Resurrection Sonday, or Easter, is the most important Christian holiday. It’s more important than Christmas, though that holiday gets all the attention due to the commercialism business has placed on it. However, Christ being born didn’t save us, but His work during those three days and nights of Easter did provide the means of our redemption if we choose to accept it.
A lot of controversy has arisen over the centuries about those three days. It mostly comes from people who don’t understand the dynamics of those days, or who are deliberately trying to find a way to discredit Christ’s work on the cross. Much of the problem is that people can’t figure out how the three days and nights work. One pastor I know believes that Jesus was crucified as early as Wednesday even though the Bible tells us He was crucified on Friday. And Jesus told His disciples “For as Jonah 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). So, what the detractors are actually saying is that Jesus, who is God in the flesh, made a mistake. That’s not possible.
Two Jewish customs explain the three days and three nights if they are applied to the Bible. The first is that the Pharisees and the Sadducees had different ways of delineating a day. The Pharisees’ day was from sunrise to sunrise, while the Sadducees’ day was measured from sunset to sunset. If all of the accounts of those three days in the gospels are carefully read, both of these ways of figuring a day are used. And, the two methods overlap some.
Jesus was clearly crucified on Friday as Mark and John wrote. He had to be removed from the cross by sunset on Friday which was Preparation Day, the day before the Sabbath, which was Saturday. The Sabbath started at sunset on Friday according to the Sadducees, and Jesus could not be left on the cross during the Sabbath ( Mark 15: 42-45; John 19:31). I apologize. I have a chart made that illustrates the two methods of figuring a day, but there is a glitch in WordPress here this morning, and I can’t upload it.
The timing of the women finding the empty grave is often misconstrued because John wrote: “The first day of the week came Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark”. The first day of the week was Sunday, and Jesus had already risen, so some people think there were not three days and nights. But Matthew wrote of this time, “At the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn, toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher” (Matthew 28:1). Dawn begins when the sun first peeks over the horizon, but a lot of light precedes the dawn. The Pharisees’ day begins at dawn, and with all Jews at that time any light at all counted as a whole day. So, the light that preceded dawn counted as a whole day, or Sunday, the first day of the week. Christ arose before the women arrived on Sunday morning, Meaning He did not rise on the Sabbath. He said He would spend three days three nights working during this Passover. Therefore, all three days and nights are accounted for.
This was not just any Sabbath. It was Passover, the celebration of God passing over the homes of the Jews who had sprinkled the blood of an unblemished lamb over their doorposts before God had Moses lead them out of Egypt. This was significant because the Passover foreshadowed Christ’s death on the cross as the means of redemption from sin. The Jews used two lambs in a ceremony to cleanse them from sin. One lamb was slaughtered, and the other, the “scapegoat”, was chased off into the wilderness bearing the people’s sin. These along with the Passover lamb’s blood are why the Bible refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God. Only He can remove sin from persons who trust in Him as their Savior.
Jesus’ death on Friday, Preparation Day, His being buried over the Sabbath, and His resurrection on Sunday morning give the meaning to Christian baptism. The Jews baptized non-Jews who wished to join their faith. The Christian church uses baptism to signify a person’s death to the old worldly nature, burial with Christ, and resurrection as a new creature. Old things are passed away, all things become new. Baptism doesn’t cause the regeneration, it just signifies it. Baptism is a symbol of the regeneration of a person into Christ when he or she believes in Him as Savior (Matthew 3:11; Romans 8:1-17). Blood, or death, is required as the penalty for sin. Christ died on the cross in your place so that you may be free from sin and spend eternity with God in heaven.
The work God started with the original Passover was completed with Christ being crucified. His resurrection from the grave gives you life in Him for eternity. This is why Resurrection Sonday, as I call it, is most important. Without the Son’s resurrection, it would be impossible for us to be free from sin. Christmas started the series of events leading up to Christ’s death and resurrection that Passover weekend. God so loves you that He gave His only begotten Son, so that if you believe in Him, you will have everlasting life with God in heaven (John 3:16). Jesus said that it was for His death in your place that He came into the world. No one could possibly love you more than He does. If you are not a Christian, I strongly urge you to accept Christ as your Savior today. You have no guarantee of the next minute, much less tomorrow. Now is the time of your salvation. Start your new life in Christ on Easter! It’s the perfect time.