“Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.” Mark 15:42-43
Over the years I’ve encounter many people expressing opinions in regards to when Jesus died and how long it was between his death and his resurrection.
The first thing we note, regarding this question, is that Jesus died on the Preparation Day, we call it Friday, at about the ninth hour, which is 3:00 pm to us.
Matthew chapter 28 tells us that the resurrection occurred at dawn on the first day of the week, which is our Sunday.
Clearly, according to the gospel record, Jesus was dead from the middle of the afternoon on Friday till Sunday morning.
Some are confused by this because when you calculate the hours Jesus was dead you only get about 39 hours, give or take. Jesus prophecies regarding his death said that he would be in the grave three days and some people feel that this means that he would need to have been dead at least 72 hours. According to their estimation we’re more than a day off.
This expectation though fails to adjust for the way different cultures communicate the passing of time. One way that many middle and far eastern cultures have for expressing elapsed time is a concept called “inclusive reckoning.” This basically means that if the event touches any part of a given period of time it is expressed as if it occupied the entire period of time.
I got a taste of this when I lived in South Korea for a year because they counted your age according to the calendar years your life had passed through. This meant that the last few months of the year I was born counted as my first year, each span between New Years added an additional year, and the partial year of the one I was in counted as the final year. No big deal if your older but this way of counting meant that when I was four months old they could have said I was 2 years old.
Suffice it to say that different cultures have different ways of expressing the passage of time and we need to hold people accountable according to their standards and not our own. Jesus said he would lay down his life and in three days take it up again and according to the standards by which first century Jewish people honored the passage of time he did just that.
Jesus has always kept his word for us. He said he would come and die to save us and he did. He also promises that he will return and save all those who believe on him from this world of sin and death. He’s always done what he said he would do and we can trust that he will fulfill his promise. The question is will we believe and be the kind of people that live that belief today?