Jesus' predictions of his own deathThere are numerous verses to be found where Jesus mentions he was to be put to death then rise after 3 days. This is because Jesus told his disciples several times and these episodes are recorded in the synoptic gospels which describe several of the same events.
As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the 3rd day." And they were greatly distressed. (Mat 17:22-23)
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the 3rd day be raised. (Mat 16:21)
And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the 3rd day." (Mat 20:17-19)
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after 3 days rise again. (Mar 8:31)
They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after 3 days he will rise." (Mar 9:30-31)
And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after 3 days he will rise." (Mar 10:32-34)
Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered, "The Christ of God."
And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the 3rd day be raised." (Luk 9:20-22)
And taking the 12, he said to them, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the 3rd day he will rise." (Luk 18:31-33)
Jesus' temple analogyJesus was explicit with his comments to his followers about his death and resurrection. He alluded to it in public with his comment about the temple.
So the Jews said to him, "What sign do you show us for doing these things?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "It has taken 46 years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in 3 days?" But he was speaking about the temple of his body. (Joh 2:18-21)Jesus frequently spoke in figures of speech, he spoke in parables to the crowds but explained the meanings to his close followers. Those who wanted to gain understanding sort out the truth, those who cared little continued in their ignorance.
This is obvious in these words of Jesus for they were remembered by many which testifies to the 3 days, though they continued to misapply the temple of which Jesus spoke to the building and not his body. Firstly at Jesus' trial:
Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last 2 came forward and said, "This man said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in 3 days.'" (Mat 26:59-61)
For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in 3 days I will build another, not made with hands.'" Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. (Mar 14:56-59)And then at the crucifixion:
And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, "You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in 3 days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross." (Mat 27:39-40)
And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, "Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in 3 days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!" (Mar 15:29-30)Even though these people were incorrect about what Jesus meant by "temple" (note the irony in the derision of the last 2 comments), their statements are useful in their testimony that Jesus had predicted 3 days.
Analogy to JonahMany of those who did not believe in Jesus asked for a sign. Matthew records Jesus referring to Jonah on at least 2 occasions.
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you." But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Mat 12:38-41)
An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah." So he left them and departed. (Mat 16:4)The famous episode in the book of Jonah mentions that he was swallowed by a large sea creature where he remained for 3 days:
And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish 3 days and 3 nights. (Jon 1:17)This is relevant because of the phrase "3 days and 3 nights" which some claim implies Jonah was in the sea creature for 72 hours and Jesus would be dead for 72 hours. We will come back to these passages for further consideration later.
An Old Testament allusionThere are several passages that discuss the death of the Messiah, Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 being good examples. Some suggest that there is also an allusion to the duration of his death in Hosea:
"Come, let us return to the LORD;/Hosea married a prostitute as a symbol of God's relationship with unfaithful Israel. The interesting thing about this passage is that it invites people to return to the Lord even though they have been unfaithful and God has disciplined them for this (torn, struck). God has disciplined Israel in order that he may restore them to right relationship (heal, bind up). The mention of 2 and 3 days is concerning the reviving and raising of Israel to right relationship, though this can only occur through atonement and therefore the time frame would apply to atoning sacrifice.
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;/
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up./
After 2 days he will revive us;/
on the 3rd day he will raise us up,/
that we may live before him./
Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD;/
his going out is sure as the dawn;/
he will come to us as the showers,/
as the spring rains that water the earth." (Hos 6:1-3)
It is possible that when Jesus mentions that Scripture teaches that he must rise after 3 days (Luke 24:46) that he was referring to this passage.