Jesus gives us the answer to why He stayed three days in tomb. When the Pharisees and Sadducees demanded that Jesus prove that He was from God (Matthew 16:1-4; Mark 8:10-13). Jesus answered them saying, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 16:4). Jesus gave them the sign of Jonah.
At another point in time, Jesus explained what this sign would be: “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” (Matthew 12:40).
Some may ask why did Jesus stay three days – why that long? The answer is: if it was shorter, people could claim that “Jesus just fainted.” By being in the grave for three days, God showed the world that Jesus was truly dead.
Why not longer than three days? The body begins to decay as soon as you die, but it takes several days before the decay becomes severe. When Lazarus died and Jesus asked for the tomb to be opened, Lazarus’ sister objected, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days” (John 11:39).
And one of the prophecies about Jesus was that God would not allow Him to see corruption “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10). “Sheol” is the Hebrew word for the grave. Thus, there was a prophecy to be fulfilled that Jesus would not be buried so long that His body would decay.
Three days is more than enough time to prove Jesus was truly dead, but just short of the time for severe decay.
In His service,
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