For most people, 72 hours is a nice three-day weekend, or maybe a short vacation. It is enjoyable, but often quickly forgotten. After all, it is only three days and nights. What could be the importance of such a short time in the larger scheme of things?
Consider the book of Jonah. God told Jonah to warn the people of the great Assyrian city of Nineveh that if they did not repent of their cruelty and atrocities, their city would be destroyed. But Jonah, a Hebrew, had seen his people become victims of great Assyrian cruelty, so he fled the scene, trying to escape his responsibility.
However, the ship on which Jonah booked passage was caught up in a terrible storm at sea. The sailors threw Jonah overboard to save their ship, but God had prepared a great fish to swallow him so that he would not drown. The Bible says that Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights—72 hours.
Think of what that must have been like. Jonah surely expected to die in this ordeal. Yet God made the great fish vomit Jonah out onto the seashore! One wonders if Jonah ever ate fish again, having seen the disgusting contents of fish guts from the inside. As Jonah recovered from this incredible deliverance, wondering “What next?,” God told him to warn Nineveh. This time, Jonah obeyed.
Jesus Christ used Jonah’s 72-hour ordeal as a powerful sign to answer the skeptical scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees who demanded that He do something to prove His Messiahship. Scripture records the event:
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 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 12:38–40).
Think of it! The only direct sign Jesus Christ gave of His Messiahship was that He would spend 72 hours in the grave—as did Jonah, who was as good as dead in the belly of the great fish, were it not for God’s deliverance. The religious leaders who questioned Christ knew the story of Jonah very well, but it seems they never understood its true significance.
Today, most who profess Christianity follow a Good Friday/Easter Sunday tradition that makes a mockery of Jesus Christ’s own words of promise. There is no way to fit Jesus’ 72-hour promise within the mistaken idea of a Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection. The Easter story itself is a product of pre-Christian pagan traditions, and is nowhere found or countenanced in your Bible.
The Church of God rejects the false pagan corruptions of Christianity, and observes the Passover with the New Testament symbols of the bread and wine, as Jesus Christ taught His disciples to do. As we keep the Passover this year, let us be grateful for the deeply important 72 hours that our Savior spent in the grave for us!