We are quickly approaching the season that reminds us of one of the most spectacular moments in history. Most miss the enormity of these events. For most people, 72 hours is a nice three day weekend or perhaps a short getaway; a “mental health” weekend. It is enjoyable, but often quickly forgotten. After all, it is only three days and nights. What significance could this small amount of time be in the grand scheme of things?
We have all our “favorite” books of the Word of God. Some seem to connect to us more than others. There is a little book in the Bible called Jonah. It tells the story of a reluctant prophet. We all read about this man when we were young during Sunday School and perhaps many of us sang songs about him and considered what it must’ve been like to be Jonah. God instructed him to warn the people of the great city of Nineveh that if they did not repent of their cruelty and atrocities, their city would be destroyed. God wanted to warn them and Jonah was His appointed messenger. But Jonah, a Hebrew, had seen his people become victims of great Assyrian cruelty, so he fled the scene, trying to escape his responsibility.
Jonah booked passage on a ship but was caught up in a terrible storm at sea. He ended up being thrown overboard in an effort to save the ship, and God had prepared a great fish to swallow him, which prevented him from drowning. The Bible says that Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights – 72 hours. Think what it must have been like. Jonah, with seaweed wrapped around his head, the smells that he must have experienced and the sounds he must have heard! He endured damp darkness not knowing what would be next. He surely expected to die in this adventure. But God had other plans for Jonah, who was spewed from the great fish’s mouth onto the seashore. It makes one wonder if Jonah ever ate fish again.
As he recovered from the incredible deliverance, he must have wondered, “What’s next?” But, God had told him to warn Nineveh. This time Jonah, still reluctant, obeyed.
Readers may be wondering “What could this possibly have to do with me?” Well, you might be amazed to know that Jesus Christ used Jonah’s 72 hour ordeal as a powerful sign to answer the skeptical scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees who demanded that he give a sign proving that He was the Messiah.
The account of this is found in Matthew 12:38-41:
“Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.”
Think of it! The only direct sign Jesus Christ gave of His Messiahship was that He would spend 72 hours in the grave, just as did Jonah, who was as good as dead in the belly of that fish, were it not for God’s deliverance. The religious leaders who questioned Christ knew the story of Jonah very well, but it seems they never understood its true significance.
Today, most Christians follow a Good Friday/Easter Sunday tradition that makes a mockery of Jesus Christ’s own words of promise. There is no way to fit Jesus’ 72 hour promise within the mistaken idea of a Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection. The Easter story itself is a product of pre-Christianity pagan traditions and is nowhere to be found nor documented in any way in your Bible.
We can understand this when we observe that the Hebrew day begins at sundown and goes until sundown the next day. The “Last Supper” was actually Christ observing Passover Seder with His disciples after sundown on Tuesday (which was actually Wednesday as the day began at sundown). He then went to the garden where we read the poignant and moving account documented by John in John 17 of his prayer to His Father. Before sunrise, He was taken by the officials before the “inquisition” committee and the day ended before sundown when He was taken down and put into the tomb of Josephus. Sundown began Thursday.
When we understand the accurate details, we see even more the significant time of when Jesus Christ was last seen; beaten beyond recognition, drained of His blood and obviously dead, to when Miriam (Mary) encountered Him. We are told that she left early (after sundown, which began the next day after the Sabbath) in order to go to the tomb. We are told that she went despite the danger of going alone in the dark, because of her devotion to her Savior and her desire to make sure all was done as considered appropriate in preparation of the body of her Lord. Imagine her grief (and shock) at events she had witnessed. Imagine how heavy her heart must’ve been as she made the dangerous trip in the dark alone, contemplating what she might find and how she would deal with the Roman soldier posted guard over the tomb and how she would move the stone!
Math is always the same and 36 hours is not three days and three nights. To know and understand that the 72 hours that changed mankind’s destiny forever is given to us in detail by God through His inspired Word reminds us of this incredibly important, but short, period of time. 72 hours that changed the world. None of the followers of Jesus Christ fully understood what was to happen and were shocked at the events as they unfolded. But, within 72 hours, they were once again in the presence of their Lord. So soon shall we be in His presence! Look up!
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