He was raised on the third day, ‘according to the Scriptures’, so goes the early confession of the believers which we can read in 1 Cor. 15:4. The Scripture has to be Hosea 6:2
After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.
That Scripture, relating to the resurrection has enormous ramifications for who are the ‘chosen’ people, and one that I will get to in the coming days. Alongside that Scripture the other central text given as a ‘sign’ is that of Jonah (Matt. 12: 39,40).
No sign will be given.. except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was for three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth.
I like the NRSV translation above – not whale but ‘sea monster’. I am really not sure that Jonah literally existed and there are certainly some ’embellishments’ in the Jonah text (3 days to cross Ninevah!!), and we certainly have no need to defend the historicity of the story to get its significance. Mission, was the significance and mission to the nations, even to the ’empire’ of the day that stood (as all empires do) against God’s outpoured, ridiculously generous, love.
The sea monster (the one who re-appears in Revelation maybe?) vomited Jonah up and out. He vomited him up and out not back into the place of comfort and certainly not of escape but into the launching pad for the nation(s). The sea monster could not hold him.
Neither could death hold Jesus. God raised him, and maybe death spewed him out in reaction to that impartation of divine life. Life entering the place of death meant there was a holy reaction.
Resurrection re-configures Israel (Hosea) and restores why there was a chosen people. God’s huge ‘yes’ to humanity is testified to in the resurrection. Those ‘in Christ’ are commissioned not to be separate from those not yet in Christ, but are ‘spewed up’ out of the belly of the sea monster ready to go to Ninevah. Ninevah might not be as big as we think, but to cross it will truly take three days. The journey across takes three days, the time in the belly of the sea monster, it will take the entire history of our bondage, and our death to that system to travel across our Ninevah.
For Paul his Ninevah was the entire Imperial lands of Rome. He likewise was blind for 3 days (Acts 9:9) in that transition out of his religious bondage and deception until he could truly see light.
We all have our ‘three days’, and often experience repetitive cycles of three days, but on the third day without short-circuiting it, we are ready. Spewed up as always by the system. On the dry land, the place God separated from the waters for humanity to care for: dry land that has been polluted, Ninevahs that have been built on it. But the ‘Jonahs’ are coming!! Jonah sought to get to the ends of the Empire (Tarshish / Cádiz) to escape. Paul sought to get to the ends of the earth (Spain). He did not aim for the religious centre. That was truly ended at the cross. The Temple curtain ripped. That was the end. The third day, post-vomit is the beginning.