrase forms an idiom that cannot be neatly rendered. Literally it is, “He(Christ) is passing this day as the third.”
These two bewildered disciples had evidently heard Jesus say, “The son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again”( Luke 24:7). Now, even in the face of women’s report that the tomb was empty, they were having difficult believing Jesus had risen from the dead. They had not seen Jesus! They believed that the three days and nights had expired, and they had no assurance that He lived. The disciples despaired because their hope that Jesus was the redeemer appeared to be groundless (v.21).
Happily, Jesus revealed Himself to them, and perplexity turned from unbelief into belief and great joy (vv.25-320. They declared, “It is true! The Lord has risen”(v.34). John 2:33 says, “After he was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had said.”
Consider that if Jesus had been crucified on Friday, the apprehension of these two disciples about Jesus resurrection occurring after three days would have been premature. Sunday would have been the literal second day of Jesus entombment. If the three days and three nights were an idiom, Sunday would have been the third day. But as the disciples walked along to Emmaus, the third day had not passed, and the test of Jesus sign would not have been completed.
A basic rule in interpreting the bible is to let more difficult or obscure texts be interpreted by exits that are clear and easily understood. Luke 24:21 is a difficult verse because it is an idiom, indefinite in regard to “since these things were done”. However, Jesus prediction that he would not lie in the grave for three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40) is not an idiom and is easily understood. Therefore the disciple’s reference to the “third day”, as they walked towards Emmaus, should be understood in the context that Jesus gave it (Luke 24:7). It’s obvious meaning was regarding the duration of Jesus entombment, and they evidently considered that the third had already passed.
On a later occasion, doubtful and frightened disciples were encouraged by the words of Jesus, who appeared among them and said, “this is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day” (Luke 24:46).
Luke cites another occasion where frightened and dismayed women were reminded of the prophecy of the duration of Jesus’ entombment. In Luke 24:5-8 two men (angels, v.23) addressed the women who visited the empty tomb after Jesus’ resurrection. They said, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he is risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘the son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.”
In each of these gospel accounts, the “third day” is inseparable from the crucifixion and resurrection of the messiah. If the duration of Jesus’ entombment was unimportant, why was it mentioned in the instances where His resurrection is of primary concern? The time element is motioned in every gospel text where Jesus made his impending death and resurrection was under discussion.
It is evident that the three days of entombment were taken seriously by both friends and foes of Jesus who were prepared to act upon it in one way or another.
Finally, the early church took the three days and three nights seriously as a part of its witness to the gospel. Peter included this fact in His declaration of Jesus as messiah to Cornelius. Peter declared, “They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day” (acts 10:39, 40).
Paul repeated the same facts in rehearsing the basic elements of the gospel of Christ to the Corinthian church, “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, “that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures”( 1 Corinthians 15:3,4).
While the three-day-and-three-nights- period of entombment does not compare in importance with Jesus’ atoning death or His victorious resurrection, it should not be ignored or dismissed as meaningless. Indeed, it was the only sign Jesus gave the unbelieving Jews( Luke 11:29, 30; Matthew 12:40).