Did Anyone Remember Three Days?

The sealed tomb - was Jesus counting to three?

Holy Saturday – there is little in the scripture about this day. We can imagine that the disciples, who loved Jesus, were mourning. They were no doubt confused, their faith shaken. Sad and grieving. Were their hopes dashed? Did any of the events of the last day make sense to them?

Could it be possible that they remembered words Jesus had spoken about His death? Were they counting to three?

Holy Saturday is the moment when darkness has descended and there is nothing to make you think, ‘It will be all right.’ It won’t. It can’t be. The worst has occurred and nothing will ever be the same. That’s how it feels. If you have known, this last week or this last year, a moment like that – when someone you have loved died, or when some other great tragedy swept over you like a tidal wave – then you’ll have glimpsed a bit of how Jesus’ followers must have felt that day. Nobody, but nobody, was saying to themselves, ‘Well, it’s all right, because in three days he’ll rise again as he said.’

NT Wright, Lent for Everyone: Luke, Year C: A Daily Devotional

The Pharisees

Did the Pharisees remember this vivid conversation with Jesus when they asked for a sign from Him and were called a “wicked and adulterous” generation? Did they remember Jesus’ illustration – and were they counting to three?

Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” [Jesus] answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a 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.

Matthew 12:38-40 NIV


Did Peter recall being rebuked by Jesus when Jesus had told him that He must be killed and raised to life on the third day? Was Peter counting to three?

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Matthew 16:21-22 NIV

The Disciples

Were the three, Peter, James, and John, remembering the transfiguration experience? Were they wondering even more now about its significance? Did they recall Jesus’ words shortly after that experience – His second warning that He would have to die? Did they remember the grief they felt at that moment? Were they counting to three?

When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.

Matthew 17:22-23 NIV

In their grief and the quiet meditation of the Sabbath, they may not have been remembering those words … at least not yet.


As I think about Jesus’ death, His lying in the grave, resting in the earth, I can’t help but wonder, did Jesus sing, pray or compose a psalm of praise? It’s interesting to me that the story of Jonah is interrupted with this beautiful psalm of praise that Jonah composed while in the belly o the fish. Notice Psalm 16 – could Jesus have been singing from the Biblical hymnbook while He was counting to three?

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:9-11 NIV

Our response

Father, you taught us to rest on the Sabbath. And Jesus illustrates that for us even in His death – resting in the grave after having completed His work – resting on the Sabbath. Honestly, it looked like He had failed. And yet, we, who live this side of the cross, praise you that death is not the end.

We take refuge in You today and hope in You. Even now, you are making all things new. Teach us to remember Your words, to wait on You, and to praise You even in the dark! Amen.

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