There are many beautiful things about the Easter story that starts on this dark and sorrowful day we call Good Friday, and one of the best is that this is a three day story. Throughout the bible there are many stories that you can group together by how many days pass in the story. There are a lot of 40 day stories. 40 day stories are primarily focused on waiting and patience and learning through those 40 days. Noah and his family were in the ark 40 days; the Israelites waited at mount Sinai 40 days for Moses to come down with the 10 Commandments; the prophet Elijah hid from Jezebel for 40 days; Jesus began his ministry with 40 days in the wilderness. 40 day stories focus on the need to persevere and remain faithful. In a similar sense the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. It was like a 40 day story on steroids.
Then there are 3 day stories. These stories are full of urgency and need and desperation. This is not a story about human response but a story about God showing up in power. The situation is so terrible that without God all is lost. When Joseph was in prison he told his fellow prisoner the cupbearer of Pharaoh, “Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position.” (Genesis 40:13). When Israel was enslaved to Egypt, Moses asked Pharaoh “Let us take a three-day journey into the desert.” (Exodus 5:3). When Israel was afraid to go into the Promised Land, God said, “Be strong and courageous…Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land” (Joshua 1:6, 11) When Israel was threatened by genocide, Queen Esther said she would pray and fast for three days before approaching the king to ask for their deliverance. Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days. And when predicting his death and resurrection Jesus said that his sign to people that proves his identity would be the sign of Jonah – 3 days and he would return. Good Friday is the first day of a 3 day story.
The disciples knew the pain and desperation of a three day story. They thought all was lost, it was dark and fearful but then the third day came and Jesus arose. The Third Day is God’s day. The third day is when prisoners are set free, when harem girls like Esther confront a powerful king and save her people. The third day is when the drowning are returned to dry land and when stones are rolled away. The third day is the day a crucified carpenter and teacher rose from the grave. No matter how dark it may seem, you never know what is going to happen because God is the God of the third day.
And that’s why we pause every Good Friday and remember Jesus sacrifice for us – because the God of the Third day changed the world and us and we celebrate that the third day has come, and Jesus has risen and we invite everyone to join in this celebration.
Director of Campus Ministries