Three Days Later… (The ‘Third Day’ motif throughout the Bible)

After three days of the Hebrews consecrating themselves, God descended onto Mount Sinai in fire and cloud.

After three days in prison, Joseph’s brothers are reconciled to their long-lost brother, recieving forgiveness and ensuring the survival of their family in a time of famine.

Jonah was in the belly of a great fish for three days, before he was spat out to bring a message of reoentance and grace to Ninevah.

The meat of sacrifices was only to be eaten up to three days after the animal was killed. On the third day, I guess, its work was done.

After three days of steeling herself, Esther asked the king to save her people, which he did.

After escaping Egypt through the Red Sea, the Israelites wandered through the desert – after three days they were miraculously supplied with water.

After three days of travel, Abraham reaches the place where he believes he has to sacrifice Isaac – fortunately a ram miraculously appears to take his place.

As a boy Jesus went missing for three days, after which he was found in the Temple.

And then you get to the New Testament and there’s over twenty references to Jesus rising again after three days. Sure, you can understand why the writers wanted to talk about the Resurrection, but why the constant emphasis on how many days it would take?

There’s a clear biblical motif of important things happening after a couple of days waiting or anticipating. Some of these seem to foreshadow the crucifxion and resurrection of Christ – Jonah’s story is specifically used as a metaphor for the events of Easter – but all of them seem to have to do with salvation, freedom, release.after a time of waiting.

Sometimes those periods of waiting are physically demanding or even threatening – the consecration of the Hebrews for instance, or their two days without water in the desert. Sometimes things are emotionally agonising – imagine your child going missing for a couple of days. Or, like Esther, holding the fate of your people in your hands, not knowing if you’d be successful or if you’d be executed.

Imagining travelling tthree days thinking that, at the end of your journey, you were going to have to kill your only son.

Maybe that time of waiting, of desperate preparation, of near hopeless anticipation, or physical hardship and emotional torture, is necessary in driving home just how glorious and momentous the moment of freedom, release, salvation, resurrection is. It’s always darkest before the dawn, they say, and maybe, in the Bible, the first two days always suck.

Because the third day is amazing.

 

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