Did Jesus fulfill the sign of Jonah which he prophesied days before his death? Tradition teaches us that Jesus died on Good Friday just before dark. He was hurriedly buried in a nearby tomb, rushing to beat the approaching time of the weekly Sabbath of Saturday as night fell. We are told he resurrected bodily before daylight on Sunday morning. That time line, if it is true, is only a scant 39 hours, not even two days. Did Jesus fulfill the sign of Jonah? The answer is yes, he did. Now some two thousand years later, understanding this sign requires some study and perseverance.
Jesus Christ, the Messiah of the Jewish people, gave a prophetic sign to the Pharisees that would prove who he was. Most of the Pharisees considered him a liar and a fraud. They recoiled at is actions on the Sabbath, and those of his disciples. Jesus offended their religious sensibilities. Rumor had it, that he was the long-awaited Messiah, that he did miracles that no one else had ever done, and that he claimed to be the Son of God, making himself equal to God. The Pharisees and other religious folks of Jesus Day demanded proof to these outlandish claims.
Matt. 12: 38-40 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
There you have it plain and simple, Jesus declined to give them immediate proof, but challenged them with a prophetic proof, that he would fulfill in the near future. Jesus did fulfill the sign of Jonah. He was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Many theologians strain at gnats and swallow camels to prove this prophecy. They are willing to accept parts of days as a day, or they see little or no significance in the prophecy at all. I believe Jesus really left this sign for us, his followers, as a confirmation to us.
There is a passage of scripture which lays out God’s purpose of this and other signs being written down. Here it is:
John 20: 29-31 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name The problem of understanding the time line in the events of Jesus’ crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection are many. It is one of tradition, millenniums of time, understanding other cultures, specifically the Jewish feasts and observances, and three language changes. Each of those obstacles can be overcome, but in the end, believing Jesus spoke the truth about it, still requires one element that those scribes and Pharisees would still refuse today, faith. Becoming a believer in Jesus and to believe he fulfilled this prophecy of the sign of Jonah requires faith. Did the disciples of Jesus understand the Sign of Jonah? Yes they did, because they lived it and knew well the meaning of all the days.
What is a Day? First we will look at the definition of a day in Jewish terms. That is simple enough by looking at Genesis where God is in the process of Creation. The Western concept of the beginning of a day would be midnight, while this bible passage and many others show that a day begins at dark or sundown. A moment’s thought about the term midnight would lead one to consider the actual beginning of night. Night begins as the sun sets each day. The 24 hour day begins as the sun sets each day as well.
Genesis 1: 4-5 God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning— the first day. (Also see verses 8 and 13).
John 11:9 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. John 11 shows Jesus’ concept of daytime and walking in the daylight. This weakly shows Jesus
understanding of 12 hours of daylight being a certain amount of time each day with the light to see to walk. In essence he refers to darkness using the word stumbleth because of the inability to see clearly.
The 7th Day and Other Sabbaths Next we’ll look at the concept of the Sabbath. God created the Earth in six days and on the seventh day he rested. The idea of a Sabbath has all but disappeared from our culture. Growing up in West Texas, I remember blue laws. Those laws kept stores from doing business on Sunday. Most Christians view Sunday as a day to be revered, at least a little bit. That may be the last vestige perhaps of the Genesis idea of resting on a Sabbath. Or, there may be one other idea the Western world has that may echo the true Sabbath, the concept of TGIF: Thank God It’s Friday!
Genesis 2: 1-3 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Many in our day would argue that Sunday is a contemporary Sabbath similar to the biblical Sabbath, perhaps a weak comparison. In Old Testament times though it was not just a civil law, it was God’s law, contained in the Ten Commandments as the fourth commandment.
Exodus 20: 8-11 Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but
he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
There is a movie, Fiddler on the Roof, which shows a scene of a Jewish family gathering as night falls on a Friday evening. The weekly Sabbath is beginning and the mother lights two candles reminding the family to remember and to observe the Sabbath. This is a depiction of a weekly seventh day Sabbath being observed in the Jewish culture.
There is more to the definition of a Sabbath besides the weekly observance of the seventh day. The LORD’s Feasts also contain Sabbath’s within them, for example: Passover is considered a Sabbath, and the first and last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread are considered Sabbaths. We’ll come back to this Jewish idea that certain feast days are so important that to celebrate them also required strict observance and no work was done on those days also.
Leviticus 23: 2-8 The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies. ” ‘There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the LORD. ” ‘These are the LORD’s appointed feasts, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times: The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present an offering made to the LORD by fire. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.’ ”
Here we find that the seventh day, set aside in Genesis, has been set apart as a Sabbath. Followed by the LORD’s Feast of Passover, and The LORD’s Feast of Unleavened Bread. In Numbers 28: 16-17 we find an additional mention of these feast days: Passover is on the 14th of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish calendar, Unleavened Bread begins on the 15th of Nisan and continues for seven days, the first and last days being Sabbaths. That leaves us to ponder Passover by itself, is it a Sabbath. Yes, 14 Nisan, Passover Day which began at sunset of the 13th of Nisan, is a Sabbath, a sacred assembly. The King James Version of the bible calls these days holy convocations and specifies no work be done.
Numbers 28: 16 On the fourteenth day of the first month the LORD’s Passover is to be held.
Leviticus 23:5 The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month.
Here we are faced with interpreting twilight, which twilight the one at the beginning of a day or at the end of the same day? This takes us back to the definition for a day we previously looked at in Genesis. A numerical day begins at sunset, sometimes called twilight. The beginning of Passover affects our ability to understand the week of Jesus’ passion. If you consider the twilight spoken of here as the end of the day, then Passover for you will occur on the 15th of Nisan. If you consider the twilight spoken of here as the beginning of the day, then Passover for you will occur on the 14th of Nisan. Understanding when Passover begins is critical to solving the sign of Jonah.
Why is Passover so important to God? Not only did God keep vigil over the Israelites that night to bring them out of Egypt, it was 430 years to the day, a very precisely timed event. He had Moses restate the fact in the following chapter as well.
Exodus 12:40-42 Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt. Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the LORD for the generations to come.
Exodus 13:3 Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the LORD brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast.
So to re-emphasize an important point, Passover is very important to the LORD God. He kept a vigil all night of the 14th of Nisan as the divisions of Israel left Egyptian bondage. The LORD also commands that for all generations to come “his people” are to keep vigil now to honor the LORD. Why? They were to remember and commemorate Passover because the LORD delivered them out of the hands of Pharaoh with the LORD’s own mighty hand. Passover honors God’s deliverance of the Israelites out of bondage and is to be a perpetual Feast.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread Coupled to the Passover is the LORD’s Feast of Unleavened Bread. A great deal is made of eating bread without yeast. Yeast represented sin and corruption to God and he required his people remember this feast with bread made without any leaven.. Another thing it represents is time, bread which must rise due to leaven, takes time. If this holy sequence of events was to come off like clockwork there was no time for bread to rise. The exodus of God’s people from Egypt was made with great haste. Notice too the references made to sacred assembly and not doing any work, these days are Sabbath days commemorating God’s special days.
Leviticus 23:6-8 On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present an offering made to the LORD by fire. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.
The point of great interest here to the Sign of Jonah is the first sacred assembly. This first of two Feast of Unleavened Bread Sabbaths occurs on the 15th day of Nisan. It is part of the sequence of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, first Passover on the 14th, then this first Feast of Unleavened Bread Sabbath. That makes two back to back Sabbaths the week Jesus died.
The Preparation There is another term now which we need to consider, the Preparation. Preparation Day was a day to get ready for Sabbaths, regardless of the type of Sabbath it was. Notice in John 18 that the Jews were anticipating eating this Passover as well. The Lord’s Supper which Jesus and his disciples ate was not the Passover meal, it was simply an evening meal. Jesus was crucified, died and was buried on the Preparation day, the day before Passover. Jesus was in the tomb on Passover as the following scriptures demonstrate.
John 18:28-29 Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
John 19: 13-14 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabatha), It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour.
John 19:31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.
John 19:42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby they laid Jesus there.
Now we see that the Preparation day, preceding Passover, precedes a special Sabbath. That Sabbath is Passover itself. This also leads us to discover that the Preparation day would be the 13th of Nisan, since Passover is the 14th of Nisan. This day perhaps more than any other day has affected mankind for eternity because this sacrifice paid for the penalty of mankind’s sin. Jesus became the sacrifice paschal lamb on this day, as the events preceding his death unfold.
Matthew 27:62-66 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
This simple point, may be enough to explain why the disciples did not return to the grave until three days had passed. There was a Roman Guard posted at the tomb of Jesus with authority to keep it secure for three days. However, as we continue, there is another reason they didn’t go back until Sunday morning before daylight.
The Regular Sabbath in the Sequence We earlier discussed what a weekly Sabbath was in Jewish life, a day to remember and observe. It was a day to rest and reverence God, with few other requirements. It was a simply weekly observance. If one didn’t know about the LORD’s Feast of Passover, a single day, and the LORD’s Feast of Unleavened
Bread, a period of seven additional days following Passover, it’s understandable that confusion would reign looking back at Jesus week of crucifixion and resurrection.
Now we look at the third sequential Sabbath of that week, it was the regular weekly seventh-day Sabbath. It’s simple as that. Jonah’s prophecy is fulfilled to the “T”. He rode into Jerusalem on the 10th of Nisan on a donkey. He had the Lord’s Supper with his disciples on the evening of Preparation day, the 13th of Nisan, a Wednesday. He was betrayed, judged, condemned, crucified and buried before sundown that day.
The Sign of the Prophet Jonah Solution His body was entombed before sundown. That evening the Feast of Passover, a Sabbath, begins, Thursday the 14th of Nisan. The following evening The Feast of Unleavened Bread, the first day feast Sabbath, begins, Friday the 15th of Nisan. The following evening the regular weekly Sabbath begins, Saturday, the 16th of Nisan. And while there are no witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection we know his body was not there, before or at about daylight on Sunday the 17th of Nisan.
There is the fulfilled sign of Jonah prophecy that Jesus gave as the only proof to the scribes and Pharisees. He gives us his disciples this sign and many others which were written down for us so we might believe. I’m certain there will be skeptics who read these few pages. All I can say is this understanding of the scripture was fulfilled and is again revealed to anyone who will take the time to study it. In the end, there are two plain precepts, believing or doubting. I choose to believe in Jesus. He said that he would be in the heart of the Earth three days and three nights. I am one of those who, with childlike faith, will believe and continue to seek him.
Final Thoughts I expect some theologian types to challenge any and all points of this writing. I’m finally at peace with that idea. Jesus was called Beelzebub and worse. It was said he cast out demons by the Prince of Demons. Identifying with Jesus can be distasteful in a crowd of non-believers. It’s the same for all of us.
Matthew 10:25 It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!
Accompanying Calendar Table Take a look at the table I made to accompany this teaching regarding the sign of Jonah prophecy by Jesus. And do look up the references and the context in which they are used. One last note: I’m not a preacher or theologian, just a believer. This study follows a physical ailment I endured with much pain. My back went out and I could hardly sit up for nine days. To get around required the use of two canes, crutches were too jarring.
I mention it because the down time for my back to heal, afforded me the time needed to research this article. I don’t mind telling you it has been a real struggle to get it down on paper. Now it’s done and I hope it brings you as much joy and challenge as it has me.
Seeking Christ Jesus and His Kingdom,
Bruce Dickey 10 February 2009
(You may freely copy and give this article and it’s accompanying table image to whomever you wish. Not for the purpose of sale. Please retain the copyright and this statement.)
Copyright 2009 Bruce Dickey
Dear Reader: The complexity of this article requires study to understand. I recommend downloading and printing these pages and image and resizing it to fit an 8 1/2 by 11 inch pages full size. This is a high quality image. It is copyrighted, not for sale. You may freely use it providing you retain the copyright notations on the image. Thank you. I just discovered that WordPress.com downsized the image to make it display as wide as the text of the article. This makes the image print portrait instead of landscape plus the image quality is reduced as well. Find attached below a file which will be the Sign of Jonah jpg image mentioned here. Click this sentence to download and save image. Thanks x2, Bruce Dickey