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. (Matthew 12:40)
Recently I listened to a message on the crucifixion. The message excelled in many respects by providing insight into that fateful day of our Lord’s life. However, one part of the message troubled me. The messenger commented that some theologians believe Jesus was crucified on Friday, while others say He was crucified on Thursday. I know that; I’ve heard those arguments before. That is not what troubled me. What troubled me was his comment that the day on which the crucifixion took place does not really matter. The fact of the crucifixion is what really matters.
It does matter! Jesus said very specifically that “the Son of man [shall] be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). That is three full days and three full nights. You cannot get three full days and three full nights from a Friday crucifixion even if you allow for partial days and nights. Why does that matter?
One reason it matters is that “according to one Jewish tradition, the soul hovered about the body for three days in hope of reentering it.” If it were not three full days and nights, then, as some have asserted, He could have resuscitated in the coolness of the tomb and walked out. (There are many problems with that idea, but that rabbit can be chased another day.)
Jesus raised Lazarus four days after his death. Lazarus was so dead that “by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (John 11:39). Decomposition had already set in. That being the case, would it have been better for Jesus to remain in the tomb four days rather than three? No, because Scripture predicted that Jesus’ body would not decompose: “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10). For that reason, it needed to be three full days and three full nights – long enough for the spirit to depart (in the estimation of the Jews), yet not long enough for decomposition to set in.
Another argument against a Friday crucifixion finds its basis in history. Most theologians hold the opinion that Jesus was crucified in A.D. 30. Passover, the day on which Jesus was crucified, always falls on Nissan 14 – the fourteenth day of the first month of the year. Nissan 14, 30 A.D. fell on a Wednesday, not a Friday. A Wednesday crucifixion allows for three full nights and three full days, meaning that Jesus would have risen anytime after 6:00 PM on Saturday evening, the first day of the week by Jewish reckoning – the day begins after sundown.
I believe those are good arguments against a Friday crucifixion, but they are not the best argument. The best argument is Jesus’ own words. He very specifically said that He would be in the heart of the earth, i.e., the grave, for three days and three nights. Anything less than that makes Jesus a liar. Do you really want to go there! If we believe God’s Word is inerrant – and Jesus IS God – then we must accept what HE said, and reject what errant men say. It Does Matter!
HE IS RISEN INDEED!
 “Three Days, Three Nights” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/07/13/three-days-three-nights/
 Herschel Hobbs, The Illustrated Life of Jesus, (Nashville, Holman Bible Publishers, 2000), 183.
 Leviticus 23:5