Editor's Note: "Creed" is an ongoing article series that discusses the core beliefs of Christianity as expressed in the Apostle's and Nicene creeds. Links to other installments are listed at the end of this article.

 

When it comes to the Word of God, certain numbers just keep coming up.

 

Twelve: the number of Israel’s tribes. The number of Ishmael’s sons. The number of disciples who followed Jesus for three and a half years. Twelve baskets of leftovers(from the feeding of the multitude). The crown of twelve stars. The twelve gates of Heaven.

 

Ten: Considered God’s number of fulfillment. Forty symbolizes a time of trial or testing.

 

The list goes on and on.

 

In the previous Creed installment you may have noticed a number that kept coming up, the number three.

 

At six o’clock in the morning Jesus was condemned to die. Three hours later he was crucified. Three hours after that the light of day began to fade as darkness descended over the land. This darkness lasted for three hours.

 

Jesus died at three o’clock in the afternoon. He claimed that in three days He would rise again. But did He?

 

How Does Friday Plus Three Equal Sunday?

 

Sometimes our modern minds have difficulty understanding the makeup of the first century Jewish day. Six o’clock in the evening would have ended Friday and Shabbat (the Sabbath) would have begun. It was for this reason that the Romans were so anxious to have Jesus and the condemned thieves die “in a hurry.”

To accomplish this, they would have to break the legs of the condemned, thereby keeping them from pushing up against the foot piece of the cross in an effort to keep from suffocating. Horrifically, death on a cross could take anywhere from two to nine days. Those who stood in attendance didn’t have this kind of time.

 

It was a “special Sabbath” as John puts it.


Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced.” (John 19: 31-37)

 

It was unique because all this occurred during the Passover, a time of celebration, a time of remembering the days of Moses, when the children of Israel were released from captivity in Egypt and protected by the blood of the lamb. On Thursday evening the special meal, known as the Seder, had been eaten. On Friday it was the day of Preparation (as it is every Friday) and on Saturday it would be Shabbat. Moreover, the Shabbat of the Passover.