This is the fourth part in the series on what I think was going on behind the scene on Passover, ca. 29 A.D. Have you ever wondered why Jesus was in the grave 3 days & nights, or what His Spirit was doing while His body lay in the grave? The short answer to what was going on is Atonement. The word atonement is used 71 times in the Old Testament (O.T.) and 1 time in the New (N.T.). In Hebrew it means "to cover over," in Greek it means "an adjustment of a difference, reconciliation, or restoration to favor." An example of what this word means is seen in Gen. 6:14, where the word usually translated as atonement is translated "pitch." Noah was told to "pitch it (the ark) within and without with pitch." In that instruction the first use of pitch is "cover over," (atonement) and the second use of pitch is "bitumen" (asphalt). He sealed, covered over, the wood planks and cracks with asphalt.
So all through the O.T. when an atonement was being made either by The Lord or by the priest it involved sacrificing an animal and using its blood "to cover over" sin. The single N.T. usage in Rom. 5:11 says we (who have accepted Christ) have now received the atonement through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died to take care of all those covered over sins and all of ours. So all through the O.T., sheep, bulls and goats were sacrificed to cover over sin, yet Heb. 10:4 plainly says, "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." All those thousands of animals slain, from the one The Lord slew in Eden to cover Adam & Eve, to the lamb slain by the priest on the day Christ was crucified (a lamb was slain every morning at dawn), had covered sin but had not taken that sin away. The slaying of Jesus Christ on the cross took away sins for everyone who accepts that sacrifice as an atonement for their sins.
Now, why three days? Christ's death was the ultimate and final Passover, so we have to go to the first Passover in Egypt for the answer. In Ex. 12, the final contest with Pharaoh, Moses and Aaron were told by The Lord to have every household take a male yearling lamb or goat from their flock on the 10th day of Nisan (April) which became Israel's New Year's Day, and keep it up until the 14th day. The Hebrew day was the 24-hour period between two successive sunsets. Their day began about 6pm, not at midnight. We consider a day as day followed by night. The Hebrew day began with night, followed by day. In Gen. 1:5 it says, "the evening and the morning were the first day." If they went out on the 10th and selected a lamb, shut it up and killed it on the 14th, it had been shut up 3 nights and 3 days. This was to make sure there was nothing wrong with it.
Jesus said in Matt. 12:40 that He would be in the heart of the earth 3 days and 3 nights. I don't think He expected us to do some funny math to verify that. This may burst someone's bubble or stir up some controversy, but there is no way Good Friday works for the crucifixion. There are all kinds of explanations, usually counting any portion, even a minute or two, of a day as a day and any portion of a night as a night. Was Jonah in the fish 2 days and 2 nights plus a minute or two on either side? I don't think so. We know Jesus was crucified, dead and buried by 6pm. We know He had risen by 6am Sunday. The primary argument for Friday is that it was the preparation for the Sabbath. Mark 15:42 says the day He was buried it was the preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath. Luke 23:54 says that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath drew on. John 19:31 says not only that it was the preparation, but "that Sabbath day was a high day." This was no doubt what the Jews called "Shabbat HaGadol" (the "Great Sabbath"). It's the Sabbath immediately preceding Passover week, not the one that falls during its seven days. The word high is "meg' as." It was a mega-Sabbath, not an ordinary one, and the preparation for it could be several days, not just Friday.
Your math doesn't have to agree with mine, but here it is:
6pm Wed - 6am Thu is 1 night
6am Thu - 6pm Thu is 1 day
6pm Thu - 6am Fri is 2 nights
6am Fri - 6pm Fri is 2 days
6pm Fri - 6am Sat is 3 nights
6am Sat - 6pm Sat is 3 days
We don't know what time He arose, just that He had risen by the time Mary got there about daylight Sunday morning. He could come out of the grave anytime during the night, between 6pm Saturday night and 6am Sunday morning, and would have been in the grave 3 days and 3 nights.
During those days and nights in the grave He was very busy, and you can bet Satan was too, trying his best to come up with some blemish that disqualified Jesus from being the atonement. We know from Eph. 4:9-10 that during those days and nights He "descended into the lower parts of the earth," and Eph. 4:8 says the reason for that was "He led captivity captive." All of those O.T. saints were in Abraham's Bosom, aka Paradise, Sheole, Hell. They could not go to Heaven when they died because their sins were only "covered up" by the blood of bulls & goats. Jesus' blood, the ultimate atonement, took away their sins and He went down there and got them. Paradise is no longer in Hell, it's in Heaven (Rev. 2:7). If you read in Exodus about the priest's activities during Passover you can figure out that in addition to going down into Sheole, Jesus also had to go into Heaven, into God's throne room, and anoint the Mercy Seat with His blood. In John 20:17 He tells Mary "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father." It's entirely likely that He was on His way to anoint the Mercy Seat when Mary first saw Him that morning. Later that day He tells the disciples to "handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones," He was back after making the atonement. He had a lot to do and was very busy those 3 days and nights.