Wednesday, April 8, 2015

3 Days and 3 Nights - Ending the Confusion

by Donna L. Watkins

I've been reading the New Testament desiring to know more about the things that Jesus spoke about while He was here.  He taught on the Kingdom of God.  I used to think He preached the Gospel .. but reality is, the Gospel wasn't spread until after the resurrection.  He was talking to Jews so the Kingdom was His topic.

I read until I get to a verse that I really want to meditate on. Then I ponder what it says because it doesn't match up with the traditional interpretation I've known in the churches I've attended. One of those verses recently was Matthew 12:40:

"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."

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Thank you, Marilee in Minnesota!
First of all I've often wondered about somebody being in a whale's belly for three days and nights. Sadly, I seem to have been trained to twist something at a different angle if it isn't something I could understand. This is a dangerous thing since Paul says in Colossians 2:8:

"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ."

We put too much pride into our mental beliefs. Just because we can't understand something or we have a previously held opinion or belief on it, doesn't mean it's wrong. When I come up on something in the Bible that doesn't match with my thinking and beliefs I am instantly alerted that MY beliefs are wrong.

There's a lot I don't understand with my mind and I acknowledge that. It's actually exciting when I realize a Bible truth that doesn't agree with what I think is true. It allows me to become more like Christ to renew my mind as He commanded. But sadly, there are many that don't let the Bible get in the way of what they believe. Many go with the traditions of what they've been taught without a thought to check it out and dig deep to understand it.

"However, as it is written: 'What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived' the things God has prepared for those who love him - these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, 'Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:9-16).

Yes, there is a lot in the Bible that seemingly seems contradictory and confusing ... but not when you really dig in and ask the Holy Spirit for revelation. The problem is to take the time to do this. God is not generally into the New York minute devotional time. We may need to meditate on it for awhile before we can understand what He tells us, but we are promised in our relationship with the Lord that we can know all things, but often we just don't take the time to get to class.

I John 2:20 tells us that "we have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of us (Christians) know the truth." How often did I shrug that off as being "impossible."  Who am I to come against the Word of God!?  We need to make His Word more important than other books, tapes, devotionals and many optional things published other than the Bible.

Am I saying that we shouldn't listen to or read other materials? No! of course not ... as long as they agree with the Word, but the Bible should be our mainstay and have the most command of our spiritual hours. It gives us the most return since it's the only words you will read that comes with a definite promise:

"For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). That could be a verse to begin with when scheduling some time for meditation (pondering, chewing on, seeking insight into).

Even in a worldly sense, I don't really understand some things happening around me since seeing is believing to my mind. What comes to mind as I think that is a place we visited the Maritime Provinces in Canada (New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia) for our 20th anniversary honeymoon. View Photo Gallery for This Canadian Trip.

There was a place in Moncton, New Brunswick called Magnetic Hill. Back into the 1880's stories passed around about a strange road where the wagons would run up on the horses' heels when going uphill. In 1933 more stories were added about cars rolling uphill without power. Obviously something nobody seemed to understand, especially when magnetic properties were ruled out in place of an optical illusion. View the Website and Click on Magnetic Hill at the BottomView a YouTube video.  You can imagine that it twists your brain a bit trying to figure it out.

So ... let's get back to the original verse about Jonah with this interesting piece of news:

"A Mediterranean fish has been caught, whose head alone weighed six tons and whose jaws had an opening of eight feet. In the April 4, 1896, Literary Digest, a story was recounted of a whale in the Mediterranean Sea that destroyed a harpoon boat and swallowed a sailor named James Bartley. A day and a half later, Bartley was found alive in the whale’s belly with only his skin tanned by the gastric juices. Another fish, caught off the coast of Florida, weighed 15 tons and had a 1,500-pound fish in its belly" (The Dake Annotated Reference Bible).

Now that I have knowledge and belief that it was possible in a physical sense for Jonah who was an Old Testament type and shadow of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection that would occur in the New Covenant, I can go on to the rest of the verse where Jesus says He will "be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40 above). It has been traditionally taught that Jesus was crucified and buried on a Friday and resurrected on a Sunday, the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1 and John 20:1).

Photo Credit: Christine Caine
The crucifixion was set on Friday because of a misunderstanding of verses like Luke 23:54 that talk of the Sabbath being the day after, however, as seen in John 19:31, the Sabbath spoken of was a high (or special) Sabbath, specifically the feast of the Passover. We already know that Jesus was the Passover lamb. These special feasts were also called Sabbaths regardless of the day of the week it was (compare Mark 15:42 with John 19:14).

Considering the three days and three nights, that would mean the crucifixion was on a Thursday or possibly on a Wednesday, depending on when you believe Jesus was resurrected.

John 20:1 says that Mary Magdalene saw Jesus while it was still dark on Sunday. That means Jesus actually rose from the dead some time during the night prior to sunrise. If Jesus’ statement in this verse is interpreted as meaning three complete nights, Saturday night could not be included and would thus push the crucifixion and burial back to Wednesday. At any rate, Friday could not have been the day Jesus was crucified.

I love finding things like this because it makes me realize that the Bible really is not confusing and can be understood through our spirit, our heart and even through research in commentaries and concordances that give you the original Greek and Hebrew language. With the promises that God gives us about meditating on His Word day and night, we should be making it more prominent in our daily scheduling.

If you can make time for your "favorite TV show" you can make time for something that brings life into your heart and environment. We seek peace in many things ... but only from God can it actually reside in you daily.

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