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Earlier in Jesus’ ministry the religious leaders had sought from Him a sign to prove Himself.  But because they were an evil and adulterous generation, He said no sign would be given to them, except the sign of Jonah, that as he was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea creature, so would He be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  Although the modern church recognizes Good Friday as the day Jesus was crucified, it is clear from Jesus’ words and counting back the nights—Saturday night, Friday night, and Thursday night, that He was crucified on Thursday, not Friday.  A Friday crucifixion also most legitimately only gives two days in the grave—Saturday and part of Sunday—not three, as new believers almost invariably wonder about.  (Friday wouldn’t count, since Jesus was laid in the tomb at sunset as the next day was dawning; see Luk 23:54).  The confusion arises from not understanding that Friday was also a sabbath, a high day as John calls it (Joh 19:31), for the first day of Unleavened Bread as reckoned by the religious leaders and most of those in Jerusalem.  Jesus and His followers had celebrated the Passover the previous day, i.e., Wednesday evening, having reckoned the 14th of the first month a day earlier based upon an earlier sighting of the full moon, as occasionally happens even today to Muslims from different areas in determining the start of Ramadan.  Hence, Thursday was the first day of Unleavened Bread for Jesus’ followers and so a required sabbath for them, explaining why they were less active on Thursday so as to have not known about His trial to convene themselves and support Him.  And since Friday was a required sabbath for the people of Jerusalem, they wouldn’t have been able to do much of anything on that day either.  It turned out then, according to God’s care for them, that all they could do on Thursday, Friday and Saturday was rest on the sabbaths He had ordained and wait to see His great salvation, the time for which had now arrived early on Sunday morning.

How does Matthew describe what happened on Sunday morning that led to the discovery of the empty tomb and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead?  See Mat 28:1-10.  How does that compare to Mark’s account?  See Mar 16:1-8.  What is similar and what is different in the two accounts?  How does Luke describe it, and how is his account similar and different from that of Matthew’s and Mark’s?  See Luk 24:1-12.  Writing later, what does John record happened, and again, in what ways is his report similar and different from the other accounts?  See Joh 20:1-18.  How are we to understand the notable differences in these accounts of the most momentous event in all of history, and why they appear to be so divergent?  Think: In terms of being raised from the dead, how would they have imagined Him coming back to life, and how was that very different from the way He was actually resurrected to an entirely different newness of life?  See 1Co 15:44 and consider that they could not have understood the spiritual nature of His resurrected body, since He was the first-born from the dead (Col 1:18) and the first fruits of those who whose bodies sleep in the grave (1Co 15:20), never to die again (Rom 6:9).  In light of their understanding, would they have even imagined it possible at that stage for Him to come back to natural life as did Lazarus or Jairus’ daughter, considering the degradation to which His body was subjected through the crucifixion? 

What does Scripture record about the nature of spiritual bodies, from both angelic appearances and the resurrection appearances of Jesus, that might cause a person in the given circumstances to wonder if what they had seen was real?  See Jdg 6:21, 13:16,20, Luk 1:11, 2:9, 20:36, 22:43, 24:23,31,36-37, Act 10:3, 11:13, 12:7-11.  Do two people or living beings who encounter a spiritual body necessarily perceive it the same way, perhaps depending on the depth of their spiritual perception?  See Num 22:22-27,31, 2Ki 6:17, Dan 10:7-8, Mat 28:17 (cf. 1Co 15:6), Joh 12:28-29, Act 9:3-7, 22:9.  Who is the one person that all the gospels note as most prominent in first experiencing the empty tomb and resurrected Savior?  See Mat 28:1, Mar 16:1, Luk 24:10, Joh 20:1,14-18.  What about her may have disposed her to having a greater spiritual perception than others?  See Mar 16:9, Luk 8:2. 

Considering that Jesus’ followers had seen Him die a torturous death so they were clearly not expecting there was any way His pierced and beaten body could be restored to natural life (cf. Joh 20:25), and the extraordinary nature of His resurrection from the dead not to natural life, but to a supernatural eternal life, an event that had never happened before and that was on par with the original creation of the first man Adam (cf. 1Co 15:45-49), should we be surprised that the initial reports of Jesus’ resurrection have apparent inconsistencies as those who experienced them tried to make sense of what had happened while at the same time questioning themselves if what they were experiencing was even real, not wishing to appear foolish in reporting them to others?  And considering the different spiritual perceptions of different people, is it even possible that what was perceived by one witness might have differed from what was perceived by another at the same time, so that their honest accounts may appear at first to be inconsistent? 

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