Three Days and Three Nights
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Some take this verse to mean that Jesus had to be crucified on Wednesday. In order to be in the grave a full three days and three nights Jesus could not have been crucified on Friday, which is the day traditionally remembered as the day of the week Jesus died.
If He was crucified on Wednesday, then here is how He was in the grave “three days and three nights”:
Night 1 – Wednesday night
Day 1 – Thursday
Night 2 – Thursday night
Day 2 – Friday
Night 3 – Friday night
Day 3 – Saturday
Resurrected after sunset Saturday, which would have been considered Sunday morning.
However, when you understand that the phrase “three days and three nights” is idiomatic, that is, that it simply means “three days” and can be taken as whole days or even a part of three separate days, then it makes sense that He was crucified on Friday.
Further, other than this one verse in Matthew where the phrase is used, every other reference to three days says that Jesus will be raised on the third day, not after three days and nights. Look at the other verses that speak to this:
From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.
Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, “He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”
For He taught His disciples and said to them, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.”
and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”
saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”
saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”‘
Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly
So then when we understand that “three days and three nights” means any part of three days, we see that Jesus was crucified on Friday and put in the tomb before sundown. That means we have:
Day 1 – Friday
Day 2 – Saturday
Day 3 – Sunday
And He was raised, according to all of these other verses, on the third day, on Sunday. To say otherwise is to allow an idiomatic phrase used in one verse to obscure all the other verses that are clear as to the fact of the resurrection being on the third day, not after three days and nights.